This weekend, I watched the bio/documentary of Gloria Vanderbilt and, while I've been fascinated by her history and the whole "robber baron" era of our country, I had no idea she was an artist. It seems that art was the one stable thing in her life and through it she has interpreted and documented decades of memories.
I was particularly moved because the stories are sometimes so sad, but so beautifully rendered. It makes me think about the work I put together. It is definitely not documentary in the same way. I paint scenes from places I've been, but I don't put my memories in them.
The other thing that I have been thinking about a lot is my level of invention. It is something I am struggling with. Gloria was creating things based solely on her memories and drawing without reference it seemed. I really need to push past rendering everything! What am I so afraid of?!
BUT, as I need to keep reminding myself, if I have even half the career she has had, I have a long time to work! Can you believe she is nearly 92?
I'm trying to get motivated. So I set up a still life outside and had a friend (V....) over to lunch with me. We visited and ate al fresco and then I painted the remains of our feast for about an hour. The sun moves surprisingly fast even in that time.
I stood on a very windy hilltop this morning east of Austin to paint the rolling hills and curvy road in the country. The wind nearly blew me away. I have to say though, my new Prolific Painter easel set up was really stable. I kept a hand on it only during the biggest gusts.
I had a nice painting going. Caught the fresh tilled dark earth, the new spring greens, lots of atmosphere with the low sun. Then when I put the painting on the ground and was dismantling my palette, I dumped my turps (sludge and all) right on top of the painting. So now it has a pastel look - maybe a happy accident?
The painting was on Arches oil paper - and even with the turp mess, there was no bleed through. No "fat" left in these colors now.
I had the opportunity today to participate in an art performance. Some of Austin's figure models posed for an audience while a small group of artists sketched. The models were the stars- they told stories, talked about body image, other aspects of their lives and what led them to posing, among other things. Some of it was quite moving and personal. And it's an interesting switch to have the models be the focus and the artists subordinate. After sitting for a hour and a half on a short stool quietly sketching, I certainly felt some sympathy for their physical endurance when posing.
The performance is staged by Paper Chairs at the Canopy. Shows continue through next weekend.
When in a funk, the best thing to do is go back to the basics. I haven't been very inspired lately and not able to dive into a full painting. And when faced with one of my own figure sessions, held in my own backyard, I had to slow down and work methodically, as if a beginner.
I first sketched the scene planning my composition and dark/light patterns. Once comfortable with that I began a light line drawing with the brush. Then I started to fill in. I worked thinly, kept palette rather neutral and didn't define small areas. It felt good and worked well enough that I didn't finish the day feeling like a hack!
More on my funk later. Oh joy!
But will I follow through?
I was really very saddened to hear of Ken Auster's passing this weekend. I hadn't known he was sick... of course, I am not closely acquainted, so why would I? The world has lost a great artist - and a generous, inspiring teacher. Luckily we have his videos to continue to learn from him.
I had the opportunity to learn with him in New York City eight years ago. EIGHT years ago. That really got me thinking this weekend. The workshop was wonderful. But how have I incorporated what I learned into my work? How have I grown? Have I painted with passion?
No. Sometimes. I don't know. To be honest, I worry way too much about what galleries want, or what might sell. I worry the paintings into lifeless, "pretty" scenes perhaps, but without allowing myself any expression. Then I worry that I don't have any thing to say after all. Its a vicious cycle.
I think I need to look long and hard at what I want to do with my art. I second guess myself too much. I have a wonderfully supportive husband who encourages me to paint, as much as I can, to become a better painter. But I still feel like painting is a reward when I've done my chores. It has to be the focus of my day and I have to let go of my fears and paint from the heart.
If you can, please look at Ken's work, read his story, watch his videos and learn as much about painting with passion as you can. He inspired me so much, though I was probably just one of thousands of his students. His passing reminds me that I don't want to waste more time with self doubt, worry and too much left brain interference. Wish me luck. Or better yet, peace.
I was very saddened to hear of the great David Bowie's passing on Monday. He was a true artist in every sense of the word and I think we can all take a lesson from him about fear and growth. Why does it seem that those two words are bedmates? Am I the only one? We so often let fear keep us from changing.Over decades Bowie changed his style, his persona, his sound, his discipline... he wanted to try it all and did so with an open heart and without apologizing or explaining himself. Time was all we needed to see his genius.
There are a few fine artists today that I see doing the same thing - embracing change and boldly following their hearts and the urge to live a fully creative life. Quang Ho certainly comes to mind. From highly-rendered classical realism to abstract; animals to still life, he follows his muse. I want to be one of those artists. Time will tell of course.
Now is the time to consider such things as I look back this year at 10 years of blogging. Ten years of committing to work very regularly - which we all know is the only way to really grow as an artist. The miles of canvas on your brush builds skill and confidence, And with confidence you can take the new path and see where it leads.
Maybe at this time of year, it would be a good idea for us all to look back and really consider all we have done and learned. If you are like me, you often forget how you met challenges and changed. I remember the first time I painted a demo for an art club. Now I'm comfortable with that. I used to paint landscapes. That morphed into city and restaurant scenes utilizing photos after my daughter was born. Those subjects are still present but my focus is narrowing in on the figure more specifically and working from life more often. I'm facing some decisions in how I market my work, I'm starting to use new means to communicate and stay au courant and looking for new partners to show my work. Its going to be a fun year. A little scary, but fun. :-)
Late last fall, I decided on a new studio space in the house. We moved my big chunky homemade easel downstairs, but then I realized the placement was all wrong. Today, I rearranged everything. Its not ideal - not pretty - but its practical. And I love working down here! (after one day)
I can see out the front window to the street and all the comings and goings. I can see my work in progress from many different angles and distances. Use the big stereo. And, I have quick access to the fridge, the teapot, and the pantry!
Formerly, I worked in a room upstairs and at the back of the house - a lovely view of the garden and yard, but I felt very cut off and lonely up there. The other reason I've moved downstairs to a more public area of the house was a chimney leak and moldy walls. Its always something, right?
While a beautiful lofty studio with huge north facing windows and tons of floor space would be a wonderful thing, it isn't necessary to an artist. I'm finding more and more, that I can do with less. Especially if plein air painting or meeting V... at the coffee shop. I have a bag of sketching materials ready. I have my paints in a tote bag with travel OMS and brushes etc. at the ready. I have a small folding palette and that is about all I need. If I have too much to load, I figure why bother. I want to be ready to paint or sketch at a moment's notice.
A Painter's Journal
Chasing the light. Capturing life. Rendering it in paint.
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