Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend. We had a quiet Christmas so I finally had a chance to paint something for myself after painting many commissioned Christmas pieces from photos. I truly hate working from photographs but they are necessary if the subject is not available I suppose.
This is a "paint over". I have a lot of pieces I don't like and would never sell because I don't think they are any good so I recycle the canvases. Many times the texture underneath adds something to the new painting. This is a knife painting and it was fun to just waste a lot of paint and see what happened. It's a different kind of technique to me because I don't use my knives very often unless I'm working with edges or adding sharp lines so this was a challenge. If we don't challenge ourselves as artists though I'm not sure we can ever truly grow. I don't want the stuff I am painting ten years from now to look like the stuff I am doing today.
Most of the students who sign up for a painting class with me are surprised to learn that I believe it's easier to paint from life than it is to paint from a photograph. I need to qualify that statement a bit. It's easier if you are a fast painter. Of course you don't become a fast painter until you put in the hours necessary to make quick decisions while you're painting. That is where practice comes in. A photograph is never going to duplicate all the colors our eyes can see. It's a flat rendition of one view of a subject. The human eye, on the other hand, is capable of discerning subtle value changes and luminosity that is quite foreign to the camera lens. A photograph captures the line and the value, while the eye sees the shape and the forms. I enjoy painting from life very much and I take every opportunity to do so. All mys still life subjects are painted form life. It would be very boring for me to take a picture of some "things" and then copy the picture,. The joy arises when I am in the moment and making the decisions about where I want the light and shadow to merge, how much I want to push the color etc. It's hard to explain to artists who have never tried it.
In the warmer months I paint landscapes outdoors: plein air painting. The subject needs to be captured in two hours or less if you're not planning to return another day. This kind of painting forces the artist to make snap decisions about line, form and color. It effectively increases your speed and makes you a better painter. It's great training for painting the human form from life, another very enjoyable but not always easy activity.
Painting from life will train your eyes to look for and find variations in color that artists who depend on photos will never see. After you've put in hundreds of hours directly observing and painting what you see in nature you can use a photograph for reference and safely invent the color, shadows, and highlights you know is missing from it.
Here are a two recent paintings done from life. The woman was a five hour pose and the boy posed for two hours.
Ever since I started painting plein air pieces I have wanted to paint out west, especially the Grand Canyon. That dream came true this month thanks to my good friend Charlotte, who let me stay in AZ with her and who traveled up to the Canyon with me and my 14 year old daughter. The weather was perfect and the paintings were a challenge, due to the sheer immenseness of the landscape. Not qhat I was used to painting at all. But I tried and I plan to paint a large piece for my living room from one of the studies I completed there.
6" x 8" Yavapai View
6" x 8" Morning Vista, South Rim
Here is a Prickly Pear cactus I painted one morning near Charlotte's place in Cave Creek.
I want to take a few minutes to write about something that we all, as artists, have experienced at one time or another: rejection. If you haven't yet, you will. This ugly word strikes fear in the heart of any aspiring artist who has swallowed that lump in her throat and risked entering a juried show. Juried shows, unlike open shows, allow the judge(s) to weed out any piece he/she feels is not worthy of judging. I have entered many shows over the course of my painting career. It comes with the territory. An artist spends hour after hour in the studio creating beauty and one of the only ways to share it and gain recognition for those efforts is to enter a show and display the piece. Early in my career some of my pieces were rejected. When that happened I was always angry and full of angst about the perceived insult to my artistic "talent". After all, many artists consider the production of a piece of art almost as painful as giving birth! I want to forget Marni Kotak http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/30/nyregion/birth-brings-attention-to-microscope-gallery.html, who decided to share a bit of "performance art" by giving birth in a New York gallery this week. I consider that a shameless display of self-promotion and a personal affront to artists everywhere who legitimately work on creating real art. I can say that because I've had some babies. It is work but it is not my creation- it's God's. I give Him all the credit where that is concerned. But you can see here the divide between what some people consider art and others consider 'private family stuff'. Anything in the name of art, right? I hope not.
