Friday, August 8, 2014

Becoming a Better Painter... well... at least trying!

It's kind of a weird thing... this insatiable desire to be a better painter. On one hand, it forces me to regularly step outside my normal artistic self and try new things. On the other, it can be almost self-distrucive by taking time away from production and I can spend weeks without ever producing anything suitable for sale. For me, the fear of failure is nearly paralysing! So working on things I'm not very good at is like pushing a big rock uphill. It's hard. I suppose there is a balance in there somewhere, though I have yet to find it.
So this week I'm up to my elbows in oil paint... something I'm not quite comfortable with, but slowly getting there. These small lanscape studies are mostly an attempt to learn about the paint and how it blends, mixes, and dries. Some are more successful than others, but all are part of the learning process (there's that word again... "process").
As I sit at the easel smearing paint from one end of my shirt to the other (occasionally getting some on the canvas), I often think about how I would define "better painter". Of course I'm the only one who can nail this down as it applies to my own work and I'm sure everyone has an opinion that differs to some degree from mine (maybe getting less paint on me and more on the canvas would be a good start). I used to think it meant learning to paint in a very realistic almost photographic style. I worked for years pushing my art that direction, but as I get older, my tastes are constantly changing. Now the goal is to say more with less. There is still a desire to capture some subjects in a hyper-realistic manner and I'm grateful to have learned these techniques (like accurate drawing!). There will be times when I need to lean on those skills. Still, I find my brushes are gradually getting bigger, my color choices a bit bolder, and I seem to be acquiring an ability to walk away from a painting before it's completely over-rendered. I'm not there yet, but that destination had been programmed into my artist's GPS and I'm on my way... even if I seem to be taking the long way.

Ten years ago, I could not have imagined painting in this style. It wasn't even on my radar. Ten years from now, who knows what I'll be doing... sculpting in bronze? I have no idea. It's a process (see?). It's always said that "it's more about the journey than the destination" and in the case of being an artist, it couldn't be more true. We always have a destination in mind, but things change... so enjoy the journey. It's almost never easy, but I wouldn't want it any other way.


Peter Brown said...

Jim, for someone who describes their fear of failure as "nearly paralyzing", you display great courage; I wish I could push my way through my insecurities as successfully as you have. I'm afraid I haven't touched a paintbrush in months!

David Hettinger said...

I like what you have to say. hope more people see it and read this .

Christopher Westfall said...

Well said.