Going With the Flow

“High Altitude”
Oil on Panel
22×28″
2009

Since I finished my mentorship in January, I’ve been slowly re-adjusting to having 100% of my working energy devoted to my art again. My galleries are somewhat stocked and I have no homework now, so I’ve been in the position of painting whatever I want for the first time in ages. Quite honestly, I’ve been floundering a bit about what I should be painting. Should I be doing small paintings or large paintings? Working on stuff that will sell or stretching myself? Recently I’ve gotten into a groove of just selfishly working on whatever I want on a given day, and I’ve gotta say it’s been really great!

I spent most of January working on show entries and commissions. I’ve spent the bulk of this month letting loose on three 30×40″ paintings (starting the fourth tomorrow). I’m taking advantage of the economy being a bit slow to spend some time working on what I want to work on, and right now that means larger panels and different subject matter than I usually do on a large scale. It’s been a ton of fun to move paint around with large brushes, and work on the subtle variations in color and value that are less noticable in small work. I tried to do an 8×10″ at the start of the month, and I hated working on it so much that it was a dismal failure. So, I pulled out the big panels and got to work, and haven’t touched a small panel since.

It occurred to me that it’s good to have some time like this, where I’m not responding to deadlines or gallery requests or commission deadlines. It’s good to have the time to experiment and have fun, and try new things just for the sake of moving some paint around.

When I used to be all into triathlons, it was really immportant to build a rest day into every week of training. Without that one day of rest, I’d inevitably get injured or burned out or sick. My body and my brain just needed a break. I think my art is the same way – sometimes I get all wrapped up in a schedule and the discipline of producing, and after a while I get a bit burned out. It’s nice to have a break every once in a while when I can give it all a rest – just enjoy the process without the pressure of it being my job.

Anyhow, I haven’t photographed anything recently, so this is one I did back in January. It was one of my OPA entries, and was sadly rejected from the show. That’s okay though – I’ve learned not to take show rejections (or acceptances!!) personally. I knew this was a unique subject, and I did my best with it. It was fun to paint, and I learned from it, and I happen to really like it. Who knows, maybe I’ll frame it and keep it!

Inspiration

“November Stream”
Oil on Panel
12×9″
2008

I’ve been trying to spend some time looking at good art lately. Living in the mountains makes it tough to get to openings and shows on a regular basis, but I think it’s good to get out and see what other people are doing, and get out of my own little world. I think it would be an understatement to say that it’s always inspiring to see a beautiful painting – makes me want to shut myself in the studio and paint away.

For Valentine’s Day, Nate and Aspen and I drove over to Steamboat Springs and checked out Clyde Aspevig’s show at the Steamboat Art Museum. If I hadn’t had a two year old with me, I would have spent all day there (actually, I’m planning to drive back over on my own someday soon – the show was THAT good). If you live in or near Colorado, you really need to make the drive to see this show before it’s over in April. And if you can’t see it in person, at least order the catalog, even though the images come nowhere near to the power of these paintings in real life. I just got lost in the layers of color and texture in the larger studio paintings that were in this show. I know I’ve said this before, but the guy is really a master – best living landscape painter out there. After seeing the show, I’ve been waffling between a state of inspiration and state of unworthiness (why paint when I have so far to go???) – hehe…

I also just got the catalog for the William Wendt show that was at the Laguna Art Museum this winter. I really wish I could have seen it in real life, but I just couldn’t swing the trip to California while it was hanging. The catalog is fantastic though – 300 pages and packed with beautiful color images. Even though the California landscape is fairly foreign to me, I love the work of the California impressionists. There’s just something about the bold color and brushwork of Wendt and Payne that makes me think that that’s what a landscape painting should be – I love it! So, check it out – this catalog is definitely worth the $30 or $60!

Anyhow, just wanted to pass along a couple of things that have gotten me all fired up about painting lately. What inspires you?

Words You Can Relate To

“The Valley Floor”
Oil on Panel
30×24″
2009

I posted this quote on my Facebook page last week, but figured I would post it here as well – I think a lot of artists who have been at it a while can relate to this idea:

“Painting is easy when you don’t know how,
but very difficult when you do”
– Edgar Degas

When I first started painting, I knew that I had a long way to go, but I didn’t really think of painting in terms of difficulty. It was a hobby – it was fun! As a beginner, it’s easy to be pleasantly surprised when anything turns out well, and I would be thrilled even if only a portion of my painting turned out the way I wanted it to.

Now that I’ve been at it for a few years, I’ve lost a lot of that naivete. The more I learn about art, the more distance I see between my current abilities and where I’d like to be. And as time goes by, my standards for what goes out the door get higher and higher (the cringe factor, I guess).

I find myself painting slower. I used to pride myself on the fact that I could knock out an 18×24″ in a day, or a small study on location in an hour. Now I’m more aware that it’s the quality of what I paint that matters, not the quantity (especially in this type of economy!). I find myself spending a week on a 24×30″ or 30×40″ painting that might have taken me half the time a year before. I scrape things more – rather than being satisfied with “almost” I try my best to get things right.

Painting is still fun, but it has become more of a challenge, and as such has also become that much more rewarding. I just have to find balance between striving to improve, and getting down on myself for not being where I want to be. The former is constructive, while the latter can be frustrating and completely detract from my efforts when I let it affect my mood. It’s a tough thing to balance, and sometimes I let the negativity win.

This was a tough week for me – I was tired and cranky and had to remind myself not to get down on myself too much. I had to remind myself that if I’m being critical of my own work, it’s probably because I’m improving. I found a bit of comfort in this quote – knowing that I’m not the only artist in the world who struggles with these things made me feel better, get out of my head, and step back up to the easel.

My Other Blog

I just wanted to let you all know that I’ve started another blog on my actual painting website – you can view it here, where I’ve posted about looking past the obvious to find better painting compositions. I’m still going to keep this blog, and will continue to post here at least 1-2 times per week. I’ll probably only update the one on my website every other week or so.

I’ve never viewed this blog as a marketing tool, but rather as a way to connect with other artists. When I started blogging, I didn’t know any other artists, and reading the blogs of others was a great way to get a glimpse into the working lives of people doing what I wanted to do someday. Now that I’m painting for a living, I like to use this blog in the same way, and hope that my thoughts or experiences might be useful for other artists starting out. As such, I like to be fairly honest and transparent about things like goals, and rejection, and my struggles with the painting process. Because of that, I’ve never promoted this blog on my actual website. I figured I would feel more guarded if I knew I was providing a link for potential collectors, which I know is silly since a google search of my name and “art” brings up this blog directly below my website (and I’ve had folks who own my work comment on here regularly). It’s just a weird mental thing, I guess!

Anyhow, I got to thinking recently that I wanted my website to have more content to hold the interest of potential collectors and bring people back on a regular basis, so I decided to start the blog over there for that reason. The posts will be mostly discussion of the painting process – e.g. what I was thinking when I painted a recent painting, what I was working on etc. My posts here will still be a mix of whatever I feel like rambling about, whether it be goals or musings about being an artist.

Who knows whether either one is worth reading, or whether my ramblings will ever be useful to anyone else, but for what it’s worth I thought I’d share anyhow!!