I might be forgiven for thinking that it would be plain sailing after this momentous discovery, but it never is. What does grow stronger is a self-belief and a knowledge that you will eventually pull through. Gradually I learnt to put more and more of myself into the paintings, to play and have fun but on a higher level, making my own decisions without fear of ridicule. Turns out that being yourself is probably the hardest thing to do as your inbuilt defense mechanisms constantly try to prevent it. The good news is that when you are truly honest and pin your colours to the mast, the reaction you most fear never arrives.
Alan MacDonald,The Candy Man 2013 Oil on canvas,190.5 x 215.9 cm, © Alan Macdonald
What does arrive though, are subjects and topics worth exploring that you never knew were inside you. I have a simple rule when working this way; I want to find out something that I didn't already know. If a painting is becoming a bit predictable, I will introduce an obscure element like a spanner being tossed into the teeth of a large machine, challenging my subconscious to make sense of it. I might have to mull it over in my head for a day or two, but eventually a solution will begin to emerge. Being a daydreamer helps. You boldly go where no brain has gone before! Those inner worlds are magical and enlightening, the secret being to bring a little piece of them back with you and leave it on the canvas. I do this by creating characters and places whose purpose or function are left unresolved at the beginning... allowing them to slowly reveal themselves. Paintings usually start with an explosion of energy and excitement. My conscious mind complaining and trying to keep up, but I don't listen to it as I forge ahead until finally grinding to a halt, mentally exhausted, waiting for my soul to catch up. Once recovered, I have to make sense of what just happened without losing the energy within the painting.
It's that energy which is important, not necessarily any specific meaning. Francis Bacon use to say that if his paintings didn't hit him with electric energy the first split second he walked into his studio, then he destroyed them. That's the sort of energy I feel when I look at a huge brightly coloured Jeff Koon’s balloon dog. It makes me glad to be alive now.