Monday, January 14, 2019

Is it Time to Take a Break and Work on Another?

I had a good day yesterday in spite of the struggles with the painting. I'm beginning to think it's because of the dramatic dark gray/black overcast of the sky and the bright orange and yellow of the sunset breaking through. It's making the blending of the soft pastels look muddy. I can't spray a workable fixative because it's too cold outside and I won't spray that stuff in the house ... but I'm tempted. 

My big revelation about painting is realizing how my hand seems to take on a mind of its own the minute I pick up a pastel and step up to the easel. It doesn't matter if I'm looking at the photo and my brain is saying, "The line needs to go ...," my hand does its own thing. It's like my hand isn't even connected to my brain. 

This just affirms my intent of using the photo for a guideline only. I don’t want to do an exact replica. But I have to say, yesterday felt weirder than usual. Yeah, I've been working this way for a while, but this time, it just seemed to punch me in the face. No matter how I tried to make it look similar to the photo, it just wouldn't happen. 

Another example of this interesting mind-disconnect was when my sister-in-law called in the afternoon to comment on the progress photo I posted. It seems I sometimes do my best painting when I’m distracted by chatting on the phone. My mind is on our conversations while my hand … just works. I was pleased the little progress made while we talked.

Definitely looks better from a distance
However, the stint in the studio this morning had me at crash and burn again. I just can’t get the pastels to behave as they normally do ... or I would have them do. I love the buttery softness of Sennelier pastels but maybe for this picture they are too soft. I can’t add defining lines in harder pastel or pastel pencils. I’m wiping off more than usual and feel I’m wasting the pastels – along with breathing in excess pastel dust. I’m trying hard not to be angry with myself.

I ended 2018 on such a high painting-wise. I expected to continue the upward spring. But 2019 is off to a rocky start. The first painting had me wiping all the pastel off after the first week and starting over. That one is actually coming along good now. Am I going to have to do the same with this one? I’m considering it.

Better when viewed from a distance.
Still a long ways to go.
The funny thing is, when I just went back in the studio to take photos to show my progress/not progress, it didn’t look too bad. Then again, the paintings often do look better from a distance. I’m not giving up, but maybe I should work on one of the others while I’m still feeling frustrated with this one. (And why I have multiple paintings in process at the same time.)

There are lessons to be learned here, and I’ll figure them out.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Unforeseen Challenges

A couple of sunset photo postings on Facebook a week or so ago had me asking for permission to use the photos for paintings, with credit to the photographers, of course. This is a deviation for me as I am usually adamant about using my own photos, but every once in a while, someone else’s will intrigue me ... and I never get sunrise or sunset pictures any more.

In the "hate-it" stage.
I currently have four in-process paintings on the easels, each a different type of scene. When I get to the “hate-it” stage of one, I’ll work on another until I can go back. This current one is the third for 2019 and I’ve titled it “Mountain Sunset.”

Although I’ve done lots of skies, this is my first sunset. I thought it’d be easy and fun. I love doing skies! However, this has been giving me grief from the get-go. I think it’s because I’m used to blending blues and whites of sky and this is darks and orange shades … blending makes it muddy-looking.

More progress
Yesterday, I absolutely hated the progress, but I went back in the studio today for another go at it. I tied a bandana over my nose and mouth because I’m creating so much pastel dust. The layering just isn’t going smoothly. I’m wiping off as much as I put on.

But I’ll get there. It’s all about the journey which entails learning to do it my way! I’ll figure this one out. 
And it looks good when I stand back.

It’s an intriguing scene and when done, it will be beautiful!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Suddenly I See

The initial blocking in wasn't too bad

So, after yesterday’s fiasco on the first painting for 2019, and realizing the perspective was way off, I went in the studio this morning to wipe off any loose pastel, so I could turn the paper over to re-use on the backside. Surprisingly, once the color was down to the bare minimum, I started seeing potential. Maybe it’s salvageable.

I thought by adding more color, I'd start to get
a better perspective of what I needed to do
I hated this.

I re-looked at my reference photos. I’d taken the photos with different focal lengths with the intention of creating a cohesive composition using the various aspects from more than one photo. This time it didn’t work out so well. (Usually I’m able to use aspects from different photos, but I messed up with this one.) I put away the photo that was throwing off the perspective and found another to use.

