Thursday, November 2, 2017

Breakthrough in Thinking about my Art

My mind is churning around art this morning after another successful Weekly Wednesday Wine-fest (WWW). (Big drinkers we are, she has one glass of wine, and I, two). WWW is an opportunity for two friends and artists to get together to talk about art and life, and the most intriguing aspect of our friendship is that we are totally opposites in our techniques, styles, and processes. Yet we have the most amazing conversations and are very supportive of one other.

I had printed photos I’d taken the past two months from which I plan to do paintings and she brought over her work sketch book of how she works with photos in her painting process. We often talk of composition, values (which I still struggle to fully understand as an artist), colors, etc. We may be opposites in how we work, but what we love to paint is similar in the types of landscapes and such.

After all these years of doing art work, I still always question, always seek to learn and evolve. My journey with art isn’t just about technique and style. My entire soul gets involved. Emotions ramble (or is it rumble? Ha ha.) throughout the process. It’s like I become part of whatever I am working on and it becomes part of me so that I am thinking about it even when I’m not at the easel. It sometimes comes through when I’m meditating, or I’ll wake in the night with a slight memory of dreaming about it.

“I take photos and paint scenes, based on what I like; what catches my attention. If I’m intrigued by the view, I believe others will be, too.” – Sasha Wolfe. 

Work in process ... still lots to do
I paint scenes that intrigue me, often using multiple photographs of a landscape to capture various nuances and angles of the area. My mind is flooded with emotions which is a mish-mash of visual colors, textures, and words. It’s weird because I don’t get clear visions and sometimes there are no words to fully describe what I am feeling/seeing. (This is the first time I’ve been able to put this into words!) It’s only when I stand at the easel with brush or pastel in hand that I start seeing clearly … And at that point, there are times when it feels like something else takes over.

However, it’s not perfect, not constant. There’s always the ups and downs, ins and outs. The emotions ebb and flow. I’m excited by the work, then discouraged feeling I’ve done something wrong. I walk away, then go back. Eventually I reach the point where I have to stop. It has to be finished. The painting tells me it is done, even if I keep finding something to “fix.” I have to let go. It’s time to move on to another painting.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Finding my Way as an Artist

I find scenes I want to draw and paint. I take multiple photos to catch different angles. I don’t “think” too much about it in the moment. I am just excited with the view and I snap away. Too often it’s a quick stop because I’m heading somewhere else, so I don’t take my time and totally “feel” the area.

“Feel the area” means sitting for a little while and catching the nuances, the smells, noticing little quirks or paying enough attention to light. And light is soooo important! But for some reason, it’s not the light that catches my attention. My delight is in the beauty of the landscape. I know light is something I need to consider in creating a good picture, but every time I am so caught up in the view of trees, water, mountains, sky, and other vegetation, I totally forget about the light in the moment of taking the photographs.

I took multiple photos along this scene to do a panoramic painting.
I was traveling with someone and we were in a hurry, so there
wasn't any time to contemplate the scene. I just snapped photos.
What am I saying here? After years of being an artist, dabbling in numerous mediums and creating by my own rules, I am now taking a closer look at honing my skills. Maybe it’s because pastels work differently from the oils, acrylics, and charcoal I’ve used in the past. I’m fascinated by the various types and textures of pastels and the wonderful array of colors. However, they are giving me multiple challenges which I find intriguing and exciting.

There are also the challenges of learning on my own and not taking classes. There are new discoveries to make in order to create a beautiful painting. I talk to other artists (most don’t work in pastel, but all have insights) and I read books and websites on pastel painting. I process conversations and readings choosing aspects that will help me in my style. I feel I am building my own separate pathway across the pond.

Last night’s reading, in a book by Richard McKinley, talked about how a plein air sketch captures the essence of the scene the way the eye does (and a photograph does not). I don’t know that I’ve ever thought of the “essence of a scene” in words and sketching. I know I feel it, but outside of excitement, I’ve not considered artistic description.

