I used to feel very uneasy about painting over old canvases, even if I didn't truly enjoy the art I had made on them. Something about erasing a part of myself (or my story) didn't sit well with me, and all these old canvases ended up piling on at the bottom of my bookshelf, gathering dust and creating a bigger mess in what used to be a living room and that now became a messy art studio.
Once in a blue moon, I mustered some courage and painted over one of them, but the texture of the first art piece was still visible on the canvas. Somehow, the frustration from the struggle of painting straight lines over the texture of the old art made this "painting over old art" process feel more "ok".
Maybe I'm also the kind of person who likes to make things difficult for herself, but yesterday, I decided to make the jump and buy a bottle of thick Gesso primer to officially erase some of my clumsier beginnings and turn the page on what I consider the old me to make place for the new emerging version.
In the last 24 hours, that's mostly all I've been doing. Listening to music, minding my own business, barely being on social media (one of my favourite things), and just priming canvases after canvases.
Priming with white paint has always been a meditation, but Gesso is slightly different. It's all in the texture. Not only does it make sure that the canvas won't badly absorb your future paint, but it will also create a smooth surface where no texture will be visible.
Some of these canvases will need a LOT of Gesso to erase all this paint, but I've also been sanding the most textured ones to help speed up the process.
On top of all this, priming with many thick layers of Gesso has its added excitement, knowing that no trace of the past will be noticeable and everything will be free to be created.
Sometimes, it's ok to erase those reminders of the past to make space for everything you wish to create in the future. There's obviously no shame in keeping them, but I now see beauty in a completely blank slate.
If anything, this post could be your reminder that you can create the future you wish, and you do not need to hold on to the memories of your past as they don't define you. All those clumsy first canvases where you learned your craft don't define who you are as an artist or where you're going.
I'll finish with that and go back to my peaceful priming task. Remember that no matter the type of clumsy art you made, it was needed to get where you are today. No matter how pretty or ugly it was, it was part of the essential building blocks to elevate your artistic journey to where it's today. You can keep all those old art pieces and feel nostalgic about them or thank them before covering the surface with a huge layer of thick Gesso primer and making space for the new.
You can either focus on the past to understand it or focus on the future to see what you can make of it.