Why You Should Paint from Your OWN Photos

The reason I’m a landscape painter is mainly this – I feel most at home when I am outside.

I thrive on finding new views, new places. I hike and mountain bike hundreds of miles a month looking for inspiration, and there’s nothing better than finding myself in the right spot at the right time to get a new idea for a painting.

Getting out there is a HUGE part of my job. It’s a big part of the job for any landscape painter. To do good landscape paintings, I spend a ridiculous amount of time on the trail looking for just the right thing to get me excited to paint, painting on location, or simply sitting still and watching the way the light hits at certain times of day. Putting in a lot of mileage is quite literally part of my job description. And spending hours just taking it all in helps me understand what’s going on out there, so that I can bring it into the studio with me when I paint.

I post a lot of pictures on Facebook, because I like to see other people’s photos from their adventures, and I like to share when I see something awesome. I get countless requests from strangers to paint from my photos when I post them, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. I tell most people I don’t really mind, but would prefer that they not sell or post publicly anything they paint from one of my photos. It’s not a huge deal to me personally, but I don’t like the implications. I’m not a professional photographer, but a lot of people are, and I think people need to understand that working from other people’s photos sets a bit of a dangerous precedent where we assume that it’s okay to use the hard work of others to profit from our art.

But the biggest reason I would prefer people not paint from my photos is because in doing so, they are stunting their own growth as an artist.

I firmly believe that the best paintings are those that are informed by our own personal experiences. Matt Smith paints the desert like a master because he lives and breathes it. David Kassan is one of my favorite figurative painters, and his paintings are absolutely transcendent when he paints his family members. Edward Theodore Compton and his son, Edward Harrison Compton, were masters at painting mountains, after spending much of their lives climbing the peaks they painted. To be our best as artists, we can’t forget the emotional component of our art. In realist painting, connection with our subject can be just as important as technique.

One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, puts it this way:

“When you love something like reading – or drawing or music or nature – it surrounds with a sense of connection to something great. If you are lucky enough to know this, then your search for meaning involves whatever that Something is. It’s an alchemical blend of affinity and focus that takes place within that feels as close as we ever get to “home.” It’s like pulling into our own train station after a long trip – joy, relief, a pleasant exhaustion”

“If a writer or artist created from a place of truth and spirit and generosity, then I may be able to enter and ride this person’s train back to my own station. It’s the same with beautiful music and art. Beauty is meaning.”

– Anne Lamott, “Stitches”

So, do I think you can have a meaningful connection to one of my photos? Maybe. Perhaps it’s just pretty, or the colors get you in the gut, and you see that it would make a nice painting. But you weren’t there. You didn’t watch the clouds roll in and realize you’d better get yourself back down the mountain quickly. You didn’t watch the red light march its way down that peak across the valley as the sun went down. And you didn’t stand there in the cold, leaves swirling around your ankles, and experience that awesome evening at the end of fall. So when you paint from that photo, you’re already starting at a disadvantage.

When I started out painting landscapes, I was terrible at gathering reference. I didn’t know how to take good photos of different lighting conditions. I didn’t know the best time of day to look at different scenes. I wasn’t great at composition. I didn’t know how to use photoshop and plein air studies to get the information I needed to paint in the studio. I didn’t know how to edit the scene I saw in front of me to make a good painting. I spent YEARS figuring this stuff out… And I’m still figuring it out!

Gathering and using reference material is an important skill in my toolbag as an artist, and it’s one that everyone needs to develop on their own. If you are mostly working from other people’s awesome photos that you find on the internet, chances are you aren’t developing this skill. You’re shortchanging yourself by not having to work on composition, or lighting, or concept. When I teach workshops, 80% of what I teach is concept. If you’re simply copying someone’s photo, you just missed out of 80% of what I consider important in a painting.

You need to get outside. You need to learn how to really SEE. And you need to learn how to edit when you paint. Ultimately, you do this by gathering your own reference materials.

