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Letting our paintings go

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I have heard from some artists that after working so long on a painting it is hard to let it go, to sell it or even give it away. One said that her painting were like her children, she didn’t want to part with them, and wondered how I could part with some of the paintings I had done.

I have never felt such a connection, so perhaps I am insensitive. Each painting I do is like a stepping stone leading somewhere I want to go but can’t yet see. Each one takes me closer to something just over the hill. But the journey is so absorbing that I seldom look back at the path of paintings taking me along.

What are your thoughts on this?  Do any of you have difficulty parting with your art?

Developing your painting stye

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A word about painting style.

When I was a student, it seemed to be very important to the instructors that we developed our own unique painting style. Even then I felt that they were insisting that we put the cart in front of the horse.

I don’t think we should be worried so much about style, whatever that is. We all learn to form the same identical letters between the lines, and got critiqued on how well they matched the correct form.  And yet, in spite of that we each developed our own unique handwriting. It wasn’t something we had to worry about, it just happened. It is especially so with our signatures, often just rhythmic lines.

I believe it happens because of a unique inner pulse. Something imbedded in us that, for want of a better term, I would call a soul rhythm. It is unique to us as an individual. This inner pulse has been documented but cannot be explained. But it may influence the kind of music we enjoy listening to, the way we walk, our particular cadence of speech, our handwriting and the particular rhythm to our brushstrokes.

As we gain fluency in the language of art, colors, transitions, drawing, values, contrast, line, shapes, etc. that natural rhythm or inner pulse imprints itself in the manner of our application, gradually, then more insistent, until we have a recognizable, identifiable style.

Our focus then, should be on gaining fluency with the language so that the style can develop naturally.

Taking your art to the next level

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When I began painting, like so many others my focus was on painting the things around me – skies, trees, buildings, grass etc. I wanted to learn watercolor and oil techniques to serve that end. I wanted my paintings to look real. Yet I really admired the painters who did this but were still “painterly”. In fact I enjoyed the abstract  qualities of many of the non-objective painters: the vigorous brushwork of DaKooning, the energetic movement of Franz Klein, the countering forces of John Marin, the calligraphic marks of mark Toby and the pulsing color boundaries of Rothko.

It was years later that I began to realize that it was those abstract visual elements in the real world around me that really moved me. It wasn’t grasses, it was the subtle transition of  color across the fields that filled me with joy. It wasn’t the trees, it was the wonderful rhythm of their limbs, a linear dance against the sky that made my senses vibrate.  My paintings have not become more abstract, in some ways they are more realistic, but I now go after the real subject behind the identifiable objects. I go for the rhythms, the color vibrations, the dance of shapes that lead the eye around the format. This has led me to a greater freedom, and a stronger connection with my visual world.

It is at that point in our development when we come to realize what really inspires us in the world around us, and let that become the focus of our art, that we take our art to the next level and it becomes a real tool of creative expression.

Color Harmonies

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I don’t operate according to complicated color theories. I understand color harmonies, like complementary, split complementary, etc, but formula thinking is alien to my particular mindset.  My primary consideration is warm and cool. I decide whether my composition is going to be primarily warm with cool accents, or primarily cool with warm accents.

In this painting I wanted the lady’s dress to be a warm Sienna color, so the door behind went to blue.

I also think about repeating colors throughout the composition. Consequently you will find the same Sienna color in the chickens, the grass, the wash line, the roof and mingled into the washes for the walls and buildings. The same can be said for the turquoise blues in the wall, window, blouse etc.

Talent or hard work?

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Talent, whatever that is, will only take a budding artist so far, usually about as far as to qualify as ‘good” for High School level. What carries a person to the greater levels of skill and confidence is just plain relentless practice.
When I was a freshman in college I was fairly confident in my abilities, not realizing how few art abilities I actually possessed. One day I wandered into the university gallery and saw an exhibit of the current applicants for the MFA degree. I had expected to see more student work, but these artists were very professional. The work was of such high calibre that I suddenly had a revelation of how little “talent” I really had, and of how far I had to go. I was devastated and even thought of changing my major. It was a massive trauma. But as I sat there looking at their art I knew that this was the only thing I wanted to do, and that I would just have to work harder than all those students who had “talent”. It was a real turning point for me. I threw myself into the work and never looked back. I am still looking ahead with eager anticipation.