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June 2013

May 2013

Hello Frustration My Best Friend

So I finished a painting today.  And started it four hours before I finished.  Not particularly remarkable, one could say, but it is a nice painting at this point, sitting there waiting for me to study it over the next few days and see if I ought to tweak it or just let it be.

Still not remarkable, except for one thing.

Beneath this painting, scraped and sanded down to a nondescript blue-gray, is the evidence of the painting I had been doing, the painting that would not work no matter what, that turned into mud at every turn, and which was one of those paintings where you are interrupted so often you forget what you were looking at - yes, it was one of those paintings that almost convinced me to never paint again.

Except for another thing: if you are trying to be creative, no matter in what area, you have to learn to love frustration.  Because frustration tells you that you need to stop, just for a moment or a day, and take a deep breath.  It tells you that what you are doing is not working, and whether that is due to a technical problem or a weakness in your design or the consistency of your paint or a paint-clogged brush or the fact that you are not thinking about your brushwork - what is not working is something you can fix.  It is not your creativity that is at fault.  It is not your artistic vision that has run away. 

It is something you can fix. 

And that is what is remarkable.  Because no matter how frustrated, or discouraged, or tempted to never pick up a paint brush again, the nature of the artist is to rebound and to attack that problem again with a new strategy.  It may take a day for the rebound.  Or a week.  But trust that it will come.

In the meantime, do what you can to identify what was not working and then problem solve.  Because what frustration really boils down to is your inner voice telling you that inspiration alone will never will save your butt. 


IMG_0163 sm copy

Juniper, oil, 8 x 10 - Accepted into the OPA Salon Show of Traditional Oils

to be hosted by Crooked Tree Arts Center, Inc, in Petoskey, Michigan,

June 21 through August 31, 2013



Develop a Personal Approach to Expression

IMG_0291Years ago I attended a workshop in Florence, Italy, to learn more about Renaissance Art.  We were fortunate to have private lectures and personal tours of the museums by a notable Art History Professor, as well as day trips to the countryside.  During this time we were focused on making traditional gesso panels, learning about egg tempera, and painting in some historically jaw-dropping locations.

This photo is of the upper terrace area of Villa Gherardini, where Leonardo reportedly started the Mona Lisa.  I, however, am busy working on a humble plein air watercolor sketch of an urn with flowers.  The Villa is still privately owned and in some disrepair, so our day long stay was restricted to the gardens. 

In the many photos and sketches I brought home,  there was one of the thinning evergreen branches in a centuries old garden maze that was located one terrace down from the garden in the image above.  The branches seemed completely inappropriate for a landscape painting, but when I found the photo recently I decided I would challenge my usual assumptions about composition and color. 

IMG_0245 greenwood sm copyI approached this subject as if it were a portrait or a still life, and I wanted to convey the soft green light of the enclosed maze.  The color palette is  limited to Viridian, Amazonite,Yellow Ochre Light, Cobalt Blue,Transparent Oxide Red, Alizarin, and Titanium White.  The canvas is a textured linen on panel which was at times helpful and at other times problematic.  I may still work on this painting, studying the light falling on some evergreens in my yard to see where I may have missed with the values. If necessary I will sand down areas of thicker paint and repaint until I am satisfied.

The more I study artists in an attempt to understand their approach, I realize how important it is to develop my personal idea of expression.  I evaluate from a distance for the overall success of the design, but it's equally important that the the up-close surface texture be pleasing. Trying to understand how other artists approach and solve similar problems has become an important learning aspect for me now. 

When I first began painting I believed my work should look a certain way.  To some extent, I think there is still pressure on an artist to work loosely within current trends.  But it is equally important to move away from the expected and often repeated.  This is the challenge now, to find my own interpretation of the landscape and to execute it in a successful way.