Why I painted about acceptance

25 October 2020

Susan Snipes, “Acceptance” series, oil and cold wax medium on paper, 9” x 12” each

I stood with a hand on my hip, my fingertips smudged with paint. I wasn’t worried about getting a few more paint streaks on my studio clothes. My other hand loosely held a palette knife. Afternoon light filtered through the basement windows. The faint scent of linseed oil and solvents lingered in the air. I squinted at three panels layered with thick saturated paint. I was attempting to paint a trio of... Ugh. I heaved out a sigh. Why did these paintings look so awful?

A few months earlier, I started experimenting with oil painting and cold wax medium. I’ve been making art for years, but this combination was brand new to me. Cold wax medium mixed with oil paint is ideal for layering, texture (impasto), and faster drying time—all attributes I like. I was delighted with the first several small paintings I made with oil and cold wax. Everything flowed effortlessly. Those initial paintings were interesting and cohesive. Fast forward to my latest set of oil and cold wax paintings and my creative flow had slammed into a wall and vanished.

I am so stuck. I pursed my lips. Well, I guess I could paint about it.

I pulled an empty board away from the studio wall and rested it on my easel. I peeled six sheets of papers specially designed to receive oil paint from a tablet. I measured and taped each paper onto the board with blue painter’s tape. A bank of white windows with blue frames. OK, the blank page awaits.

I stepped back and paused. Hmmm. I grabbed a Sharpie. I uncapped the marker and settled my gaze on the grid of blue tape around the paper.

I poised the marker on the tape above the first blank page. I knew I had been forcing art out of me based on what I thought I “should” be doing with this new medium. I could be honest about that. I scrawled about trying too hard to have control. I moved on to the next rectangle and wrote again. Humbled, I kindly requested the art materialize on the page. I wrote across more tape. And then, I gave in. Whatever wanted to manifest could show up. I wrote above the last paper. I would be totally open to what comes.

In order, these are the words I scribbled: try to control, force an opening, ASKING, surrender to what comes, floodgates, and totally open.

And then I began to paint. First, I swiped streaks of oil paint sticks on each page. Then, I squeezed fat worms of paint on my palette. I mixed hunks of cold wax with the paint. I spread the paint mixture onto the pages. I added more textured layers. My intentions guided me.

I returned to the grid of paintings the next day and the next. I found flow. I observed. I accepted what was showing up on the page. By the third day, I saw pairs of these paintings related to each other in color and form. I found the hidden messages. I made a curved edge more prominent here. I accentuated an angle there. I added grooves and scratches into the paint. I incorporated more colors. I scraped away extra bits. Over the next several days, I let the images materialize.

On the evening after the sixth session, I stepped through the doorway into my studio. Ah, that is enough. They were ready. I picked at the edges of the blue painter’s tape one piece at a time. I slowly peeled the blue tape and freed each painting from the board. I wadded up the tape inscriptions and dropped them into the trash can. I didn’t need my written words. These six paintings embodied the essence of those intentions.

Are you working on a project with too much force? Can you step back, let go, and accept what is waiting to happen?


Oil and Cold Wax Medium on Arches Oil Paper
All paintings are 9”x 12”

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