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?
I’ve read about artists experiencing creative block, where they didn’t know what to paint or what to do with their art next. In December I thought maybe that’s what I was going through. But really I had all sorts of ideas that I wanted to paint I just didn’t want to paint them. I was having more of an ambition block.
I had two solo shows last year, my first solo shows, which are a lot of work. Then there was a plethora of holiday shows to prepare, enter, deliver, and track.
December would’ve been a nice time to be on a tropical island relaxing in the sand, sun, and turquoise waters. Instead I chose holiday shopping and gatherings with family and friends.
I’ve read about how artists handle their creative blocks but I just didn’t WANT to paint. So I continued to look at art, read about art, I watched some instructional videos from artists whose art I admire, and just absorbed some good vibes.
Now in the New Year I am processing all that and working out what I learned, and I must say, I’m doing as much wiping out as I am painting!
Like anything it’s hard to break old habits. I find myself saying, “That’s not what I want”, and so I wipe it out and have another go at it. And I’ve gone back to standing instead of sitting while I paint so I can back up more often to look at my painting. That helps a great deal. Then I put in on my shelf in the living room so I can glance at it the rest of the day for further contemplation.
So here is “Nature Trail”, 8×6″ oil on panel, which I have painted, wiped out, and repainted each area several times. It’s a process. And I think I’m done.
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?
I grew up in the suburbs and I enjoy drive in the country, but I was born in the city. I only lived in Detroit for 4 years but we visited my grandmother there for years.
And I went to art school downtown right behind the Art Institute.
Maybe I’ve read too many novels or seen too many movies. When I’m in a large downtown I get a feeling of mystery. I want to know everyone’s story. Especially on a gloomy day the intrigue seems intensified. A perfect time for a painting of an urban landscape.
My birdfeeders in my city neighborhood attract a lot of brown Sparrows with a few Blue Jays, Cardinals, Woodpeckers, and when I’m lucky, the brilliant yellow Goldfinch.
My photographer friend, Deb Drew Brown has a backyard that is much more woodsy that attracts a larger variety of birds. She has given me permission to paint from some of her photos including this Baltimore Oriole snacking on an orange on the railing of her deck. This is a brilliant delight against the neutral background of the Michigan winters.
I took photography in college so I know how to compose in the camera, which is an advantage when gathering photo references for my painting. I also am skilled on the computer so I can crop and make adjustments when necessary to enhance the photos.
Guest photos can also be delightful.
My cousin took a photo of 3 baby birds demanding to be fed and posted it on Facebook. I immediately asked her for permission to use it for a painting. I think I smiled the entire time I was painting.
Originally posted on Art of Quotation: ? “Studio Ghosts: When you’re in the studio painting, there are a lot of people in there with you – your teachers, friends, painters from history, critics… and one by one if you’re really painting, they walk out. And if you’re really painting YOU walk out.” Philip Guston, painter