and Sometimes It Takes Awhile To Figure Out Which It Is.
Just before Christmas, I had a phone conversation with my client Jim about the progress I’d made on the 2D commission we’ve been working on since August, 2009. With the preliminary sketch finished, I needed his written approval to continue. I was thrilled to hear he liked it. He had a couple of suggestions for small tweaks with which I agreed, and said he would send along the paperwork giving his OK. I floated into the Holidays with such a lift in my spirits. It was one of the best Christmas gifts of the year.
By January 5, I still had nothing in writing. So I called. I could tell from Jim’s voice it was not one of his better days. He said he had little if any sleep the night before. The physical pain was not relieved by the minor surgery he had just before Thanksgiving. We discussed the paperwork I needed and I asked him if he could please just put something in the mail the next day so I could get started.
Which he did.
But the ‘something’ wasn’t what I was expecting. In essence, he wrote he couldn’t go on with the project as he wasn’t ready ‘yet’ to deal with the painting and what it represented. The fact that these images would remind him on a daily basis what he had lost would simply add to the pain he was already feeling, both physically and psychologically.
It was like a punch in the gut. I felt as if I’d somehow let him down. What I had hoped (and thought he had hoped) would be a catharsis turned out to be more like drilling deeper into a wound that had never really healed after five years.
So all the frustrating ‘start/stop’, ‘he’s here/he isn’t’ over the past 6 months was mostly about his own pain and hesitation at continuing, something that took him months to finally articulate. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. But was it a total surprise? Knowing what I know about what he has been through and what he’s still going through? No, not really.
I have since written Jim, letting him know that I took his ‘yet’ as his not wanting to shelve the work permanently. I told him I’ve put the preliminary sketch safely aside along with all the images we collected together and the materials already purchased. My hope is that sometime in the future, he will, in fact, be pain free and be ready to continue on with the project.
So the gift I thought I was getting at Christmas time – the go ahead to continue and finish up a huge commission which was taking up a good deal of studio space as well as a large part of my creative focus – was really another gift altogether, the gift of clearing the way for new work – a smaller 2D commission I had put aside until after I finished with Jim’s and getting back into clay.
Yep, you win some and you lose some as my dear old dad used to say. It's been two weeks since I got Jim's letter. Today, it feels more like I've won some.