So here’s the deal… If you have to paint from that photo on the internet, for starters, PLEASE do it legally! Ask permission first. Just because something is posted on the internet does NOT mean that it is public property. That photographer still owns the copyright to that image, even if it’s on Facebook (yes, the terms of Facebook make you sign your life away and give FB the right to use your images as they please, but this DOES NOT mean that your friends have the same right to use your images – you still own the copyright!!). And be aware that many people who are actual photographers will not take your request lightly. This is their job, their lifeblood, and that photo they posted is the culmination of years of working at their art form. They woke up in the dark and headed out in the cold to get that one shot of an awesome sunrise. They hiked around for hours trying to find the right vantage point for that shot of some horses. That photo took more work than you think.

Some of them might very well be insulted at your request. This doesn’t mean that they are not generous or caring people. Those images are their artistic property – they are their business and their income. They are well within their rights to ask you for a fee to use their images.

Most importantly, I encourage you to work from your own reference materials. Learn how to take great photos yourself. Get out there and paint on location. And more than anything, get yourself OUTSIDE!!

It doesn’t matter where you live – beauty is everywhere, and part of being a landscape painter is training yourself to find it, see it, and communicate it to others. If you train yourself to see that beauty on your own, your art will grow in leaps and bounds. You will be a better painter.

So, get yourself outside, breathe it all in, then go forth with that connection and be awesome!

My #1 Book Recommendation

A lot of artists give book recommendations at the bottom of their supply lists when they give workshops. Carlson’s landscape book, Payne’s composition, that sort of thing. I thought about doing the same when I started teaching workshops this year, but I left them off, figuring I’d just be recommending all of the same books as everyone else.

The one book I never tire of recommending to artists has nothing to do with painting at all, and more to do with the act of stepping up to the easel.

We all know people who love art, but never paint.

Why?

Because they have a day job. Family gets in the way. They don’t have a studio, or their studio sucks. It’s hard to paint well when life is stressful. They have an unsupportive spouse. They’re fighting health problems. Etc etc.

These are all completely valid excuses. I get it. I really do.

But here’s the deal – if you want to be an artist, you have to MAKE ART. And the best way to make good art, is to make lots of it. I have a friend who tells his workshop students, “Keep your brushes wet!” A good reminder that you should be painting all the time. ALL THE TIME.

All the knowledge in the world about how to paint isn’t going to help you if you never actually paint. And believe it or not, the actual act of getting yourself to the easel is often the hardest part. And surprisingly, this is the part that a lot of people skip over when they teach people how to paint.

So, here’s the deal. => The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. <= Read it.

“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.  

Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever quit a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice? Have you ever bailed out on a call to embark upon a spiritual practice, dedicate yourself to a humanitarian calling, commit your life to the service of others? Have you ever wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless; to run for office, crusade for the planet, campaign for world peace, or to preserve the environment? Late at night have you experienced the vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what resistance is.” 

                                                   – Steven Pressfield, The War of Art


If you know that art is your true calling but can’t seem to make yourself paint more than every once in a while, do yourself a favor and buy this book. The first two sections of the book deal with what Pressfield terms “Resistance” – that invisible power that seems to constantly keep you from stepping up to the easel – and how to squelch it and make art.

“There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.” 

                                                                   – Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

I’ve got kids, and a crazy schedule, and sometimes life just gets in the way. And sometimes when I find that my painting time is slipping, I’ll flip through the pages of this book just to remind myself to get back at it. My copy is a little bit worn.

So, read this book, and keep your brushes wet. MAKE ART, so you can learn to make good art.

Happy painting!

Intuition

“Winter’s Hush”
Oil on Panel
18×18″
2014

I’ve been in a bit of an art funk lately.

Have you ever had times like this, where you just aren’t feeling super excited about your work? Producing a lot, but just not feeling the love for anything that you’re churning out? I seem to visit this place a few times a year, and while I can usually give myself a pep talk to remind myself that I’m probably learning something, it’s still frustrating to put in the hours and not see immediate results.

I’ve devoted a lot of space on this blog to being disciplined, setting goals, building up brush mileage, and just putting in the time to get where you want to be. The left-brained engineer in me wants to think elbow grease is the solution to just about everything. But the artist in me knows that I don’t have it quite right, and so I have a confession to make – I’ve had it wrong.

Art isn’t all about putting in the time, or being disciplined. It can’t be. Sometimes, it’s more about tapping into your intuition. It’s finding that point where technique doesn’t matter so much as looking deeper into your soul, and trying to translate that gut feeling you have about your subject onto the canvas. It’s passion.