Anyway, I am digressing. This rant is regarding rejection! I have a drawer full of ribbons that read "Best of Show" and "First Prize" so perhaps I have grown complacent. A few weeks ago I entered a piece in a small juried portrait show. When the little rejection card showed up in my mailbox this week I was stunned. I shouldn't have been, but I was. Filled with self-doubt, I questioned the actual quality of the painting I entered. Was it too dark? Too impressionistic? Was the message too obscure-- the focal point too vague? Many of my artist friends had loved it and one confessed that she thought it might even win the Best of Show in this small local show. I had basked in their praise, not even considering that it might not even be accepted.
The hard truth is that not everyone is going to like your art. Art is, by definition, subjective. Which brings us back to the woman giving birth in the art gallery and calling it "performance art". Other people, many of them in positions of importance, actually agreed with her. They allowed her to set up a birthing room and publicized the event for her. Her baby's birth gave her that ubiquitous 15 minutes of fame. Judges are people too and they have their own preconceived ideas about what art should or shouldn't be.
If there's a lesson here it is to choose your shows wisely. Learn about the judge or judges and assess their qualifications. Are they people you admire or respect? Have they actually worked in the medium you use and are familiar with it? Is their work creative and wonderful or does it resemble the afterbirth? (OK, that was crude but I couldn't resist.) The show I entered did not announce who the judge would be and the last I heard this was not decided on even three weeks before the take-in. Be suspicious of shows that lack organization. Most shows require an entry fee and money is hard to come by these days. If the exhibition area is a room in an obscure location run the other way. Look for well- lit, well advertised shows and find out who the judge(s) are. I entered this show because it was sponsored by a group of painters I regularly paint with and I wanted to support their efforts. The venue was not a high profile gallery and will not see much traffic.
Don't be discouraged by rejection. Remember that it's only one person's opinion and many others won't agree with that opinion. If nine out of ten people find your work beautiful don't let that tenth person steal your joy. Above all, keep creating. It's what we as artists are made to do. :)
Here is the painting that was rejected. "Blind Date"
This is an 8" x 10" painting of a scene looking westward on Lake Erie near North Point Park. There was a lovely breeze blowing in from the lake and the day was made very comfortable because of it. One of my favorite places to paint in the area.
The view of this old Schwinn bicycle from the porch of the house where I was staying was irresistible. No. 1: It was cool on the porch and I could relax. No. 2: The sun was glancing off the bike and the garden in a picturesque manner.
This is the third year I have attended this paint out which is help in conjunction with the Lakeside Wooden Boat Show at Lakeside, Ohio. This year I stayed with a host family and it was a more comfortable experience.
I painted the ubiquitous Marblehead Lighthouse because I hadn't done it and I needed to. Everyone paints Marblehead Lighthouse. It's almost a requirement. It was unbelievable hot on the day I did this so I searched for available shade and ended up as far away as you could get from it- leaning against a wall in the parking lot, with shrubs providing meager cover. At least there is usually some kind of breeze when you are near Lake Erie so it's not as bad as it might be.
Sgt. 1st Class Brian K. Naseman, 36, died while serving our Country with the United States Army - 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team - 108th Forward Support Company, attached to the 2nd Battalion in Iraq on Friday, May 22, 2009. 11" x 14" oil on canvas, gift to his parents
I traveled to Athens, Ohio with a friend in early April for an OPAS paintout. Everyone else was drawn tot he river to paint cherry trees in bloom but we decided it was much too gray a day. What was needed? Some architecture! This is downtown Athens near the courthouse.
Last month I created eight paintings from photos I took at Sauder Village when I was there in Sept. 2009. They are all 8" x 10" and I am hoping to sell prints in the General Store at the Village. Need to approach Juanita yet.