Is this part of where artistic intuition comes in? I’m often told I have that. I use photographs as a guide to create the scene, but often, once I get background down and an idea where shapes go, I just dive in and start painting. Yes, I’ll refer to the photo, from time to time, but there reaches a point where the picture is telling me what it wants.

I’m not perfect. I get stuck. I walk away, sometimes for days, before the painting calls me back. I’ll take photos of my progress to post on FB and ironically, it’s often after I post an in-process photo, that I’ll notice some nuance I have to add to the painting. Why didn’t I see that in real-time with the painting? Perhaps it’s one of those mysteries.

This entire process is also teaching me to see differently. I’d noticed years back that when I was taking a photograph with the intent to do a charcoal drawing, I’d look at it with different eyes than if I was just taking a photo of a pretty scene. That is also translating to pastels and further as I look at the photo with different eyes than I look at the painting. It’s like I’m having to learn to see in new ways. (And I still don’t have the words to fully describe and understand that … yet.)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Creative Burst Letdown

There is something in my soul that craves: attention, feedback, acknowledgement. Maybe it’s from all those years when I felt nothing but harsh criticism and ridicule. Maybe it was from all those times I felt not good enough. Maybe it’s because I pour my heart and soul onto the page so that it’s like a part of my soul bleeds.

The writing gives me a such joyous release! However, after the initial burst of excitement dies down, I am drained, empty; almost as if I continue to slowly hemorrhage. The flow of words, stopped for the time being, leaves me feeling hollow. An inflow is needed to replenish my soul. 

I think about these feelings and what they might mean. These bursts of creativity, of word flow, is so highly intense for such a short amount of time. It’s like running a 50-yard dash at top speed. The words stop. The running stops. And after the initial cheering of the crowd, after everyone walks away, I collapse in exhaustion … alone.

"End of the Lake" my biggest charcoal drawing
ready to go to a new home
Yes, the writing is a release for me, but a yearning within replaces the joy. I feel I’m missing something. (Do all writers and artists feel this way? There’s a letdown; almost like the letdowns after all the Christmas holiday hoopla.) I continue to crave recognition. 

Why do I feel I need to have others tell me I’ve done well? I know I’ve done a good job! I love what I’ve accomplished! Is it just an after-effect letdown and it’s normal? 

Is it about being witnessed? We all need to be witnessed in our lives. It’s an important aspect to help us gain perspective about ourselves and know that we’re doing OK. It’s knowing that we are not alone in our life struggles and celebrations. 

Is it the need to feel understood? This is a biggie. I think a lot of us feel we are not understood, and yet, in reality, most of us do have similar feelings, live through similar experiences.  A lot of people see my poems as sad. That makes me feel misunderstood. The poems are not sad to me! They bring me great joy because of the release. 

Maybe it’s just about need. And I need a little more positive feedback to help me replenish my soul, so when the next creative burst slams into me, I can offer it all I have. The incredible joy that fills me when I first get those words onto the page is indescribable. I want to share that and have others experience it, too. These are moments of self-realization and that helps me evolve into a better person and aids in my quest to live whole-heartedly.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

My Way is Finding MY Way

"Fog Receding" ready to go to the framer.
The Muse strikes and it’s hard not to fall into it. I so want to, but I have InterTown work, interviews to do, stories to write, and other ongoing projects along with household chores. These days I’m just feeling overwhelmed between everything I need to do and everything I want to do. I haven’t even updated my accounting in months!

But The Muse has me in her grasp. She comes barreling in for writing projects (poetry or articles), charcoal drawing, or pastel painting. Right now, I’m being driven to talk about my experiences in my work; to share thoughts as I live the life of an artist. 

I have questions in my quest to find my way, and one of my ways of figuring things out is by talking about them. Talking, writing, and getting a little feedback helps me figure out my way. It’s not about having someone tell me what to do or how to do it. Conversation helps me figure things out for myself. (And yes, I love talking art and hearing from others. I love their stories!)