Because I was able to wipe off most the old pastel, I was surprised to discover I could use what was left as a decent background for the updated version. I changed some lines and added more color. I also rough-sketched in a branch to start giving the hint of what’s to come.
I'm excited again. This might work after all.

I’ve got a long way to go, but I feel so much better than I did yesterday … and to think my intention this morning was to totally destroy it and do something different.

closer view

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Starting the First Paintings for 2019

Last week I cleaned the studio and readied two (of my four) easels for new paintings. These will be the first for 2019. I set up new papers and on Friday, chose photos for the two paintings, and lightly roughed in the first bit of outline.

Today I made it back in the studio, started adding blocking in of shapes, and color to the sky. Already I hate the first one and I’m debating whether to continue or scrap it. I put in a little more color. Sometimes doing that is a boost to keep me going, but with this one, I don’t know if I’ll continue. I’m not feeling it.

I realize I got the perspective all off. That’s what I get when working from more than one photo. Oh, well, sometimes I just have to cut my losses and move on.

The second one I like. It’s another beach/sand dune scene. I’m trying something different with the underlying grassy areas this time.

I’m a person who has to “feel” what I’m working with. Choosing photos from which to paint is sometimes a challenge. I’m excited when I first take the pictures and print them out, then later I’ll look at some and think, “Why did I print that?” I have a whole stack of photos that when I finally got around to doing the painting, the picture was no longer talking to me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Another Book Topic

Last night’s meditation led me on another interesting journey … as happens often. I was left feeling I need to put these meditation-inspired ramblings into a book and call it “Conversations within Myself.” (The writing muse has me by the throat. All I want to do is write!)

These meditations offer insight into life. I’m shown different sides of situations while allowing my mind to develop, transform, solidify, question preconceived beliefs, or assimilate some form of teaching. I think about what I think about and how I think about it. (OK, I’ll admit to overthinking ... or maybe I’m just not afraid to admit.)

Words and thoughts constantly run through my mind. I’m always thinking, from the moment I wake in the morning until I fall asleep at night. (Sometimes when I wake in the night, too.) Often, it’s just daydreaming drivel, but other times, a topic grabs hold of me and I’m taken on an interesting journey; at times controversial and other times enlightening.

A comment gets made or I read something that sends my mind spinning off on a winding path. There’s no one true answer as the trail leads down, in, around, among, up, out. Thoughts jump one to another; sometimes not in a logical sense of order. Words gush from above, while others stir up out of my soul and heart. I never know when it will stop. Suddenly, the flow shuts off, and I feel breathless, emotionally flattened, unfinished, like there’s more, but my brain won’t take any more at this moment.

Nothing is conclusive. I’m left in wonder. But I also feel the topics that come to me need to be brought to the light. It’s not that I expect everyone to believe what I say. They don’t have to. Sometimes what I write is what others think but can’t put into words. Sometimes it’s just my ramblings.

Whatever it is, I’ve gained a little more understanding of life, and even if I’m left with more questions, there’s still a feeling of accomplishment.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Shorter Sentences in Writing and Talking

“You can’t write like you talk,” is something I often say. Talking doesn’t have punctuation, grammar, or spelling. Talking isn’t always in full sentences. Talking and mind chatter can ramble and babble, sometimes seeming to go on and on. Writing is more formal. It follows rules.

Yes, I’ve talked about this before, but today I’m writing in a different context. Today I am thinking about what else an already-filled brain can take in.

My thoughts went to those who talk and talk until your eyes glaze over. Yes, I wonder how often I do that, too. Sometimes I can go off on an idea or story and don’t stop. It’s like I have so much on my mind, when I finally get a chance to talk to someone, the flood gates open. My mind certainly seems to talk non-stop. I have to often tell myself, “Stop!”

But when it comes to writing, we can’t just ramble on. It makes me realize how we see differently than we hear. Seeing words written can put them in a different context than hearing someone speak them. The spoken word gives us signals from the speaker. In reading, we only have our own thoughts, feelings, and knowledge to interpret the meaning or intent of the words.

What this has made me realize is that the brain needs pauses. If I ramble on and on in my speaking and the listener’s eyes is glazing over or he’s trying to get away, that’s a clue his brain needs a rest. It’s similar in writing if sentences are long and rambling. By the time the reader gets to the end of the sentence, he has forgotten the beginning or has lost the intent of the words.

