Discipline of perserverence

I have not been diligent posting here about what is on the easel so I will touch on it briefly this morning. This spring has been about completing projects and coming full circle. It has been utterly amazing to me how pieces of my past are emerging and connecting fractured paths right now. Unfinished business. There is a great coming together that is equally exciting and unsettling. None-the-less, for the last month I have been working on a professional portrait of an administrator that was commissioned over ten years ago.
I painted the first version shortly after the commission was accepted and labored long and arduously but with meager success. The subject is a woman who has long passed and the only references I have are black and white photos of her at the age I need to paint her, or color snapshots of her in her 80s, or the loving recollections of those who knew her. None of these pieces help me a great deal beyond basic anatomical structure.
Several years later I began a second whole canvas with a renewed vigor and determination and presented the completed work to the patron (group) of the work in a social gathering in my home. There was a healthy dialogue and critique of the work that resulted in a general consensus of rejection. The portrait was fairly well done but I had failed to capture the true personality and essence of the person I had been commissioned to paint. It was all very collegial and the patrons all agreed that it was fine and I had done my best. There was no animosity and, in fact, my relationship with several of the group evolved after that into friendships that are dear to me now.
Now many more years have passed and I tinkered with the idea of trying again. It disturbs me that I did not give these patrons, these lovely women who knew and loved this subject, their end product. They had released me from a purgatory of guilt but I was still haunted by the ethics of unfinished  business so I decided to begin again.
To commit fully to the deed I painted over the painting that I had presented to the group years ago. I had done it now – no turning back. To further commit, I agreed to bring the piece to them for approval by road trip later this month. So, I paint and I struggle and I mutter under my breath at how I don’t know how to capture the true likeness of someone I have never met – but I work. I work hard. I cannot afford to languish under the pretense of muse because I long since turned in that pass. I need to complete the piece and present one more time.
I cannot say if there will be success this time around. I may not be done with the job in the few weeks before I begin the trip to see the two friends and patrons later this month. I will take it to them regardless. The time has almost run out to seek absolution since I have already attended the final life celebration events for many of the original patron group. No one can say how much time anyone has before they are called to go home. But my motivation has now become about something far more than completing a business deal. It is about honoring my word to friends. It is about embracing the process of working in the arts regardless of success, regardless of prestige, regardless of easy.  I need to finish what I have started – both at the easel and in my life.

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