Hot Mess

One of the challenges I face as an artist is change and growth. Once I’ve developed a style, the tendency is to stick with it, because I’ve got it down and I know I can do it well. But after a while it becomes too predictable, and I have to shake things up a bit. I have to be willing to let go of expectations and make a hot mess!

Those “aha” moments only come from extensive experimentation, and for every “aha” there are hundreds of hot messes. I thought I’d share some of my recent messes with you.

Each experiment begins with “I wonder what would happen . . .” This first hot mess started with “I wonder what would happen if I used a checkerboard background,” and that wasn’t particularly pleasing, so I continued with “I wonder what would happen if I splatted some paint on it.” That still wasn’t enough, and I finished with “I wonder what would happen if I press it against another wet painting.” The result? A hot mess! But sort of interesting in its messiness.

Tondro Painting Hot Mess

Most of my tools and supplies are still in boxes in the garage, which can be a good thing, as it forces me to be inventive with what I have available. The one tool I had was my fingers, and other than paint, I only had brush cleaner and water. So this next painting was predicated on “I wonder what would happen if I dipped my finger in the brush cleaner and ran it through the paint.” Pretty much another hot mess.

Tondro Painting Hot Mess

Each time I make a mess I’m learning something about what works and what doesn’t work, which led to this final piece that I kind of like. “I wonder what would happen if I sprinkle brush cleaner on the surface of a wet painting and then press another canvas on top of it.” I’m not sure how I would replicate this, but I can see it on top of a subtle salmon checkerboard background.

Tondro Painting Hot Mess

And so it goes, day after day, looking for the gems in the messiness. It’s a process of making a mess and then resolving the mess with the questions, “How can I make this hot mess into something beautiful, and how can I then use the new technique to create something interesting and meaningful?”



  1. I love your creativity and messiness. I do that all the time and feel guilty but then I notice that something really great comes out my creativity which is the capability to give new energy to my own self…..One of the decisive secrets of my life as an artist is to do exactly what I feel like doing and I call that inspiration….Do you agree Cassandra???? Your friend Fiona

    1. I wish I could say that I only ever do what I want to do, Fiona. But then there are commissions, where by design I do what the client wants. Still, there are plenty of times where I get to do what I want to do, and the best is when that corresponds with what other people like!

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