Most artists are familiar with the phrase, “trust the process.” It is true for scenic painting more so than any other artistic endeavor I have ever worked on. Scenic painters recreate the work of a scenic designer, taking a small rendering painted in 1/2″ scale and creating the life-size version of the object. As a student, you are taught the basic techniques that allow you to do this – cartooning, enlargement tricks, geometry, wet-blending, glazes, color-mixing, etc. (it’s a substantial list – scenic painter’s are kind of amazing creatures!) Because of the nature of painted scenery for the stage, it is often large and awkward to analyze close. This leads to the two cardinal rules – step back to get some perspective, and trust the process.
As a teacher who has worked with a number of students learning this trade over the years, I always enjoy watching them experience this firsthand. I tell my students, don’t believe what you think you see, look three steps ahead and see what it’s going to be. Trust the process. Scenic painting is one of those things in life that works that way – most often you spend a good portion of the middle of the project wondering what you’ve done wrong and how it will ever look right. This is true for so many painters I have spoken to. Without the proper encouragement, a beginner might just stop out of frustration. That’s where the reminder come in – relax, and trust the process. you can’t see it right now, but this is going to be perfect. Sure enough, when they push on through that frustration and self-doubt, 90% of the time they come to realize the painting was there all along. It was just waiting to be revealed.
For whatever reason, this has struck a chord with me over the last few weeks in talking to some other friends and colleagues. More often than not, when you feel bogged down and troubled by what’s going on around you, just take a few minutes to step back and get some perspective on the moment. Relax, and trust the process. Things can often seem chaotic in the middle of the project. It’s not until you place that final brush stroke that you can truly step back, admire your work, and realize “hey, maybe I did know what I was doing, after all!”