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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Show Up and Let Go

 "Girl Candy"
Oil on linen - 9x12"

In a recent post I talked about being flexible rather than tightly wound when life throws us curve balls. In this post I'd like to share what I have learned about how this theory applies to painting.

Askin' for Trouble

In the beginning of a painting, all is good as I start making marks and get things going, but soon, and almost always, I find myself in the "ugly duckling" stage, in that tenuous middle of the painting place where I am not at all sure of a successful outcome. This is when the door to anxious and stressed swings open, beckoning to me to "take charge", and I have found walking through it inevitably leads to my trying to wrestle the painting to the ground, a game I often lose.

A Better Approach

Instead of getting busy trying to predict and control what's going to happen next when in that uncertain place, there's an option to make the much more spacious choice of sensing and responding to what's happening. In this space, there is room for more than just us. The painting and the subject also have something to contribute if we take the time to contemplate and listen.

As you paint, the process of relativity begins, and the painting starts to take on a life of its own. It has valuable information to offer about what to do next, as does the subject, but if you are locked on to a rigid idea about where you want to go, and what needs to happen to get there, you'll miss the great info that is being offered up. It helps to remember that painting isn’t something you do to a canvas - it is a dance between artist, subject and painting, an ongoing conversation until together you have decided the expression is complete.

 "Girl Candy" - detail

Carolyn Anderson taught me: "Having a fixed idea about how a painting will go is like walking down a hallway slamming doors of possibility closed behind you." Valuable advice, it's a reminder to step back often and make room for curiosity and intuition to be a part of the painting process. Pay attention, be flexible, and trust - everything you need to know is right there with you.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

So Much for Best Laid Plans...

"Night on the Town"
Oil on linen - 9x12"

Late post tonight so it'll be a quickie.

First - 30 in 30, consecutively or otherwise, ain't happenin'. I was completely committed to finishing a painting each day I went to the studio, but that's not what happened. Each painting I've started has required more care than I could give it in a day.

So the choice became: figure out how to paint something I can finish in a day for the next 25 paintings, or embrace what's happening, and ditch plan A. No choice, I'm going with what's showing up. The reason I signed on for the challenge was to find out if I even wanted to paint anymore, after an almost 2 year hiatus. The answer is a resounding yes! I am loving painting, and that has not happened for a very long time. Something huge has shifted in the time away, everything is different now. Lots more to say on this, but will save it for a more energetic moment.

I am still honouring the commitment - with my latest revision. :-)  I am going to keep going until I have 30 New York paintings done, and will post as I go. Please keep checking in, I am loving all of your feedback, and glad to hear that lots of what I'm discovering is resonating with you guys.

In keeping with the new format, here's a detail of this piece:

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What is Creativity?

"Window Shopping"
Oil on linen - 9x12"
purchase info

I have pretty much always believed that I am not creative. Technically proficient yes, creative no. A couple of recent conversations got me thinking more about this, and began to lead me to a new perspective.

In pondering what exactly creativity is,  I'm starting to think that it isn't some mysterious thing that we have to find within ourselves and draw out, some magical something that rises up from the depths when it's ready to show itself. It's occurring to me that creativity is simply about curiosity.

Focusing on the Questions

Instead of starting a painting with the intention of getting to the end of it, I'm noticing it's different when I focus on how many things I can get curious about going in. Things like:
  • what exactly compels me to paint a certain subject, and why
  • what is my specific, unique way of looking at the world
  • where does my excitement to tackle a subject come from
  • what drives my personal choice about what to leave in and what to take out
  • what is my immediate response when I lay one colour, one value, one edge down beside another
  • what's it like to really experience, moment by moment, the act of transforming a flat white canvas into bits of colour that tell a cool story 
When I forget about attaining a finished product and dive deeply into experience, I become connected with my authentic creative self. It's been there all along, but I was thinking it was something different. This is where I seem to be being led to, and the more I open to it, the more the act of painting is becoming a fascinating adventure. A successful outcome, when it happens - is icing on the cake.

"Art isn't a result; it's a journey. The challenge of our time is to find a journey worthy of our heart and soul." - Seth Godin

PS: A friend suggested I start posting some close-ups of my paintings. Here's a closer look at the detail in this one:

Friday, January 4, 2013

Curve Ball

Oil on linen - 8x6"

So my intention to use the 30 in 30 challenge as an attempt to paint more loosely took a hard left today. I had a big 'aha' moment (yay!) The whole pursuit of painting looser seems a little misguided now. It's not about painting loose, or tight, or any other way. What matters is to paint as much like me as I possibly can. (Okay that only took 50 years).

There is more here, but it has not gelled enough to articulate it yet. It's something about less trying and more trusting, less looking out and more looking in. I do know that everything has changed. Will let you know when I figure out exactly what that means.

As I was painting this image, I kept asking myself what was captivating me - and there are SO many elements: The brushed steel texture of the phone box against the shiny black receiver and background wall tiles. The notes of high key colour in the striped rail markings and on the yellow subway ramp. The little colour surprises in the labels on the phone. The dark horizontals and verticals holding it all together. And that awesome coiled metal phone cord - so fun to paint!

No idea what the next painting will bring - but I'm loving the adventure!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Staying Open

"After Dark"
Oil on linen - 6x8"
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Ha ha! Okay I used a totally blurry photo reference for this painting thinking that would surely force me to paint looser, and somehow I managed to find order in the chaos.

I have a feeling this journey to paint differently may be leading me somewhere other than where I intended to go....

On that note, I'm embracing the wisdom of  Lao Tzu: "A good traveler has no definite plans and no intention of arriving."

Here's a look at the photo reference:

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

30 in 30

"Glee Drive-By" - Oil on Linen - 8x6"
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Leslie Saeta has thrown down the gauntlet, challenging any takers to paint 30 paintings in 30 days. I believe she means in January and I have a couple of other demands on my attention this month so almost passed on this one, but she's inspired me so  I've decided to modify the challenge - 30 paintings in 30 (non-consecutive) days. This will be a great opportunity to take a run at some of the New York reference I have been avoiding getting my teeth into.

The Bigger Challenge

The main concern has been how to paint this subject matter loosely as it seems to compel me to put on my crash helmet and seat belt and hunker down in the back seat when what I really want to do is take a battle stance on the hood with a sword or some other equally daunting  weaponry raised in the air - charging down the highway at breakneck speed slaying dragons and conquering intimidation.

The Plan

So the plan is 30 New York paintings in 30 days, no bigger than 9x12 and mostly 6x8 or smaller, to see if I can't find a way to tackle this subject matter in a fresh, loose way. This first one out of the gate is still pretty tight, but the intention was loose, which is half the battle, and there are some loosey goosey bits, so overall I'm calling it a win. On to the next!