That Empty Canvas of Piece of Paper! / by Jeannine Cook

Picasso once remarked to Angela Rosengart, the art dealer and collector, "There is nothing so frightening for a painter as to stand in front of an empty canvas."

When an artist has just gone through a creative, productive time, he or she is on a high.  But alas, as we all know, highs don't last for ever, and then the trouble can start.  I found this true - again! - this week, as I returned from a stimulating and fascinating time in south Italy, where I had end my stay at an art residency by being beguiled by the beauty and interest of Matera, the home of the UNESCO-protected Sassi area.  I came home full of ideas and enthusiasm to get right back to work.

Then there comes the first moment in front of the empty paper, in my case... and, indeed, Picasso has it right, albeit expressed rather dramatically.  The creative energy seems to drain out of one, the little voice at the back of one's head starts to murmur about problems, and you end up thinking - oh dear!

So the only thing to do, I have found in the past, is to settle down, turn to more mundane studio chores, scanning art that you have done, attending to paper work, looking at drawings and notes you have made.  You tell your subconscious to go on thinking and planning about the next work you want to embark on, how to go about it, what to try and say in it... and let time help banish the fright at the empty canvas or piece of paper.

I wanted to return to the feel of the area where I had been working, south of Noepoli, in the Basilicata province of Italy.  Humans have walked in those mountains and valleys for so many millennia, and it is good, in dealing with my white paper fright, to think back to the things I want to remember about that area.  Maybe these memories will ease me back into what I want to say about this amazing area of South Italy.

The Sarmento dry river bed, 2012, watercolour
Distant Traces: the Sarmento I, 2012, silverpoint