If you don’t like your life today, paint over it.

The Long View 26" x 32" Acrylic on board 2016 Louise Gallagher

The Mystery of Seven Archangels
26″ x 32″
Acrylic on board
2016 Louise Gallagher

It happens every time. No matter what painting I’m working on, there comes a point where I just want to ditch it all. To throw it out. To forget about it and move on to something new.

Sometimes, the critter’s call (you know, that nasty voice inside that likes to call you a loser and all sorts of other names) is so strong, I ponder the merits of giving up painting all together. Really? Who am I trying to kid? I have no talent. It’s all just a waste of time — and anyway, I’m running out of wall space! Give it up already!

I have learned to breathe, to take a moment to reflect and centre myself so that the critter’s call becomes less strident. In the silence, my voice of calm rises above its cacophony to remind me why I love to paint — it’s not about getting to the end of the painting. It’s about savouring the creative journey.

Years ago, when I first fell in love with painting, my eldest daughter taught me an invaluable lesson.

If you don’t like it, paint over it.

Painting over it has become part of my creative process.

In the painting over process, the underpainting informs and illuminates the final. The textures and colours of what is beneath enhance what becomes the finished project.

Like life, painting over is not about erasing all that came before. It’s about using what came before to enhance what is happening now. It’s about learning from what happened in the’ there and then’ and allowing it to inform what is unfolding in the ‘here and now’.

Yet, no matter how many times I have painted over only to discover something I like even more than the original, I still hesitate at the moment of applying a coat of white to mask what was there.

I worry. I stall. I ruminate on it all. My mind veers off into, ‘you’re a loser’ territory, wanting me to believe I just can’t do it.

Silly mind.

Doesn’t it know I’ve recognized the critter’s voice?

Doesn’t it realize that no matter how insecure or indecisive I might feel in the moment, once I take a breath, fear loses its power to drive me into hiding as courage draws me out with its instinctual impulse to create?

The painting above began as an experimentation in texture. Hidden behind the clouds are the names of the seven archangels which are spelled out with wooden letters and affixed to the canvas with molding paste.

I had a vision for the painting, but it just wasn’t working.

I kept painting and still, the names of the archangels didn’t make sense.

I was very attached to my vision though and didn’t want to let it go.

But still, the painting wasn’t working. I clung to my attachment.

Finally, after weeks of the canvas hanging around the studio without my touching it, I decided to let go of my attachment and dig into the creative impulse. I took a breath and began to cover up the words with more molding paste.

I kept painting.

It is all part of the process.

In my original vision for the painting, the names of the seven archangels were visible. They were the painting.

Now, hidden behind the clouds, they remain part of the painting, but not the focal point. Yet, like in life, their mysterious presence remains part of the mystery, shimmering in the light of grace, adding context and texture — whether we know or believe they are there or not.

I’m still not sure if I’m finished creating with this painting or not. What I am sure of is in allowing the creative process to unfolding, in painting over, I continue to delve into what makes life so mysterious and divine.

It is all part of the journey where, if I don’t like the way my life looks today, I have the power to create something different simply by changing my perspective and seeing it through another lens.

And sometimes, that means, painting over what was there so that I can see what is possible when I don a brand new pair of glasses.