Sometimes, the more hours you put in, the more frustrated you get. And when that happens, you need to give yourself some space – breathe in, breathe out, and really feel what you’re trying to do.

I’ve had a crazy month, with deadlines and travel and general life chaos. The weeks that I’ve been home, I’ve been painting like mad. Most nights, I put the kids to bed and hit the studio to squeeze in a few more hours of painting. I’m tired, but I’ve gotten a lot done. I’ve knocked out some larger studio pieces, done a lot of marketing work, checked stuff off the to-do list. 

I’ve been nothing if not productive. But I haven’t been excited about any of my work.

Normally, even if a painting isn’t my best, there will be something about it to get me excited – I’ll be into the brushwork in a certain section, or something I’m trying to do with color, or changing it up with design. But lately, I’ve been feeling lackluster about everything. I step up to the easel with a checklist in mind. “Block in 30×40, paint sky, paint water, touch up trees.” When the studio turns into a production line, this happens – inspiration runs and hides.

So, I finally realized this a few days ago. As I scraped the painting I worked on all weekend, it hit me like a ton of bricks – I’ve been doing, not FEELING.

I know that sounds like an artsy-fartsy thing to say, but it’s critical. To me, it’s often what separates an amazing piece of art from one that is simply well-executed. The work we drool over in museums and books? That’s inspired stuff. Look at a painting by Sorolla, or Payne, or Sargent, or Levitan, and you’ll see the work of a man whose work transcended technique. You’ll see a work of art that has soul. Yeah, those guys knew how to paint, but they also knew how to get you right in the gut with the emotion of a scene. When all is said and done, that’s what makes a master. That’s the stuff that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck when you look at an amazing piece of art.

Discipline is essential, but in the end we learn good technique and put in the hours so that when inspiration hits, we have the skill to translate that feeling into a painting that sings.

So, how do you get there when the studio looks like an assembly line? I’m still working that out for myself, and I think it will be a life-long project for me, but it starts with making some space to reflect.

When I realized what I was doing the other day, I stopped what I was doing, looked around at the chaos, and realized my painting marathon was doing me no favors. I cleaned up my studio, I went for a walk in the woods, I did some yoga. I sat quietly for a bit and thought about what I want to do with my painting – not in a technical sense, but in an emotional sense. What do I feel about the landscape that I want to say with my paintings? How would I like them to affect other people? Then I reminded myself to get out of my head, and to paint intuitively. I slowly started something new. I spent a lot of time reminding myself to chill out, to breathe in, to feel. Will it be a masterpiece? Probably not. But I’m already more excited about what I’m doing than I was a few days ago, and that’s where I need to be to do my best work.

“You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn’t nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.” 

Art and Motherhood – The Ugly Truth (and Why it Doesn’t Matter)

My first solo show – look at the cheeks on that girl!

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post about juggling life as an artist with motherhood. To this day, it remains one of the most viewed posts on this blog, and I’m still getting emails and messages from female artists who want advice on how to handle it all. I think I still believe everything I had to say on the subject back then, but I’ve been thinking about it a bit more lately, and wanted to share a few more ideas (a few ideas, which, incidentally, have resulted in the longest blog post ever – oops!).

Everyone out there has probably taken enough workshops or classes to know that it seems like 90% of art students are female. Why then are the top tiers of the art world so male-dominated? The 2013 Prix de West show boasted 101 of the top Western artists in the United States – only 10 of them were women. Oil Painters of America has 47 master signature members listed in the current directory, of which only 6 are women. This is not atypical. It seems that the higher you go, the lower the percentage of female participants (I’m not complaining, just observing – I look at these numbers and see opportunity, for the record).

Why? I think a lot of it has to do with a few complicated issues that surround motherhood. Many of the women I’ve spoken to who are top tier painters in the Western US either don’t have children, or set painting aside while they had children and started again when they were older. I can’t even count the number of women I know who gave up painting when their kids were young.

I realize this happens in the corporate world too, but it seems more pronounced in art. There’s something about art that makes it seem like a hobby to those around us, and lacking a real office and paycheck and benefits, many women let their art take the back seat to the demands of motherhood and family.