I am certainly not a traditionalist nor do I see myself as radical. It’s all about finding my way in creating. That statement really became clear to me this week as I contemplated finding a class to take. My problem is finding the time and taking the time to actually go to a class. Heck, I even hate to stop working to eat; let alone taking time in preparing and cleaning up a meal.

Then there’s attitude or stubbornness within me in following someone else’s “rules.” That’s because I don’t want to do what everyone else is doing. I don’t want to do it like anyone else or follow any one school. And yet, I do appreciate tips and feedback. Yes, I definitely want to get better.

In sorting through all the thoughts currently running rampant through my brain, this burning desire to talk about what I’m experiencing is in the forefront. I posed the question to some of my artist friends: Should an artist talk about her experiences, the trials and errors, the successes? Should an artist show his vulnerability to the public?

Some believe an artist always has to put on the professional face to potential buyers, that buyers are only interested in what the painting looks like, and don’t want to hear any particulars about the process. Some artists fear any mention of a struggle to complete the painting makes it flawed in the buyer’s eyes. Other artists push to promote being a successful artist to the public by expounding on the shows they’ve done and the sales they’ve made. They believe talking about artistic struggles and real life is only a subject to discuss with other artists.

Do non-artists believe artists are naturally talented or that they’ve studied with “masters” for their entire life? Do they believe that painting flows easily and the artists never struggle? Are they afraid that hearing the artist talk about his life that it will affect how they view his work? Do they believe that artists are in another realm and is something they could never be? (Yes, I’ve often heard, “I could never do that!”) (Personally, I believe everyone can be an artist in one form or another.)

So, what is it like to be an artist? Do we assume it’s the same for everyone? I don’t think so. There may be lots of similarities and we may have similar experiences, but all the other aspects of our lives factor in, too. That gives a uniqueness to all of us. Time, space, money, family, and more all factor in. Do you work a fulltime job to support your art? And what are you (and I) willing to admit about your work?

My art evolves, as it does for all artists, no matter the genre or medium. Some may stick for years in one medium. They are still evolving because they are striving to be the best they can be in their style. Others expand into other realms of art trying different techniques and mediums. 

"Breaking Dawn" ready to go to the framer
I went from oils to acrylics to charcoal. I’d been doing charcoal landscape drawing for years and loved it, but it evolved. I began adding more and more “hints of color” with pastel, and when I moved to Hillsborough, it became all about the color. I switched almost entirely over to pastel. I love color, which made it odd that I enjoyed working in charcoal all those years.

The funny thing, if I am admitting to honesty, is that I never worked with pastel before adding the hints of color to the charcoal. I can’t even remember where I got the first pastels. I thought pastels, being soft like charcoal, would blend like charcoal. They don’t. Nor do they mix well like paint.

Oh, do I have a lot to learn! A good part of the lessoning is: It’s all about the journey. And the journey itself can be as exciting as the finished piece, which, for the most part, has been amazing. I heard an artist on TV last night (a recorded show) and, unfortunately, I can’t recall his name, but in talking about being an artist, he said, “You have to be willing to fail.” He also said something along the line of: Not every failure is something wrong. 

Yes, some need to be thrown out or painted over, but other pieces can be turned into a different work of art which can be beautiful. It’s about changing direction and letting the piece go where it needs to. It’s turning a moment of disappointment into a success by allowing something else to be created.

 I love this work! 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Admitting Faults and Flaws

This morning I want to discuss a subject that some would never put out in the open: Faults, flaws, and self-doubt. I even had to think whether I even wanted to talk about this. If I admit my flaws and lack of professional training, will that mean others won’t see me as an artist? 

pastel painting in process
But it’s an important topic. I know many artists struggle from time to time with self-doubt. Talking about it helps us get over the hurdles. Talking helps us realize we are not alone. Talking helps us work through whatever issues we are having so we can get on with our work with clearer minds. 

Talking about, and admitting, faults and flaws do not make us less-than. It’s not about being Debbie-downers. It’s about life and living. We have bad days along with the good. We need to get things out of us so we can do better art. It’s clearing the way for our art to improve and evolve. It’s admitting we have self-doubts, and yes, sometimes we need a little outside pep talk.

