Sometimes it’s hard to tell when a piece is finished. Sometimes I instinctively know when it’s done, and sometimes all I can do is trust that what I’ve done is enough.
Every piece emerges from a place of uncertainty. I unlock my iPad with no broader plan than to make something. I open a new document without an idea. The blankness of the screen mirrors and parallels the barren terrain of my “artistic vision”. I come to the blank canvas as a blank canvas myself. I think I’m beginning to more deeply realize John Green is right when he says that “You think you’re the painter but”, really, “you’re the canvas”.
For the first few moments I am mesmerized, perhaps almost paralyzed by the whiteness of the page. Perhaps, this what Herman Melville was describing when he said that
“not yet have we solved the incantation of this whiteness, and learned why it appeals with such power to the soul; and more strange and far more portentous – why…it is at once the most meaning symbol of spiritual things”
Melville, himself, didn’t have an answer to the puzzling blizzard of blank whiteness, only more ruminating theories and questions:
“Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color; and at the same time the concrete of all colors; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows- a colorless, all-color of atheism from which we shrink?”
Amidst the abundant absence of the snow-tinted emptiness, I fidget and fiddle with nothing more than an anxious and expectant hope; a hope that somewhere within that heartless void of the page, inside the blank, colorless, concrete of all colors, something strange and meaningful will become visible. I wrestle deep within the sheets of something fleeting, feeling around in this bright-dark for a tenuous hold on the ambiguous vagaries of the portentous white.
Sometimes I know when I’ve done it. Sometimes I know when the task is, at least temporarily, complete. And other times…I’m not so sure. I simply have to know when to stop because it’s time to go. In such instances, I can only hope that I haven’t cut the conversation short. But, perhaps, the uncertainties, the lingering doubts, the questions still hanging thick in the air, is why I’ll do it again tomorrow…