It’s Been A Difficult Year

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?

Me+Sargent
Me and John Singer Sargent art

 

TOO MUCH INFORMATION!!

Or the day my head blew up

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?

Fresh Flowers
“Fresh Flowers” 10×8″ oil on panel

FRUSTRATION! The Learning Struggle

Oh So Sweet

Every time I take a class I want to know everything NOW! Just open my head and pour it in. I am always frustrated in the beginning because in any class there are always various skill levels of people signed up and there is a certain amount of basics to get through.
My eCourse is no different. I want to paint. But there is setting up the studio, setting up the palette, loading up the brush, cleaning the brush, yada, yada, yada… all good information, and I want to PAINT. And I learned a lot in spite of myself.

I’ve always known certain pigments didn’t cover as well as others and this was annoying. These are the transparents, and now I know how to use them to my advantage. As a thin underpainting they provide a rich glow of bright color, which work with the next layer of thicker opaque color to provide depth and richness.

The second week we painted! After switching to acrylics for the past 3 years I remembered why I like painting in oils. Thick and buttery, there is nothing like it. And it’s pretty easy to wipe out and paint over if I don’t like what I’ve done (which I did several times).
So I’m getting the hang of this loose brushstroke thing, at least while I’m watching Dreama do it. We’ll have to see if I can do it on my own with my own painting. But I’ve still got 4 weeks to go.

Here is my cupcake painting from week 2 #DreamLovePaint.

Time to Shake Things Up

Trying to change the way you paint is no easy feat. I always wondered why artists taught workshops and created DVDs (other than the money and the sharing part). Weren’t they worried about creating a bunch of other artist who all paint exactly like them? Why were they giving away all their secrets?

But as I took workshops and watched DVDs I realized I was still using my hand to create the brushstrokes, I still had my own color sense, I still had my own vision of what I wanted to create. In other words, I still paint the way I paint. Not that I didn’t learn anything. I always learn something. It just gets filtered through my own sensibilities. I learn something every time I just paint next to another artist, so hopefully I am getting better.

In order to make a larger leap I have signed up to take a 6-week eCourse with an artist whose art and techniques I admire, Dreama Tolle Perry (http://dreamatolleperry.com). A completely different (bright and colorful) color palette than I am used to, and quite loose brushwork—which I have been trying to implement on my own for about a year and a half with only limited success.

It should be fun. A perfect occupation for the gray and snowy winter ahead of me here in Michigan.

studio painting
Even painting with my right hand (I’m left handed) did not loosen up my brushstroke enough. I am NOT going to try painting with my feet (as some have suggested)! A larger brush will help.