Don’t do It!

If you’re an artist, you probably have a large stack of paintings that don’t measure up to your standards.  The longer you paint, the more this becomes a difficult thing to deal with.  I learn something from every painting I do and my skills continue to grow accordingly.  As artists, we are the keepers of our creative destiny and get to decide what to keep and what to toss.

  • I’ve read about painters that save all of their “failed” artwork and use it to create a bonfire every few years because the paintings don’t live up the artist’s own quality guidelines and they feel that this would degrade the scope of their over-all work.
  • I know artists who never sell their work because they feel that a piece of their soul is tied up in the piece.
  • Sometimes I’m just gobsmacked when a piece of art I really didn’t like sells quickly, and the prints from that painting continue to sell, consistently.  Over time, I’ve learned that what I like and what someone else likes won’t necessarily be the same thing.  Over that, I still shake my head sometimes, and that brings me to my next point.
  • Someone somewhere is going to love that painting that I just can’t stand.  Every painting exists as part of my body of work, as part of my artistic journey.  I learn at least one thing from every painting that I create.  I’ve only destroyed one painting, and I regret it.  It wasn’t finished, and at that time, I didn’t think I could do anything with it.  I had fallen in love with a stone wall in Kainaliu and taken a picture to paint just before an earthquake took it down, and here it is.  This photo is the only proof that this painting ever existed.

And, I regret it.  This was very early painting days for me.  I put a lot of time into this painting.  I outlined each individual rock in black.  What did I learn from this painting?  So much.

  1. That I could lose myself in my work
  2. Never lose track of the big picture
  3. Paint things that move you
  4. Rocks are never entirely one color
  5. Get the entire canvas covered with paint before you make any major decisions about a painting.
  6. Don’t outline rocks in black!
  7. Things are never as bad as you think they are

Now, I could have done so much with this painting and turn it into something spectacular.  I may paint it again someday because I still love the wall.

So tell me.  If you’re an artist, what do you do with your “failed” or what you consider sub-par paintings?

Dreams of Inspiration – The Work in Progress – Part 1

I’m not even sure where to start with this, or where I’m going, and I’m not done yet.  The simplest version is, I had an idea for a painting.  It came into my mind complete, and gorgeous, and I had no idea how to do it.  It was outside my realm of experience except for the fact that I’ve used oils, acrylics, paintbrushes, and canvas.

It is a portrait of Scott, with a wildly colorful background, surrounded by these bubbles of inspiration.  My first thought was, I can’t do that, I have no idea how!  My next thought was that I could figure it out and that this was an important painting to do.  For all the times I’ve told the muses, “later,” it was time to act upon it now.  That was a couple of weeks ago.  The first half of the week I researched how to create cells with acrylic paints.  Then my room became a studio in earnest as I began to experiment with what I had learned.  Everything is right there in Youtube videos, but not everything is in the same video.  I had a blast!  I started with small canvases, different color schemes, different thicknesses of paint, different strengths of alcohol, and differing amounts of water.  I could have viewed this entire process as a failure because the first few days I worked with this technique, I didn’t get the colors or the results I needed. Finally, I started to get the cells that I wanted to move forward with the larger canvas.

Then, I began building up the colors that I wanted.  I discovered how to make different types of cells with alcohol.  I was finally on the right path!

This continues to be an eye-opening experience.  I don’t know what I’m doing next until I get to that point.  I’m figuring it out as I go along.  I’m Trusting the Process.

Back to School – Four Books That Will Improve Your Painting

Art History, a Heavy Subject

Ed gave us a list of books to use as references in a handout that he gave to us.  I checked Amazon, and found all four of them used.  With shipping, the cost is still unbelievably low, right around $30!

I was excited to get three out of four of them in hardcover (I really love books) but then I tried picking them up.  The photo opposite is the result.  Makes me think I’m back in college!  The four of them together weigh 13 pounds!

Finally, I am studying art history in a way that makes sense to me.  Find what I like, what is similar to what I want to create in style, degree of realism, or whatever, and study how it was painted.  Here is one of my favorite paintings, Scene from Thanatopsis by Asher Brown Durand (1796 – 1886).

Scene from Thanatopsis 39.5 x 61 Inches

Durand was an American romantic landscape painter, and a member of the Hudson River School.  His paintings evoke the emotions of mystery, wildness and grandeur that were a staple of the breathtaking landscapes in the 1800s which were almost completely devoid of people, something rarely seen today.  It is a fabulous painting, and my goal is to paint like this!

This painting is described in “What is Art, an Introduction to Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture” by John Canaday.

I grew up on fantasy artwork; primarily the works of the brothers Hildebrandt and Boris Vallejo.  Hildebrandts’ works exhibit many similarities with painters from the romantic period.
Here’s an example, Old Man Willow by Greg and Tim Hildebrandt:

Many more of their paintings can be viewed here.

The other three books shown above are:

Drawing Lessons From the Great Masters by Robert Beverly Hale

A Treasury of Impressionism by Nathaniel Harris

Techniques of the World’s Great Painters edited by Waldemar Januszczak

I’ll talk about them in a different post.  It’s time for me to get painting!

Megan