Me? No way! I love my job more than I can tell you, and I intend to stick it out. I think about this stuff a lot, because I think being aware of the issues that face females in the arts is the first step in making sure I can overcome them. That said, I’m going to share a few of the ugly truths I’ve found about juggling art and motherhood, and try to address how we can handle some of them. In the next few weeks, I plan to follow up with a super positive post about why being an artist is the best job in the world if you’re a mom.

So, here goes, the ugly truth:

UGLY TRUTH #1 – Some people won’t take you seriously

It’s taken me a long time to admit that this is true, but experience has shown me that it is indeed – there are people in the art world who will discount your ability because you are a mom.

When I worked in engineering, it was not uncommon for me to sit in a meeting and be the only female in a room of 30 men. The profession was wildly male-dominated, but in the end, I NEVER felt like anyone discounted my ability because I was a woman. Why? Because engineering is mostly objective. It’s numbers and solutions, and if you do the job right, you do the job right. I came into art expecting the same and finding myself disappointed, because in the end, it’s subjective. It’s a different animal.

I have worked with gallery owners and show coordinators who didn’t think I could perform because I have young children. I have worked with people who flat out told me that they didn’t think I could paint enough because I have kids. It was really tough to hear at first, and in my initial shock, I tried my best to prove them wrong.

My response now is the opposite and I urge you to do the same – I will NOT allow myself to work with anyone who thinks I can’t perform because of my children.

My favorite person to paint with.
Here’s the deal – I have two children but I’m very prolific. I paint just as much as most of my male friends who are painters. I’m committed, and I’m confident in my ability to produce. I work with five galleries who KNOW I’m committed, and know I will give them what they need. They are supportive and wonderful, and I enjoy working with each and every one of them.

I learned the hard way that trying to prove yourself to someone who has an incorrect assumption is a waste of time. The negativity is a major energy suck, and you don’t need that when you step up to the easel. So, the takeaway? Recognize when someone is not taking you seriously, and move on. The art world is also full of wonderful people who WILL take you seriously, and that’s where you want your energy to go. Work with those people!

UGLY TRUTH #2 – Plans? What plans!? Ha!

When you have kids, be prepared for your best-laid plans to fly out the window. They’re going to get sick or injured the day before that big deadline, and you’re going to tear your hair out about the fact that you can’t seem to keep a reliable studio schedule. It happens – be prepared for it.

Here’s an example of how NOT to do things (learn from my mistakes!)… I usually try to set aside a couple of my best paintings to enter in the OPA national show every January, since I know better than to think I’m going to paint a masterpiece when I have a deadline looming. This year, I made the mistake of agreeing to sell my two favorite paintings a couple of weeks ago. Checks were basically in the mail and I figured, “well, might as well sell them, I have two weeks to come up with a couple of new ones – I can do that easy!” Then my 4 year old got the crud and I spent five days taking care of a sick kid and husband and feeling ill myself, and suddenly, I had nothing to enter and was once again trying to fight the losing battle of painting a masterpiece up against a deadline (while exhausted, nonetheless).
Trying desperately to paint with a sick kid in the studio.
So, recognize that your schedule will not always behave the way you think it will, and prepare for that. If you have a show entry due, make sure you have those paintings set aside weeks in advance. If you need to supply paintings for a gallery, make sure you give yourself more time than you think you’ll need to produce. And when in doubt, always paint more than you think you need to. Every once in a while someone will come down into my studio and exclaim that I have a lot of painting inventory, and ask if I’m going to take some time off. The answer is always NO, because it never fails – the minute I get that inventory built up, a gallery will need new work, or I’ll get invited to a show, or someone will want to see a grouping of paintings. I know better than to think I’m in control of the hours I spend in the studio, so I always err on the side of overproducing, and somehow things always end up just right.

UGLY TRUTH #3 – You will feel inadequate

This is more emotional than anything, but the reality is this – when you’re trying to juggle an art career (maybe ANY career) and motherhood, you will have moments when you feel hopelessly inadequate. I try my best to prioritize my life such that I feel like I’m giving my all to my kids and my art, but every once in a while I have a major meltdown about my failure to do both. I feel like I’d be a better mom if I wasn’t working so hard. I feel like I’d be a better artist if I weren’t constantly taking care of my two little ones.

