Slap Some Varnish On That Baby – Alex Mitchell

Slap Some Varnish On That Baby – Alex Mitchell

Slap Some Varnish On That Baby



King of The Hill



If there is no destination, as in the joy is in the journey, then why am I always trying to get somewhere else? And I don’t mean geographically. I mean the striving and pushing that keeps me adding things to my never-ending to-do list. Gotta do this. Gotta get that done. Gotta be better. Gotta fix that. If the joy is in the internal journey of figuring out who you are, or maybe better said, remembering who you are, then why do I always feel like I’m not ready? Like I gotta DO something first in order to qualify.

But you know what? The more I think about it, it’s not even that damn to-do list that’s got me in a state of existential doo-doo. It’s that screwed up internal recording that prompts me to add to my to-do list. You know, the recording that’s stuck on almost perfect, but not quite. So even if I never added anything else to my list, I’d still be left with that critical bitch inside my head telling me I’m not ready yet.

Now, before you give me the number of a good shrink, don’t forget that I’m an artist. I’ve got lots of practice with process. I’m extremely familiar with taking little steps and seeing where each step takes me as I endeavor to create with my hands what I see with my mind’s eye. Sounds pretty fancy, doesn’t it. Basically, it’s like walking in the dark with a flashlight. You can only see a few feet ahead of you, and you just gotta trust that the road isn’t heading straight off a cliff. Artists are really good at that.

So here I am, embracing my duality of being both wise and bitchy. Attempting to anyway. And although I don’t know if that nagging feeling to always have to DO something, will ever go away, I have a trick I use when I’m making art that helps me sit still with what I’ve done.

Whenever I reach a point on a painting where I can say I like what I’ve done kinda sorta looking like I know what I’m doing yeah uh-huh, and before the critical bitch takes over, that’s when it happens. When it can only happen – in that split second space in between. That’s when I reach for my trusty can of varnish and slap a juicy coat on. I do this because I barely dare to breathe around a clean coat of varnish, let alone touch it, until it’s dry. So the option to make any changes is completely eradicated by that coat of wet varnish. Can’t go near it until the next day. Nope, gotta let it dry.

This trick to keep myself from messing with something that actually feels right, well, I think it could work in other moments, too. Whenever I feel anxious about where I am or what I’ve done, I could freeze that moment. I could slap a coat of varnish on that baby. Check back on it tomorrow when the varnish is dry. Be still. Sit in a corner and grin my head off. Because you know that’s exactly what it’s gonna feel like to outwit the bitch inside your head. Oh, yeah.

let’s start over
at the very beginning
where the past has no hold
and the future is unknown
where enjoying this moment
your whole life



Alex Mitchell: February 2019


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