Jump!

Jump!   How that one word changed my career as an artist.

Artists love to create. It’s what drives us to express ourselves in one form or another. It’s rewarding. It’s fun. It’s challenging. So why do so few artists succeed at being …. an “Artist?”

When I started painting again it was for fun. I enjoyed the process of choosing what to paint, and the challenge of trying to turn a 2-dimensional collection of canvas and colored pigment into something that expressed feeling, captured a moment, or was just satisfying to look at. But being an “Artist”? You know, actually pursuing art as a way to support myself?  Let’s get real.

Like many, I had grown up to believe art was something you did if you didn’t want to eat regularly. Or if you could live off of your relatives. Being an artist, a musician, a writer, a poet, these are things people living on the fringe did. It just wasn’t a realistic career path. I was afraid of taking it seriously. I kept listening to all those voices that said being an artist wasn’t a real option.

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Seeing Through Others

No I am not talking about x-ray vision, although that would be cool. Instead I want to talk about how we see art and how to expand our own awareness and appreciation.

Like most people, my view and opinion of art is filtered through the lens of my experience. I have certain prejudices based on life experience, experience as an artist, and past exposure to art. When I first started painting I was heavily influenced by an early love of Claude Monet. Impressionism was my favorite form of art and many of the contemporary painters I was drawn to painted in a loose, impressionistic style. This bias was likely formed in my late teens and early twenties. I remember one of the first big museum shows I went to was at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and they were holding a Monet exhibit that included many of his Haystacks, Rouen Cathedral and other paintings. I found it fascinating and perplexing at the same time.

Many years later, long before I started painting again, I vacationed in France and was able to visit the Musee d’Orsay, Marmottan-Monet Museum, Le Orangerie, and others. Sitting in the room surrounded by Monet’s Water Lillies is quite an experience. Cézanne, Courbet, Sisley, Pissarro, Manet, Renoir, what could be better? Continue reading “Seeing Through Others”

Full Steam Ahead

New, updated website for Creative Waters Art!

My old website, and blog, was cumbersome to maintain. Recently I gave a presentation at the Essex Art League about websites for artists. In doing so I realized my own site had ground to a halt. I wasn’t posting. It was hard to navigate. Of all the things I said artists should do with their website I was only ticking off a few of the boxes.

So I rebuilt my website. It should now be easier for me to keep up to date. I have added artist comments to every painting I post. The blog should be easier to maintain.

So much has happened in the past year I want to start sharing and getting your input and feedback. So “Full Steam Ahead” to a new and improved www.creativewatersart.com. Look for me to share not only my journey as an artist and new work, but resources and ideas, and tips/things I have learned now that I am a “Gallery Manager” at the Bryan Memorial Gallery.

Thanks for sticking with me. If you have not subscribed to my blog, consider doing so. Between Facebook and my website/blog you will keep up with everything I am up to as an artist.

The Comparison Trap

After a brief visit to a couple of galleries today my wife said to me “It must be hard as an artist to be surrounded by all that art and not compare yourself to other artists.”

I work in a gallery part-time and I am surrounded by some of the best artists around, many of whom I greatly admire; Eric Tobin, Stapleton Kearns, T.M. Nicholas, Andrew Orr, Kevin Fahey, Emile Gruppe and so many others. It is a blessing and a curse. I can admire and dissect the work of other artists to try to learn how they achieve an effect or render a passage. And, I can get frustrated and wonder if I just started to late to ever achieve the same level of proficiency, to ever be “good enough” to share the same space.

She is, of course, right. It is hard not to look at other artists work and mentally wonder if I’ll ever be “that” good. I doubt there are many artists that don’t, or haven’t at some point, suffered from the same affliction. I call it “The Comparison Trap”.

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Switching to Oils (part 1)

Recently I decided to give oil paints a try. I thought it worth sharing some of my experience and frustrations with the medium. I’ve been working in acrylics exclusively the past few years. And even though I painted using oils in my late teens – that was a long time ago and I don’t remember any of it.

I haven’t actually switched to oils 100% but I want to be able to work in both mediums as the situation and mood demands. So I picked up some Windsor & Newton Water Mixable Oil paints and mediums (water mixable thinner and Liquin) and have been doing a few paintings to get a feel for them.

Coming from acrylics there are some basic things that make oils a challenge. First, the dry times. Since oils take much longer to dry, the approach to a painting has to be different. Unless you paint wet-into-wet with acrylics and use a medium or acrylic paint that stays “open” or wet longer, then you have to rethink your approach to a painting. Instead of layering and correcting colors, values, etc. all in one sitting as you can easily do with acrylics, you have to either scrape off your mistakes, wait a long time between layers, or get very good at painting thin layers that you can then carefully apply a thicker layer over in oils. The challenge is that your paint will readily mix since it stays wet. So careful planning, accurate mixing of your colors, and precise brushwork become more important when using oils.

I will probably anger some acrylic artists with this next statement, but I almost feel that working in oils forces you to be, if not a better artist, a more careful one, than working in acrylics. I know it depends on your style of painting, but in general you will want to have more control over your paint and its application when working in oils, at least working in the “alla prima” (all in one sitting) method. Certainly if you wish to develop a painting slowly over time in layers you can do that in oils, just like with acrylics but over a longer timespan. You have to develop patience. With acrylics I like that I can paint whenever I am in the zone and keep painting for as long as I want. Oils force you to take more time.

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