That’s not necessarily reality – the fact that I do something I love makes me a better mom, and the fact that I have two hilarious fun-loving kids in my life makes my art better. But sometimes in those dark middle-of-the-night moments, I feel like I’m failing at everything.

Sometimes, I look around at my art friends tearing it up on the show circuit and think to myself, “if only I had that much time to travel!” Sometimes, I look around my not-so-clean house and think to myself, “if only I could have a couple of days to catch up on cleaning up around here!” And sometimes, I have to say no to the zillionth volunteer opportunity at my daughter’s school, and I think to myself, “oh my gosh she’s going to grow up and wonder why I wasn’t the mom who was always helping out at school!”

But everyone can think of “if onlys” if they try hard enough, and giving into these thoughts is giving into negativity. The minute I find myself thinking an “if only” type of thought, I acknowledge that it exists and it sucks and then I choose to move on. Usually, this means taking action. Instead of moping around, I get painting, or I do some business work, or I write a blog post, or I clean the kitchen, or I play with my kids. I get moving, and I usually get positive. And when the little stuff doesn’t work, I get outside and leave it behind on a mountain bike ride or run. It never helps to focus on what if.

And know that you can’t do it all, and that you will have to allow certain areas to slide. I would love to have a spotless house and a home-cooked meal three times a day – it’s not going to happen if I want to spend the right amount of time on my kids and my art. Right now, I should probably be taking down the Christmas tree (in February!!) instead of writing this blog post. That’s reality and that’s okay, as long as I’m focusing on the things that matter most.

The little guy, showing me how it’s done.
In my doubtful moments I have to remind myself, logically, that there’s a reason I’m doing this. I’m choosing to be an artist for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is my conviction that being a good mom to my daughter includes modeling how to chase what you love. I remind myself that while I may not be at the school every day, I DO spend time every day laughing with my kids, and talking to them, and appreciating them for who they are right now, and those moments are worth more than anything to me.

UGLY TRUTH #4 – You will not be able to do it alone

I don’t care how good you are – if you want to make it as an artist and be a mom, you’re going to have to get some help along the way. I used to think that since I work “part-time” and my job is fairly flexible, it was reasonable to assume that I would be mostly responsible for childcare and keeping our household running. It’s taken me a long time to realize that I can’t do it all. This is NOT a part-time job, and I can’t handle it all without some help. I’d say that this year more than any other year, I finally learned that if this was going to work, I was going to need to ask for more help from my husband, and from others, and that I had to be okay with accepting that help.

I owe every minute I get to paint to a supportive husband, awesome helpful family members and friends, and the fact that my kids both go to a school where I know they’re learning and thriving every minute that they’re out of my sight.

I get four days a week to paint for 5-6 hours while my kids are at school, but art is a full-time job – do the math, and you know I’m going to be behind. Sometimes my husband steps in and hangs with the kids for an afternoon while I catch up. Sometimes my in-laws spend the day with Owen and I sneak into my studio. Every once in a while I meet up to plein air paint with friends, and depend on a supportive friend to get my kids from school to swim lessons since I won’t be home in time. I attend most openings by recruiting my mom to babysit. I managed a painting trip to Telluride this winter thanks to my sister, who took on my two energetic kids for an entire weekend. I love these people and owe them so much. I know my kids thrive in their presence, which allows me to do my job without worrying – and that whole not worrying thing is HUGE when you’re a mom.

Chances are, you won’t get much painting done when your kids are in the house (if you do, can you tell me your secret??). Find people you trust, and places you’re confident your kids will thrive, so that you can find the space to do your job without worry. And if you have a partner, make sure you’re really allowing them to be a partner – don’t try to handle everything on your own. (If you want to read more on that subject, pick up the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg – it’s an excellent read.)

I love these guys!
So, there you have it, some of the truth as I see it, and some suggestions on how to handle things. My intent here wasn’t to be a downer, but to be honest and forthcoming about my experiences, with hope that it might encourage someone who might be struggling through a similar issue. For what it’s worth, I think most of these issues are universal, and my advice probably applies to ANY artist, male or female, kids or no kids. If you have any of your own suggestions, or advice, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

The good news is that it’s a great life – I wake up thankful every day. Sometimes it’s chaos, but it’s beautiful chaos, and I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.

