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!