Thursday, February 28, 2013

I've had a few days of break from painting and the problem with this is that I either come back into the series really strong or completely feeling like I'm working with someone else's vision. I have had some blank spots where I don't have any idea of what to paint never mind how to get into the process and be able to see in a somewhat subconscious state. This is the reason why I have had so many paintings waiting to be completed-years of these mental blocks.

Another aspect is switching gears between designing for clients and getting to your own vision is the fact that between work and home there is no break to allow for that change of thought and priority. Tonight was surprisingly productive, even if it doesn't really feel like it now. I am working on a waterfall scene of Turner Falls Oklahoma and in the middle of the process I felt like I was getting too thick with paint and losing my clarity of water but tonight I was able to freshen the image and just about complete the painting. Something I struggle with a problem of jumping into the immediate inspiration and knowing exactly what needs to be done but the peripheral image sometimes falls short and I  think that is what holds up finishing a painting.

One great thing I learned from teaching painting is with some discipline and ignoring the hesitation and overwhelming state of details, you can get through a block and continue to paint. I feel the reason I have been able to finish so many recent paintings is because of the discipline I learned through having a student and a certain amount of time to paint whether I was in the mood or felt overwhelmed I had to continue and work through the block.

So my question to other artists-what are your obstacles in the creative process and if you work through them are you able to continue painting? Do you have a problem working between your own stuff and commissions or freelance work? How do you get past mental blocks when it comes to creativity?
Thanks for reading and keep being creative.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

There was a post in the Linked in group about rejection and I felt with the interest that was expressed
and the fact that these days rejection tends to be such a difficult thing for us to stomach, I thought it would be an interesting topic to expand on. This topic could be included in both my personal and artistic blog but I felt since we are talking art and that was the origin I hope some of the creative or not so creative types-okay anyone can post a comment whether you agree or disagree, it would be an interesting topic to explore with fellow readers and bloggers.

First of all, when did we become so afraid of our children receiving rejection-we have built up rejection to be some sort of insurmountable obstacle instead of a learning process or character builder. The funny thing about this question is that everyone I talk to do not seem to be the ones afraid of the rejection-it's more some phantom victim that has helped create rules that shield children from any form of loss and punish anyone too happy in winning.

The previous description has been experienced more in my personal life raising a young child but rejection has always been a part of my career as well. I started in production art, I have always been an out of the lines coloring kind of personality, now my first job and I have to not only draw within the lines but I need to perfect the lines and keep them perfect and consistent. This was back in the day when we were excited to see a new piece of equipment called an apple computer-what a novelty it was. We still had to rule separations for photographs in publishing yearbooks, create windows and strip film with an exacto knife. I started out with all my work being thrown in the garbage before I had a chance to realize I was being reassigned to another less precise project. This insecurity building exercise continued until I was moved to a department that didn't realize I didn't yet have the skills to do all the work they required.

After a great amount of trial, error and more trial-I became a production artist that could use an exacto knife, a mechanical pen, strip film or and do any kind of paste up with more than adequate quality. If I would have succumbed to the pressure and rejection and the fact that for part of my first job as an artist I was driving a van to deliver work to other artists, I would have been dead before I started but I didn't give up and used the rejection to improve my skill and over time not only did I become a production artist but also learned the computer on the fly. Again, trial and error, mistakes, low raises and all around general stress of a new job made me a quality production artist and set the wheels for the next job I was unqualified for, but we won't tell anyone about that.

At the job I worked on a mac, at home I worked on a small ridiculously inadequate PC, with one of those very cheap drawing programs. The first drawing I ever completed was a green treefrog, a very detailed and colorful tree frog which used every aspect of the primitive drawing package I was using for all its worth. My portfolio was a bunch of high school kids drawing and folios as we called them, nothing even close to adequate for a job as a computer graphic designer. My wife at the time even ask me if I was sure if I could do the job. I was strongly encouraged not to show the tree frog but it was the only thing that actually showed I could use drawing tools on the computer. I got the job and in the years following was told that the tree frog was the only thing that actually stood out in my portfolio and convinced them that I could do the work they needed.

It was a very scary, humble beginning and yet I was able to master photoshop, Micrografix Designer, Pagemaker and Illustrator all on the job and made a highly technical job as creative as it could possibly be. In the first year or so I became a manager after originally being told there was no chance of me being the manager, after months of trying to hire a supervisor for myself, my boss decided that I was doing all the processes that a manager does and so I became a manager. This was another point where rejection could have been a defining moment for me but I improved my skills on the computer and learned how to manage.

