Last year was great—I had two successful solo shows, I painted almost every day, and I sold more art than the year before. So I took December off to enjoy the holidays with family and friends, and spent time to read about art and research artists I admire.
It was my intention to get back to painting full time in January, but I found all the information I acquired was confusing. Each artist takes a different approach: one tones their canvas, another does not; they all use different palettes of color; some draw first, others block in shapes. I wanted to try something new but didn’t know where to start. So I didn’t.
January turned into February turned into March and so on. Luckily I have artist friends who have gone through this or know artist who have gone through it (some for much longer), so I felt I would recover.
In May I went on a plein air painting retreat for four days, painting all day with other artists and that finally jump-started my shift back into the mind-set I needed to paint again. Whew!
I’ve learned a great deal this year, and I’ve wiped off as many canvasses as I’ve kept. And that’s a good thing.
I just came back from Chicago where I am again renewed after visiting the special exhibit of John Singer Sargent at the Art Institute. Hopefully I can channel some of his genius into my work (if only!).
Yes, a difficult year, but a year of growth. Who said it’d be easy after all?
In my quest for constant and never ending improvement I sometimes get too much information in my head. One day, as I put brush to canvas, my head blew up.
It all started when I was unhappy that my painting had gotten too tight (it wasn’t that way in art school and college!). It may be skillful but not very expressive. So I looked to artist’s whose work I admire—old masters as well as currently working artist—to learn new techniques.
I took a workshop, watched some videos, a tutorial, read some books and magazines. After working for years with the colors I used in college I tried a whole new brighter palette and was I having some success. I learned some looser brushwork techniques. I keep going.
One artist uses more colors; one uses a limited palette; one uses 3 colors plus white. One tones their canvas, another does not. Etc.
One day painting, the information was all in conflict in my head. That was the day it all started swirling around and my head blew up. I had to stop, light a candle, meditate, and begin again.
Let’s just try ONE thing and see what happens. Let’s think about just this ONE thing and if it works, fine; if not, fine.
And “Fresh Flowers” came out way better than I expected. Not as loose as I’m working toward, but I pretty much like it. What do you think?
People like the idea of a fresh start, a clean slate, and a chance to do it “right” this time (as long as starting over doesn’t involve losing any built up vacation time).
As an artist I’m lucky—each new art piece begins with a blank canvas. Some people go to work and do the same thing every day. Even a doctor might see her waiting room as a sink full of dirty dishes so to speak.
Of course that white space staring at you every day can get intimidating. I have to think of something to put on it everyday. When inspiration doesn’t come I still have to work. I put a wash of color on the canvas. I move some paint around. Inspiration comes.
Creating art is good for the mind. Creating art is good for the body. Looking at art is good for the mind and the body as well.
In an article by the Huffpost, Art Isn’t Just Good For The Mind, It’s Good For The Body Too, Donna Betts, president of the American Art Therapy Association, “referenced a slew of studies chronicling art’s ability to reduce pain, counter fatigue and promote general physical wellness”.
It’s good to set goals, to strive, to push yourself. Sometimes it’s good to go an extra 10 reps, to walk an extra block, or to complete a painting a day.
But sometimes life pushes back and you need to take a break. Having two surgeries in one year takes it’s toll on a body. The recovery of surgery on my left shoulder, my dominant hand, is going a little rougher than the right shoulder did.
I was feeling bad that things weren’t getting done. But this isn’t a time to beat myself up; this is the time to take care of myself. So if the floor doesn’t get swept, and a painting doesn’t get finished every day, I’m going to cut myself some slack—let it go.
I found I can do other things, like at 3 A.M. when I can’t sleep because of the pain I listen to interviews of artists on my iPhone, Podcasts at the Savvy Painter (http://savvypainter.com/series/artists/). Or, since iPhone has voice recording, I can record my blog so I don’t have to type this all with one finger.
So as everyone might start gearing up for the upcoming holidays I may take a nap and as The Beatles would say, “Let it be”.