Saturday, September 29, 2018

Sizes, the Comfort of Painting, and Another Lesson

I spent a little more time in the studio yesterday morning making a bit more progress on “Grassy Marshlands.” I also did some work on “Path through the Dunes.”

Both scenes have their own challenges, especially as they are totally different. The first is lots of grass with a meandering stream leading towards the mountains. Lots of various shades of greens (and other grassy colors) and trees. The second is a sand dune with a path over the dune to the river. Different landscape and terrain.

What dawned on me this morning, and maybe one of the causes of my struggles, is that the four paintings in process on the easels are all bigger than I usually do. Yes, I’ve done a couple of bigger paintings before, but generally like to stay around the 11 x 14-inch size. The current ones are different sizes between 12 ½ to 21 ½ inches.

Since I started working in charcoal, then pastel, I randomly “tore” the 21 x 31 sheets into smaller pieces, sometimes getting as many as four paintings out of one sheet. The randomness of the tear made them various sizes which I used as one of my quirks. The last portions I did was closely tearing the big sheet in half.

I’ve talked before about how each painting is its own journey, and that there’s always something to learn. I realized that once I started these last four paintings, I’m not comfortable working on this bigger size. (I’ve always been amazed by these artists who do painting in sizes of feet! That’s not for me.) And now I’ve figured out that even the sizes on the easels are too big for my style.

Here is what I’m discovering for myself in working on a larger scale. (I write this and laugh because it’s not really that much bigger than what I prefer, but just those few inches make a difference in my comfort.)

I’m not a total impressionist, so there’s the balance between “blur” and sharp lines which seems to be more difficult on a bigger canvas. A bigger painting means standing back farther to see the whole painting (and in a small studio means bumping into other things.) What I see as mistakes stand out more. Also, the bigger the pictures, the more cost of matting and framing. And, I suppose I should admit, there’s often a lot of self-doubt during the process.

So, to I keep pushing out of my comfort zone and go big?

The other option on my mind is to choose a consistent size, keeping all my paintings the same size. If I choose a conventional size, matting and framing would be cheaper. My technique would hone to that size.

I’ve never been much for convention. I strive to do things my way, finding out what works for me. I don’t want to be like everyone else or do it like other artists. I want my own twist, my unique quirk. Working alone means a lot of trial, error and making discoveries. Sometimes I stumble. But, for the most part, I am always amazed and pleased at the finished painting!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Determining If It’s Positive Progress

Today I spent a little more time in the studio. I want to get this painting finished. It’s been on the easel too long.

In one aspect, I like it. I like the scene, the colors, and the vibrancy. On the other hand, I’m finding it hard to really like it. I don’t want to give up, though. I’ve spent too much time on it. Then again, I’m feeling quite discouraged. The texture of the paper still gives me a hard time.

Usually by this point, I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m normally past the “hate it” stage -- and while I don’t hate it, I don’t like it. And, living alone, I don’t have anyone to “run it by” unless I post to FB or someone should happen to stop in. Ah, what a dilemma.

So, do I let my determination to finish win out or should I throw in the towel and move on? I have other scenes I want to paint, and it wouldn’t be the first one I’ve put aside to (maybe) finish someday. I could add this to my stack in the back room, ha-ha.

It’s funny, in the posting of a photo, I see things I want to change. There's still a lot of work to do. Sometimes the photo doesn’t lend to a good painting composition and I adjust a line of two. Do I go back or give it up and move on? 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Each Painting Is Its Own Journey

I worked on “Grassy Marshlands” yesterday. I do not like that textured paper, even using the backside which isn’t quite so textured. And that’s OK. At first, I felt “unworthy” because so many other artists love working on texture. But, as artists, we don’t have to be the same, and we don’t have to like working with the same tools and supplies. That doesn’t make one person wrong and the next right. That doesn’t mean I’m not an artist because I don’t do it the way most others do it.

It’s funny how I always choose a view thinking, “This is going to be quick and easy.” It never turns out to be quick and easy. Every painting presents its own challenges even though I always do similar types of scenes: sky, water, mountains, trees, vegetation, rocks, et. al. Every time I think, “I get it now” when working a particular type of scenery, it doesn’t go any easier on the next painting ... or even on another part in the same painting.