Up to now I have talked about rejection and how it relates to a job in general but on the job rejection is the norm not the exception. Being a designer, you normally have to read minds-I didn't know being a medium was part of the process but it is. You need to read minds, you need to guess what people are envisioning and after you have created what you think they have described you must start all over again. One of the funniest aspect is when a client says he or she loves your design, just not the color, the main graphic, the other image, the size and the style-other than you really nailed it. I learned very quickly that it is their project and I am just a steward to get them to create what they envision. I can be totally in the right and their scope can be completely off and failing but if I do not capture what they need I have failed. As a designer it is my responsibility to steer them into what I think is a better direction and create something that works for their marketing needs and graphic appearance but ultimately it is their project and in the end the customer is and always will be right. I learned that the project, as much passion and love I had for it, would never be mine. I have always said if a client wants a stick figure and you feel you can deliver the mona lisa in all its perfection, it doesn't matter that your artistic tendency insists that the master work would be better for the client, the client asked for a stick figure and if you can't convince them otherwise-you've failed-mona lisa and all-sorry Leonardo.

Another aspect of rejection is in my painting. Now I don't have the separation that this is not mine, this is mine and me and everything about my passion. I remember meeting with my first gallery owner and was sure they would just be blown away by my artistic mastery. My ego expected an easy path to a great success and yet as soon as I saw the paintings on the walls mine shrunk in comparison. I don't take that lightly as I am not quick to put another artist's work over mine but it was obvious, I was a very young artist and the other work was from greatly more experienced and it was clear I had much to learn. I wasn't accepted to the gallery but the things I learned about perspective and color, tone was just amazing and have helped me in my current works. The gallery owner dissected my work and instead of just freezing and never painting again I jumped very quickly to another level within weeks. I suddenly was able to see past my amazing work and see the flaws which was the only way I could have improved and perfected those flaws. After my meeting I was able to see how depth and perspective appeared to form and after a few months of awkward painting I took the tools I acquired and use them to this day.

The awkwardness I speak of is the fact that when you paint or create for a long time much of what you do tends to be subconscious or second nature, when someone breaks that habit suddenly you are overwhelmed by the fact that nothing is natural-you think about every line and stroke and the awkwardness is the fact that you analyze and use the left oriented logic instead of losing yourself in the work.

The next great rejection was a teacher-again I was excited and knew she would be impressed and she was but also told me I had much work to do. After that meeting, I learned to change the texture and colors instead of going with a technique I was comfortable with and using it throughout the work. I was awkward and consciously changing my work and again felt a great ship to a higher level of work. I believe the only way I could have improved is to see what an outside eye saw, especially one that had knowledge of my craft.

No one loves rejection, but rejection can be the most incredible tool to improve yourself and your art. Rejection is something that allows you to see outside of your comfort zone and motivates you to improve instead of keeping to the norm. It can be awkward, it can hurt sometimes but being artists and the fact that we do work within an ego driven trade, we must be able to separate ourselves from the rejection and realize that there is always room for improvement. At the same time we must also know where the rejection comes from and take it from its source. See if there is anything that is constructive in the criticism, try to see your work from another perspective and realize realistically where you can improve and where your style ends and flaws begin. It is a thin line but always be open, rejection can be your friend and mentor if you have the right attitude.

So here is my question for you-what was the best bit of rejection that motivated you to improve your work? Did you reach another level in your art or career through criticism? How do you separate yourself from the art you do for the client and how would you steer a client in the right direction-how often are you successful. I'm hoping for many comments as I know rejection is part of all of our lives as artists and people in general. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

After finishing up a series of twenty paintings, the old group of paintings have merged into a larger more recent group of works. What I have learned through teaching painting and through moving into projects out of my comfort zone,  is to enjoy the process even more and go where the impulse takes me.
I have learned to push through that point where the confidence of my skills gets lost in venturing from what is comfortable.

Some things that have changed recently is the enjoyment of thick areas of paint, my older paintings tend to have smooth layers of paint and in my new stuff, the paint sometimes moves across the canvas from a clump of paint right from the tube. It is almost like I am doing palette knife painting without the palette knife. The movement from the inspiration to the actual finished piece is getting faster and more spontaneous. I am jumping into the night scenery and the water inspirations from previous with an excitement and a new found knowledge of my medium and subject matter.

I'm caring much less about the realism of colors, not so much of form but of colors, I'm much more interested in the overall effect. I have different techniques that I am using that I haven't tried before and my sense of exploration is growing daily. Another aspect of change I am experiencing is the feeling of perspective-I'm capturing images from different vantage points, this idea includes a painting of the ocean from a birds eye view and the view up a tree looking at blackbirds or the stars at night. I am increasingly attempting to change my vantage point of the viewer and the standard traditional view of a landscape is being altered.

I have always wanted to perfect the landscape as realistic as possible, now that I have gotten to a point of realism that suits my overall vision it is finally time to adjust the viewers perspective. I am venturing somewhere between realism and impressionism and finally to the point of surrealism.

I am also working on poetry that suits the paintings-from this standpoint I am excited about the idea of
an inspiration being registered through words and images. I hope that landscapes can illustrate feelings and emotional responses and feelings and emotional responses can be illustrated through words.

