On a cold Saturday afternoon (yesterday - high in the 30s which for Austin in painfully cold) I got together with some of my oldest friends here to work on something they call "vision boards". These friends are in very different lines of work but they still call for creativity and thoughtfulness. It was quite a fun exercise. We went through old magazines to pull out items that spoke to us just at first glance. I had a nice pile of words and images and sometimes just textures. A theme developed without my consciously trying. The results are on the bottom. The center being a great image and poem all perfectly composed... and then the other lead in "the subject is HAPPINESS." A good theme to build on this year. Both professionally and personally.
This time each year I get to reset everything. I just had my birthday and get to start the new year with a new milestone in my life. A lot of people think "resolutions" when the year changes, but I think more about what I'd like to accomplish or see happen - positive energy, general ideas to try new things and work better. I have never been one to respond to pressures of deadlines or must dos. So its best that I just embrace some positive thinking and keep my head up!
That has been hard the last few months. I realized that I had been in the dumps way too long and finally sought some help from mental health professionals. I wouldn't say I am often or chronically depressed, but there have been times in my life that I am more down than up and I think I'd been consistently down for probably more than a year. My energy was low, my motivation non existent, family stuff and business worries sapped my creative drive. Teenagers are hard. And I seriously considered giving this all up and even going to school for a degree and work in something else.
I spent a lot of last year focused on business issues (lack of sales) - and spent a whole lot less time at the easel actually creating. Big mistake. My skills suffered. So look for more work regularly. Smaller work too. Back to my comfort zone perhaps, but I think genre scenes just lend themselves to smaller scale. No more live event paintings. No more painting what I think will sell. Back to painting my 30 minute starts - letting the creative energy flow.
Happy New Year to you - lets make it a good one.
I had the pleasure of painting a demo this afternoon for the art club at the Baca center in Round Rock.
They thought it it would be fun for me to paint a city scene. It was fun - but also a challenge.
What I wanted to focus on demonstrating was working large to small in order to simplify busy scenes like a city corner. But to get to the small, you gotta get the big shapes in. I finally did cover enough to demonstrate making the big shapes more interesting by adding more texture and breaking the shapes down into smaller interesting shapes.
I have a lot more to go on this but feel like it's a sound start. What is left is the fun stuff - adding those interesting strokes and spots of highlights or dark darks.
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!
A Painter's Journal
Chasing the light. Capturing life. Rendering it in paint.
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