Perfect Practice

“Ten Below”
Oil on Panel
16×20″
2014
No one will deny that brush mileage is one of the best ways to get better at painting. You can know everything there is to know about painting, but if you don’t paint all that often, you won’t know how to put paint on the canvas effectively enough to communicate your ideas. If you’ve heard of the 10,000 hours rule, you know this is probably the case for getting good at anything – simply put, most experts have put in the time.
But time isn’t the whole story – most experts also know how to practice effectively, how to push themselves to the next level. If you practice the same thing over and over, you won’t get better no matter how many hours you put in.
So, what makes us improve? For me, it’s the idea of perfect practice, working thoughtfully on targeted areas. In the book “The Talent Code,” Daniel Coyle describes this kind of practice like this:
“Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways – operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes – makes you smarter. Or to put it a slightly different way, experiences where you’re forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them – as you would if you were walking up an ice-covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go – end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it…. The trick is to choose a goal just beyond your present abilities; to target the struggle. Thrashing blindly doesn’t help. Reaching does.” 
– Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code
Practicing this way can be a slow, tedious process. You make mistakes, you think deeply about things that aren’t working, and you try to apply different ways to correct those mistakes. It doesn’t always happen overnight, but after a while, the things that were challenges become second nature. You get better.
For me, this means that I no longer set quantity goals for painting. Sure, painting 100 paintings a year is a good goal that will get me in the studio on a regular basis, but does it matter if I’m painting the same thing over and over? Now, I focus on stretching my abilities in a number of different ways. Here are some ideas:
Paint Something Outside of Your Wheelhouse
I’m all for painting your passion. I love being outside, so I paint landscapes. It’s different for everyone, but I guarantee you’ll paint your best when you paint what you love. That said, it’s easy to get complacent when you always paint what makes you comfortable, so it’s good to step outside of your comfort zone and paint something completely different every once in a while. For me, this means adding some architecture or wildlife to a painting every once in a while, or doing some figure painting in the studio to work on my drawing. For a figure painter, this might mean heading out to do some plein air. Either way, you’re developing skills that you don’t have, and it’s making you stronger.
Focus on Your Weaknesses
In order to improve, you need to think critically, identify some of your weaknesses, and then work on those things. I painted the painting above when I felt I was getting a bit too tight with my studio work – I set out a panel and told myself I was going to work on thick paint and softer edges, and ignore everything else.  The goal wasn’t a masterpiece or show painting, but rather a skill set. Working on those soft edges is like playing scales on a piano – I’m working those little muscles that I need in order to commit that skill to memory. If you have a tough time with clouds, go paint cloud studies. If you struggle with drawing, get a sketchbook and a pencil and get to work.
Change It Up
Are you comfortable painting small studies on location but clam up when it comes to painting something big? Or do you love the comfort of your studio and lose focus the second you get outside? If you run out of one color on your palette does it send you into a panic, or can you go with it? It’s easy to get comfortable with painting certain sizes, or in a certain location, or with a certain set of materials. But if you want to grow as an artist, you need to work on the edge of your ability sometimes. Work a little bit bigger outdoors. Do something in a different format. Use some different colors and see what happens. If you can handle a few changes, you’ll be more versatile as an artist, and your paintings will improve.
Get Uncomfortable
I’m all for plein air painting in the summer when the weather is perfect and the light is stunning, but I’m not gonna lie – I don’t get as excited about getting out there the rest of the year! Last year, I decided to just paint, no matter what, and learned a valuable lesson. I painted on cloudy days with flat light, and I learned a lot about greys. I painted in the snow, and learned a lot about brevity. I hauled my painting stuff up a lot of trails in a backpack, and learned that sometimes you just have to paint what’s in front of you when you get there. And when I got back into my studio after all of that, I had a whole bunch of new skills, and a new found appreciation for the coziness of my nice warm studio. Sometimes, it’s good to be uncomfortable. Say yes, even when you don’t want to.
What are some of the best ways that you implement “perfect practice” into your art?