I am in the process of getting the most recent series of twenty out to the website, I will have a new series page. I am also learning more about flash and intend on having more interactive options to the website. One of the many added options is a small but very interactive gallery, where all of the paintings on the wall you can link to either the website or a larger version of the painting. The discipline of the scripting has been very grounding for me. It's amazing how you can learn one small aspect of a program and that small aspect can lend itself to more options. Yesterday I created a skeleton of the gallery and working with flash, I was able to move the viewer through the gallery and to other scenes in the gallery, honestly it will be a while before this will be live but I am in the process of perfecting the movements and positioning of the veiwer to start.

In the studio, the twenty paintings that have gone live have been replaced with an additional fifteen paintings that are waiting to be completed or finalized. I hope to have the new page on the website before they go live on the blog so stay tuned. The water scene above is the start of the surrealistic change of perspective. Another image below is the start of several night scenes that are still in the stage of being painted.

At one point in my painting I asked the question, what do you want to express? Now that question has not only been answered but reinvented. I don't think I have ever had such purpose in my work, the paintings seem to be creating themselves and I am just there to move the colors around. I have a book full of ideas and quick sketches and the strength of the visions are getting more powerful as time allows more inspiration. I am still on a quest to perfect water and the night sky, I am still in the process and as I gain some aspects I lose others. I feel the water has adapted to more vivid and sloppy strokes of paint chosing emotion and effect over the clarity and realism of the water itself, the night sky I have gone more for the vividness of colors than the realism of the image. Many more paintings are on their way so please stay tuned. Would love to get some feedback, questions, comments and even criticisms-anything will be food for thought and help me deliver a better blog as time goes by.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A new series following a series-how does the artist keep the momentum?

I have just released twenty new paintings,  I say new but they've been hanging around waiting to be finalized for several years, now after finishing the final touches on the twenty and putting them into the blog and out on the website-still working on that. It's kind of unnerving to go back to the studio with all the remaining paintings in varying degrees of progress. How do I keep the momentum and how do I avoid cookie cutter finalizing-there are so many varied ideas in all different states.

I think the first task is discipline, just showing up and attempting to paint when there really isn't much floating around at the moment. I start one oil, put that aside do some finalizing on another and than mess with a large pastel, suddenly I am back in the process of painting. It's a state where you don't really recognize what you are working on, everything kind of blurs and you go into a zone where you know where each blob of paint goes and what needs to be highlighted and what needs to be left alone. During the process I can't really fully see what I am in the middle of-it is only after observing the image afterwards that the detail and the specifics become more apparent.

Today I reconvened a pastel of two light posts reflecting in a park pond. It is a large image and therefore hopefully a dramatic image. I am excited about the fact that the colors are just kind of flying across the page-darkness isn't black, it is reds and blues and even browns but each element of the scene must heighten the effect of the light, the colors become dark but only by touching the areas of light do they take on their final colors and the working up of the darkness is more complicated than you would think. I used to blur pastels, even using the whole palm of my hand to rub the hues but now I much prefer working up the colors slowly. I don't even mind the movement and the changes of colors that the layering effects, it adds to the depth and creates darkness that is not opaque but more transparent. The viewer sees all the colors and how they react, they  don't consciously realize the colors but the glowing of the light makes the process secondary which heightens the effect of the light. This particular image will be cold and dark with a great accent of light. I plan on doing more night scenes for this series.

Another night scene I am just starting to work on and started the underpainting today, its a view of Lake Ray Hubbard, an actual recent view with all the lights reflecting on the water. I have attempted this image  before but always tend to lose the lights and colors too much turning a night scene into more of a dark image that misses the vibrance of the colors. In this case there are several images in the scene that are lit up and stand out-one image is a steeple in the nearby town, it is a small intimate image that allows the light to tell a story and street light to illustrate a town at night. I am striving more lately to have some sort of story behind the painting, some of the stories are real and actually happened but others are more poetic snapshots of some time and place that didn't necessarily happen but the viewer has the ability to create his or her own story from the elements in the painting.

I am finishing up a second swallow image as well-it is an image of swallows and passionvine under a bridge. I am enjoying the freedom of this new series and feel the previous series is a pathway toward the work I'm doing now. If the previous series was an introduction of looking at the landscape from a different perspective and adding a story and figures of people that add to the imagery without taking away the basic element of the landscape. This new series will take up where the previous ended with  more experimentation, more blobs of color and richness of light and darkness. I have given up the safety of the landscape I know and have welcomed the idea of adding elements and perspectives I haven't explored previously.

One particular change in perspective is looking straight up a large oak tree-the blackness of the tree takes you into a cloudy sky and the sillouettes of the blackbirds fill in the image almost as if there were fingers reaching into the clouds. I want the viewer to follow the branches into the sky and almost become lost in the branches of the trees in a sense becoming a part of the tree. The blackbirds will be  haunting and dramatic against the soft cloud filled sky.

The momentum has picked back up quite quickly and I feel I have many exciting elements to explore in this new series. I can't wait to process and debut the new images, these will be more fresh and spontaneous than previous and the ideas I hope will be of recent and updated images. I will keep you posted and would love any comments on the previous images and the new ones coming up.