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  • Writer's pictureStuart Sheldon

The Tyranny of a Blank Canvas

Blank Canvas

To Begin, Begin.                     Wordsworth

Few things intimidate us like a blank slate waiting for what one of my writing heroes, Annie Lamott, calls the unavoidable “shitty first draft.” For most of us, it’s far easier to edit than to fabricate. Thus, it’s critical to get marks on the paper ASAP. 

I’ve just finished four months of head-down, sleeves-rolled-up intensity in my studio, cranking out all new works for a Bay Area solo show in May. The canvases are currently traversing America in an 18-wheeler. I’m happy to say that most of these works poured out of me like lemonade from a wide-mouthed pitcher. But one piece, the final one, proved a bit more thorny.

Best Books Ever Written - Grownups Are Overrated, acrylic, children's book covers, paper, oil crayon on canvas, 60"x60", 2015

Best Books Ever Written – Grownups Are Overrated, acrylic, children’s book covers, paper, oil crayon on canvas, 60″x60″, 2015

I finished it two Sundays ago, a bright orange hurricane of children’s book covers. It remained elusive and unresolved right up until the moment I glued the final strip (Where The Wild Things Are). So happens, 30 minutes later, I hosted a sneak preview of the show in my studio. As is typically the case, this one “difficult” painting seemed to cause the most stir and excitement. Go figure.

Life really is the journey and not the destination (what with the destination being death and all). And so, I thought it’d be interesting to share the evolution of this one painting.


Day 1 – Underpainting

Really not much more than a sensation, some kind of swirling thingy contracting or expanding.

Day 2

Day 2

Day 2 got kinda crazy (read ugly) with the addition of color and the first collage elements. Hey, no bad ideas, right?

Day 3

Day 3

Day 3 was just a straight-up mess … but it felt so good. Boys love mud; that never changes.

Day 4

Day 4

Day 4 was about reining it in and defining the mood, all while masking the yummy stuff beneath. For me, much of the thrill stems from the juicy goods that nobody sees or ever knows about – the tattoo just below the bikini line.

Day 5

Day 5

Day 5 – the pathway begins. Folks ask if I know where these paths are headed. NO I do not. Hearkening back to Day 1, I felt a swirliness coming on, but not much more direction than that.

Day 6

Day 6

Twissssty. Turrrrrny. Looooooopy.

Day 7

Day 7

Now, we’re getting somewhere. Any day you get to see Harry the Dirty Dog, Curious George Rides a Bike and Goodnight Moon all at once … is a good day.

Day 10

Day 10. And done!

The eagle eventually landed on something that a collector referred to as a “thought bubble.” I like that.

My BEST BOOKS EVER WRITTEN Bay Area Solo Show Opens May 9 & 10 in Sausalito. Style A Gallery 30C Princess Street in Sausalito, California. Show closes May 31, 2015. 


Next … time to reload and start the next barrage for a June group show in Miami!

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