An art project can lead you astray


My favorite part about art is starting with a clean slate. It offers infinite possibilities for new findings, growth, and exploration. Yet, it can also be a new beginning that leads you astray.

Hesitant to share the mistakes and internal struggles of my own making, I learned that some projects are just not meant to be. It took me to my 10th residency to wedge myself into a creative block too difficult to move past — this is a project I had to quit.

“It’s so fine and yet so terrible to stand in front of a blank canvas. ”

—  Paul Cezanne

I began by collaging hundreds of images of positive and negative ecological and man-made systems into a chaotic patchwork of Earth. Digital compositions became the outlines for the painting.


I chose subject matter that was challenging to look at. It put me in a bad mood and I kept listening to negative stories of violence and pollution on the news. The content of the work was upsetting and I felt the heavy weight of the world. Pressure and negativity swallowed my creativity.

To elaborate the concept of this piece the visual experience needed to be complex and overwhelming. This painting style is described as horror vacui, or fear of empty space. Thus, it required a lot more time and effort to evolve into the kind of visual experience I desired. Was this time-consuming challenge what I wanted to assign myself?


As an artist, you are your own guide — creating the experience of the day and structuring how you spend your hours. After days of struggling with this painting, I realized the best use of my time was to stop and move onto something else.

Those who make content from scratch are in a constant internal struggle to push to new breakthroughs. This requires risk, discomfort, failure, and letting go. This painting made me realize that I can choose how to spend my time. If it is not working, stop and take a break. Who knows, it may be the beginnings of a successful project later on.