As much as I love words, I’ll get bored and skip sections if: 1. A description goes on and on in one, long sentence. 2. If an entire paragraph is one long sentence. 3. I have to read a sentence more than once to understand what’s going on. (Yes, there are exceptions.)

This is giving me a greater appreciation of periods; ending one sentence to give the brain a brief rest before diving into the next sentence. It’s like stopping to take a breath when talking (and give the listener a chance to take in what you said). The period between sentences allows the reader a brief second to catch his mental breath, in a way. It’s a pause to let the brain assimilate the information it just took in.

It doesn’t matter what kind of reading we’re doing. Most of us aren’t writing college theses and we’re not out to prove to the world how smart we are. As a matter of fact, if we want people to understand our point of view, we have to make our writing easier for them to understand.

This is not saying people aren’t intelligent or can’t handle it. Part of it is because we all have so much on our minds nowadays, it’s hard to take in any new information. Plus, if we want people to enjoy the reading, we, the writers, have to make the reading enjoyable! That means writing to make the reading easier.

Maybe fiction writers are better at this. The fiction genre isn’t necessarily out to convince readers to the writer’s point of view. It’s those of us who write in nonfiction where we might be trying to prove a point or defend ourselves somehow. Those, too, trying to educate readers. In the telling of my stories, I’m always hoping that my words could possibly help someone else. Not that I’m telling anyone what to do or how to live their life. Just that, perhaps, something in my life I write about could trigger something in them to help them deal with a similar situation. (I sometimes take things I read from someone else and turn it around to make it a positive for me.)

And, maybe, here’s something to consider if you’re trying to get a point across: Think about how we learn. “See Spot run.” “Dick and Jane went to school.” We remembered this. No, we are no longer just learning to read, but if, as writers, we’re trying to teach or lead or help or provide valuable information, will someone learn from a long-winded dissertation or from sentences that seem to twist around until you don’t know whether or coming or going?

Did I just prove my point? Ha-ha. It’s something to think about. At least this is how my brain works nowadays. Information in short spurts.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Writing Roadblocks: Unanswered Questions

One of the issues I run into in writing a travel memoir is letting unanswered questions become roadblocks (pun intended) to my progress. Today’s topic was how to write about uncomfortable instances without sounding whiney.

I write on a personal level, giving a real-life point of view. I don’t sugar coat. I don’t make it seem like every day is full of glorious adventure. There are problems. There are mistakes. And yes, sometimes there is downright miserableness.

So, how can I be true to the real-life aspect and not sound whiney sometimes?

The goal is to show readers that it’s OK to acknowledge the less-happier situations. When you think about it, most travel books are written about wonderful sites, fabulous scenery, interesting places, etc. Yes, there is adventure and sometimes hardships, but most of the time, it seems like it’s all a fantastic time.

And, for the most part, it is. But, not everything goes as expected. Multiple issues may arise. There are disappointments. Sometimes, when in unfamiliar situations, fear and other aspects may cause emotional upheavals which can affect the enjoyment of the journey.

I want to show what it’s really like to travel; the good with the not-so-good. Not all parts of a trip are full of wonderful sights and positiveness. So, how do you get through that? Because, after all, the trip really is an amazing adventure and the good does outweigh the bad.

How do I deal with it? By writing about how I come to terms with scary situations and how to handle the unexpected. Yes, I’ll admit sometimes I totally fall apart in the moment, but I also use it as a learning experience. I ask myself how can I do better next time?

Each moment is an opportunity to learn, oftentimes minor, hardly noticeable. Other times, a situation can affect your mental outlook for a while until you deal with it …

Like that time within the first two hours of a trip when I almost got into an accident on a round-about. For the next half hour, I was paranoid about the thought. My mind spun ‘round of what could have happened and how my trip would have been ruined, until I got on a nice, quiet, windy, mountain road and was able to calm myself down.
The lesson here: Yes, I almost caused an accident, but I didn’t. At that point, I could have simply acknowledged thankfulness and put it behind me, instead of dwelling on it the rest of the day and being fearful every time I was in heavier traffic.

There are always going to be issues to deal with while traveling. We shouldn’t hide them. I want to talk about my full experiences and hopefully, if and when you get a chance to travel, something I may have dealt with will help you get through your situation.