I am an artist! I say this vehemently and I cannot deny this drive within me. I have to paint (and write). My work in charcoal landscape drawing has slowly evolved over the past few years as I began adding hints of color (with pastels) to the drawings. Last year I switched almost entirely over to pastel painting. I loved my charcoals, but the pastels have moved me into a new dimension with my art and I am excited and love what I’m doing even more.

What does this have to do with admitting faults? Faults can be stumbling blocks. I will never see myself as good enough if I play the same old scenario in my head of how can I be a real artist if I never went to art school or take lessons with anyone. 

I can’t let those thoughts continue to stew inside. I have to let them out so I can get into my work with joy. Plus, I want to evolve. I want to get better. There was always that part of me that would take a couple of classes, then strike out on my own. I don’t want to be like other artists. I don’t want to do what they are all doing.

I try to get out to talk with other artists (often non-artists have no idea how we think). It’s important to spend time with those who “know.” Another way is to read of art books (something I’ve never done) and the books don’t have to be on art you like. I picked up a couple of books on pastel painting and one is especially throwing up hurdles and making me feel like there is no way I can ever be considered a professional artist … because the style he is teaching is something I am unwilling to do. 

So, my biggest fault: Lack of training. I can rant and rave over how, in junior and senior high art classes, I was never taught the very basics of art. How to see color, what the color wheel actually means and how to use it, values, composition, and so much more – I didn’t learn any of it! I took adult ed. classes in oil and acrylic painting in my young adult life and I still wasn’t taught those basics! How could I have had that early training and not be taught the basics? (Or is this just how I’m seeing it now?)

At this stage of my life, I am not going to go back and learn all those basics. I have come too far. It would be different if I didn’t know anything. There’s too much going on in my life to take classes. Plus, there is a part of me determined to make my own way in my chosen medium. That doesn’t mean I won’t continue to grow with my art. And yes, I’ll continue to read and pick up bits and pieces that I can use in my own evolution.

Are these faults and flaws? Maybe to some people. Maybe to me as long as I let those negative thoughts hinder me. Instead, I’ll fall back to my own style: Figuring it out for myself, picking up tips here and there, and making my own rules with my style and technique.

Friday, August 11, 2017

A Letter on Art and Art Training

Below is a part of a conversation on art and art training. I am always surprised when simple morning email chats elicit some part of the past and a better understanding of who I am as an artist. I love these conversation and it's amazing when artists in totally different media can help each other. I love these conversations and I'm always curious to know how other artists think and work. Enjoy!

Isn't it funny how we seem to have been taught different ways. Sometimes I wonder how true my memory is or if it's just what I'm thinking happened. How much did peer pressure have on me as a kid -- a lot -- and how has that colored my memory. And I know (now) that that held me back from lots of things as I tended to retreat into myself believing I wasn't as good as others.

And, I have to admit, I really don't remember much of anything about doing art in school. I don't remember being taught -- I took art classes, but I don't remember being taught. How weird. I have only a couple tiny bits, like quick flashback clips, but no real memory. 

Work in process
Thank you for drilling into me about my work being "loose" and not to see it as blurry. This could be one of those issues where I need the repetition before I can fully own it. I have to stop doubting myself and just work. (And I have to get out of my head my mother's belief of what being "loose" meant.)

Also, I think (again totally in the opposite direction as you) I should not work drawings/paintings so much. I need the simpler approach. I need to keep my work more ephemeral/foggy; go back to that "illusion of detail." I forgot that in my evolution into pastels. I can still have amazing color while keeping a feeling of mystery in the painting.

What I've been doing is -- trying to do too much -- work in more layers, keep playing with it trying to get lines that I can never get and which don't work well for me. Part of the reason is because I hear and read that's what other artists do.

But, I am not other artists. I have to be me! I can’t be anyone else or like anyone else.

