Saturday, November 26, 2016

Let the Dead Paintings Die

There is great power in the spoken word. As a lover of words - especially beautiful words - I've always known this. But the older I get, the more I realize what a responsibility we have towards what we say or don't say. Words have power to break resolve, crush hopes, or batter one's spirit. They also have the ability to encourage, motivate, and embolden.

Over the years I've been on the receiving end of some wise advice, and several of those conversations will always stand out to me as having changed my life in some way. While I won't burden you with every single life lesson I've learned, I will tell you about one recent conversation that helped tear down a huge mental block I was facing in my art (I've written about some of these mental blocks, or "fences," in this blog post).

It was nearly two months ago. I was one of the hundreds of guests (mostly artists) crowding into Gallery 1261 for the opening reception of Richard Schmid's retrospective show. This show in and of itself should (and will) be the topic of a separate blog post, but to give you an idea of the context, the place was packed and I had to speak at the top of my lungs to be heard by anyone standing more than twelve inches away from me. In this space, I crossed paths with the indomitable Rose Frantzen, one of my all-time favorite artists and someone I greatly admire. We were practically yelling in each other's faces to be heard above the chaos, and yet out of this noise came such wisdom from Rose, I find myself thinking about it still.

I don't remember how it came up, but I was telling her about a commission I had been working on for the past five months and how much of a struggle it was. I had repainted the face four or five times, and each time it only seemed to get worse, not better. Rose, in her unsympathetic but not unkind way, said, "Start over. Let the dead paintings die." She then proceeded to tell me about a commission that she had done from an old black and white photograph. She spent over a hundred hours on this painting, laboring to get every detail exactly perfect. Then, she started a second one and completed it in just six hours. It was different from the first, but no less perfect. She presented the clients with both paintings, not telling them which one she had spent more time on. The clients chose the six-hour painting. Later, they called her and said they also wanted to buy the other one.

I was blown away by Rose's story and realized that this woman does not let fear get to her. I think I'm confident but then after one conversation with someone like Rose, I realize I still have much to learn!

After that, I went home to my studio, and, with some dread, sent the clients an email explaining that I needed to start over and would need some more time. To my surprise and relief, they were very understanding and said they appreciated that I was working so hard to get it right!

I went back to the pose and setting that I had intuitively felt worked the best (but not the one they chose, originally), and started a brand new painting. These paintings were not small, or simple. The portrait was to be 40x30 inches, with an elaborate garden setting and bright sunlight bouncing all around. But I started the new portrait with fresh vigor and felt so much freer to make a great painting, not just a painting of what I thought the clients would want.

I was nearing the finish line when I decided I ought to start a third portrait. The clients were apprehensive about their daughter's stoic expression, which didn't really fit her personality. So I went back to the smile that they were drawn to originally, and started another painting in order to give the clients more options. The lighting was very different in this one, as was the expression, so the two paintings almost had nothing in common except for the subject.

Eventually I presented both paintings to the clients. They sat and deliberated, weighing the pros and cons of each one. We all agreed that I could have painted a hundred paintings of this sweet little girl and they still wouldn't capture every facet of who she is! But a painting tells so much more of a story than a photo does. It captures something deeper, something that grows on you every time you look at it.

Finally, the clients decided they wanted to buy both.

Grit and hard work do pay off, but not unless you have the confidence to carry through. Thank you, Rose, for the words of wisdom and for challenging me to let go of the long hours and miles of canvas in order to make my best work. Now I can deliver my finished portraits in full confidence that I did the absolute best I could do - without regrets. My clients and I are both the better for it!

I hope this post encourages you in some way to keep going. If you've been struggling with a project and it just isn't working, start over! Know that those hours were not in vain, because each time you start fresh, you'll have that wealth of experience from your previous painting to help you make more informed decisions along the way. Happy painting!


Commissioned portrait version #1 - Ended up here (above)


Commissioned portrait #2, 40x30", oil on linen


Commissioned portrait #3, 32x24", oil on linen

Share/Bookmark

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Print or Original?

We all want to own original art, but sometimes prints are more affordable, and perhaps more readily available if the original has already sold. However, nothing compares to original art. Here is a testimonial from someone who bought prints of my work and was very happy with them, but when she got an original, she was compelled to write about the difference. 

"Print or original?

To those reading, I am an artist so I appreciate originals and the creation thereof.  I am also the mother of four children, who will one day soon need braces, and cars, and college tuition.  A couple years ago my daughters modeled for Anna in their ballet attire.  It was a fun for them to have that experience.  I work primarily outdoors en plein air, so a portrait studio was something entirely new!  My girls had a million questions, which Anna answered patiently, and thus becoming an outstanding role model for my girls.  The resulting paintings were so beautiful.  I was delighted to buy giclee prints.  The thought of the originals stayed in the back of my mind, but conflicted with the reality of the cost of raising my children!  The prints were outstanding!  They were... Perfect.  How could the original be that much better?  Now the proud owner of one of those originals, I will happily say, the original is somehow exponentially more beautiful.  It is luminous and brilliant in a way the perfect print was not."

- Juliana Crownover (Sunnyvale, TX)


"Sharing Secrets" (2014) - 20x16 - oil on mounted linen - Private Collection


                                         "Lydia and Tinker Bear" (2014) - 36x24 - oil on linen - Private Collection


                                                    "Innocence" (2014) - 28x12 - oil on linen - Private Collection
Share/Bookmark

Friday, November 11, 2016

On Interruptions and Motion

Recently I began a new series exploring dance and the illusion of motion in my paintings, thanks to a fantastic new model who was willing to collaborate with me. I have been thinking about the word "interruption," and how irksome it can be both in real life and in a work of art. An interruption during a painting session - whether it be from a phone call, a salesperson ringing the doorbell, or a fussy toddler waking from her nap -- often takes what might have been a great moment of inspiration and turns it on its head. You might lose your train of thought entirely and feel creatively derailed. Likewise, a work of art itself can feel like it has been "interrupted." A painting should naturally flow and lead the viewer's eye from one place to another without sending the viewer out of the composition. Visual interruptions are abrupt, large or small elements that don't really belong. This could either be because they are the wrong shape, value, or proportion. Or they could be lines, edges, or diagonals which are too harsh and lead your eye out of the picture. A master artist excels at leading your eye through his or her painting without ever causing you to "leave". The visual elements are composed in such a way that the viewer's attention is held captive, and therefore, it is a successful work of art.

The concept is not a new one to me, but for the last several years, I was so focused on improving my mastery of value and color that sometimes, visual harmony and rhythm weren't considered as carefully as they should have been. In this latest series, I'm trying to be cognizant of the visual path, while exploring more rhythmic freedom of brushwork. It's certainly no coincidence that musical terms can be used so perfectly to describe painting, for the two art forms are very similar. Some notes are slow and melancholy, some are short and staccato - others are soft, others are loud. Then, when you add dancing to the mix, you have the ingredients for even more aesthetic potential!

After reading my last newsletter about these recent dance paintings, someone commented saying, "Wow, you're transforming." I'm glad they noticed. :-) Art should not remain stagnant or in a state of inertia. An artist is constantly changing, experimenting, and pushing themselves to the next level. Hopefully these works are demonstrative of my efforts toward continual growth.

Model: Ashley Holderness of Soul 2 Sole







This last one (below) is of a different model (Kayla Giard of Prestige Dance). I wanted to capture her in the same pose but from different angles. The resulting painting has a clear focal point but it makes you want to turn along with the dancer as she rotates en pointe.



Share/Bookmark
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...