Part of my mind believes if I do one set of trees, the next bunch of trees should be easier. However, each scene presents a new challenge. Maybe it’s in the leaves or the way the branches bend. Maybe it’s in the bark, type of tree, or how the light shines on it. Or perhaps it has to do with how that area works as part of the whole of the entire scene.

I like doing grass and trees, so why do I feel so challenged with this painting? Can I blame the texture of the paper? No, not totally, although that non-smoothness does not make blending look as I prefer and the colors seem to muddy quicker.

Perhaps my answer is simple enough: Each scene is its own. This is not the last scene! The curve of the landscape is different. The lighting is different. The types of grasses are different and how the blades rise along and above the water. The clouds are different, and the reflections are not the same as in the last painting. So, why should I feel that, just because there are similar items in the scene, it should paint the same?

Change the way I think! Look at each painting as its own journey and go at it as if I’m on a travel adventure. In a way, it’s exactly like one of my trips. I learn something new each time and have a totally unique experience even if visiting a place I’ve been before or painting a similar landscape. The in-the-moment exploration opens new doors to discovery.

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Writing Fire Blossoms

I finished the first draft of Chapter 15 on Saturday. It's still feeling blah, but, hey, I'm getting through the first draft and that's exciting. Now there's just the last day -- Niagara Falls and the dash for home.

Couch/meditation time is often when I get those revelations and the words just pour. Saturday evening, I wanted to organize all those notes I’d written during the inflow of words flowed the past couple of nights, but I couldn't figure out how to start. Somehow this type of organization messes up my brain and sets me to spinning. What categories/headings do I need? 

I keep thinking about the question "Who am I on the leaving and who am I on the return" I used on the first book. Somehow it feels important. Maybe this is that recurring theme I need ... but if there's a question, shouldn't I there be an answer? I'm not sure I have one even after the three long trips. Perhaps the changes are so subtle I don't recognize them. Maybe there needs to be more trips before I can put it into words. Like learning by repetition. I have to keep challenging myself with the traveling until I "get it." I dunno. Maybe there's no real answer ... yet. But, like I said, it feels important. I'm missing something here. It will come.

The hardest part right now about the chapters is my faulty memory and lack of fully writing while traveling. Heck, it's been over 3 1/2 years since the 2015 trip and 2 years to this week since the Wichita trip. And if I'm having trouble remembering Wichita ... still, I'll get these done and feel good about it.

As for some of the repetition, I can use that as a learning experience/education in becoming more comfortable driving through cities and in heavy traffic. I can talk about how repetition helps us learn. The more I get to do it, the more comfortable I will be ... maybe, ha-ha. I don't know, maybe I really don't ever want to get over my fear of big cities. Perhaps that's something to admit, too. Maybe.

I'm still struggling with the outline concept, especially at this time. The first draft is done on the 2015 trip, and one more chapter and the epilogue will finish the first draft for Wichita. I do want some semblance and organization of all the side notes so I know where and how to put in that info. Those thoughts/ideas coming through and are important. 

Yesterday, when I settled down to work on the book, I found a bit of an outline in a template folder listing the parts of a book and some general notes of how to put a book together. I took all those "revelations" and thoughts from the past couple days about writing travel memoirs and I put many of those in that outline format. Ones that didn't seem to fit there, I made a page in outline form for general notes. 

Most of all this are reminders of what I need to be aware of when traveling and writing. And yes, I do need reminders. Sometimes I get so caught up in the moment that I forget to fully observe. Or I think I can research the details later. However, researching later doesn't capture the emotion of the moment and I need both.

I printed the pages. I'm back to feeling the need to have hard copies. I'm more apt to open a binder and read over the notes, then peruse a myriad of documents on the computer for info. If I put together a binder of how and what to write, to remind myself what to look for and pay attention to ... this could help me when I settle into a hotel room at night to write about the day (when I do the next trip).

I had a blog writing on the last travel day, but then I found that was only the run home and not about Niagara Falls. Day 16 will be in two parts; the tour of the falls and that petrifying dash for home. So, I had to start the beginning of that day from scratch. My journal isn't as detailed as I'd like. And I have sooo many pictures of the falls to go through!

The excitement continues on getting the current book done. There's still so much to do, though. I want to go on another trip, but I won't until these two books are done and ready for publishing.

Today I plan on gathering info online about the falls and the actual places I visited for the "just-the-facts" history sections. There's a lot to cover about the falls. I don't know if I'll finish the full chapter today.