Maybe in everything -- art and writing -- too many people have written too many rules. Maybe it just all comes down to preference and opinions. An editor bases writing on experience, training and personal preferences of self and the publisher. How many books are out there on how to be a better writer? I find bits of controversy in all my research as to what is the “correct way.”

Artists train for years in specific mediums then some put their own twists on their work. We can have similarities, but no one is the same. We don't always think the same when we work, how we work, or what we work on. It’s important and more interesting to allow differences.

How can we not put our own twist on a project? We are individual thinkers! Even those with strict adherences to photorealism develop their own ways of doing things. We meld aspects of all we've read and studied and practiced into what we do today and we still work at perfecting what we do. We keep trying, knowing there is no such thing as perfection.

The bottom line is we have to be satisfied with our art.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

It’s All About the Journey

This statement “It’s all about the journey,” is ringing more true for me all the time. The subject doesn’t matter. It’s all about the journey of getting through it (whatever “it” is in the moment) and my thoughts around it: From the trips, to emotional life dealings, art, photography, and writing. Then again, it makes total sense. After all, life is a journey no matter how many detours are taken.

“It’s all about the journey” has been being said for a long time, but there’s a difference between making the statement and actually feeling like you live it. I LIVE IT! It’s the difference between knowing something logically and feeling it as truth throughout your entire being. That doesn’t mean your mind or your direction can’t change; it’s that, at this moment it is so. It doesn’t mean learning doesn’t continue. For me, the journey has become every aspect of my life … and it’s exciting. 

I was surprised to realize there are similarities in the journeys. For instance, how I am when I’m traveling has some sameness in how I work on a painting. I know, sounds weird. It has to do with emotions. I FEEL my way through everything and that sixth sense can be just as strong as the others and shouldn’t be ignored. 

Today my thoughts are around my art. My mind is always questioning and exploring. Last week someone said, “Take a class with (so and so) because he’s a good teacher.” She also named other teachers. Was this a subtle put-down of my art? Was she saying she didn’t think I was good enough and I need “proper” training? 

Personally, I didn’t get that vibe from her, but it did make me wonder. I’ve heard other artists touting this teacher and that. Does that mean they don’t think they’re good enough so they need to continue taking classes? Is taking a class the excuse to do some art? And, yes, of course, you can always learn something.

This is what I love about life, though. We don’t all have to do things the same way. We find what works for us as individuals. There are those who want to get better at what they do by taking classes. Others go way out on a limb and work outside the norm, and yet some quietly find their own way. 

For me, it’s important to follow my feelings and find my own techniques and style. I might do something similar to someone else, but it’s by my terms. My journey is the diving right into work. I’m not into practice sessions which I find tedious and boring. Work is the practice as life is work/practice. Each painting is its own journey and part of my enjoyment is the surprise of discovery (and I’m always surprised there continues to be many surprises). 

The biggest surprise is just in what I see. No matter how much I look at the photograph, using it as a guideline to the drawing, I miss things. The next time I return to the easel, I’ll notice more. (I am reminded of the old adage “Can’t see the forest through the trees.) Or, if I take a photo of the drawing and post it on Facebook to show my progress, I’ll see something to adjust. I take these instances as little exciting discoveries. 

"Along the Creek" was one of those photos where I kept
noticing things. This turned out to be one of my favorites.
Every time I think, “I got this!” something comes along to throw a wrench into the process. Sometimes it’s something simple, something I should have known. Other times it’s stepping out onto the ice and having it break. I fall in, get wet, but make it to shore to dry myself off and continue. Sometimes I can get there from here and other times a re-route is necessary. The end result is always amazing and I look back over the journey with relief and joy at the accomplishment.

This doesn’t mean I do everything on my own. I look up information online and talk to other people and other artists. I don’t take every piece of advice, but I listen, contemplate, and figure out what works best for me and the painting. 

So, I don’t take a lot of classes. I don’t study a lot of other artists’ styles. My learning is through the journey. This is my joy, my treasure hunt, and I have been very happy with the results.