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.)

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