Knowing When to STOP! (and when not to)

I was reminded tonight, while watching a time-lapse painting on youtube by  fellow artist Brandon Schaefer, of a problem I have been having recently, and often have. I suspect its one shared by many who start to explore art in its various forms.

When am I done, when do I stop?

Every now and then I work on a piece and it all seems to come together and I know just when to stop. But sometimes, I just can’t seem to find the finish line. There is always something that needs adjusting, repainting or rethinking.

While watching Brandon do his latest piece I noticed he repainted the water, the sky, the mountains in the background, and other elements multiple times as he progressed. And he has painted many hundreds of paintings and has been posting on youtube for 3 years (or so!). The painting came out great. It was comforting to see.

My latest piece, which I am calling “Big Red” I repainted so many times I lost count. And each time it made me feel so helpless and inadequate. If I was ‘good enough’ and knew what I was doing I surely would have gotten it right from the start! No? Continue reading “Knowing When to STOP! (and when not to)”

Permission To Play

I think every artist, whether just starting out or a seasoned pro, struggles with the urge to make every effort something they can be proud of, hang on a wall, or possibly sell. Its hard to spend limited time and effort and not have expectations.

However I have yet to meet an artist who if asked why they became an artist their response would be “to get rich”. Most of us explore our art because we have something inside that we need to express. Art, in its many forms, is fun. Creating things that elicit a response, within us or others, brings satisfaction. It’s easy to lose sight of this when confronted with limited time to pursue art. The creative process needs to be fun, and I’ve met many artists who found the most success with the work they did for themselves. Stuff that they didn’t think would appeal to others conveyed greater emotion and lead to greater success, in sales or commissions, than the stuff created for that purpose.

So its good to remember to give ourselves permission to have fun. Paint something new, try a new technique, and remove all expectations that the result will be worthy of anything more than painting over. Better yet, enter into it expecting to not be happy with the result. The goal is to play.

Last night I wanted to try doing a sky like I had seen done by a painter I admire by the name of Jan Blencowe. Her youtube video got me excited to try a scumbled sky, with more color and less definition than I am used to. So I grabbed an old canvas that I had experimented with painting clouds, and started painting over it. I decided to just do the top and see how it went. Continue reading “Permission To Play”

Inspirational Day

Today was one of those days that you remember. A day that was full of moments you want to capture, and … to paint. It was a beautiful winter day, not too cold, bright sunshine, and great snow cover. Everywhere I turned there was something to make me say “Look at that!”

Luckily I had my camera with me.

Now I live in Vermont, which is one of the most beautiful and inspirational places you can imagine. I get inspiration, literally out my back yard, or in the woods behind my house. I find inspiration within minutes drive from here, at Indian Brook Reservoir or Mills River Park, or the roads around Jericho and Underhill with their magnificent views of Mount Mansfield. So there is seldom a day that goes by that I can’t find or see something that makes me wish I had my camera, or paint brushes.

Today stands out as different.

To begin, the day was already off to a great start as I was delivering a painting, “Winter Birch Forest I, with Chickadees” to its new owners. Wonderful people!  And delivering a replacement painting (“Winter Birch Forest II“) to hang where this one came down, at the Mad River Barn Inn & Restaurant in Waitsfield. So already it was a good day.

Barn on the River viewed through the trees. Looks like a painting waiting to happen to me!
Barn on the River viewed through the trees. Looks like a painting waiting to happen to me!

Waitsfield and Warren, in Vermont’s Mad River Valley, are some of the most inspirational towns I know. And I hardly know them. There are barns, and fields, fences and trees, and streams and rivers, and mountains, and… well, you get the picture. I have had my eye on a couple of barns along route 100 for a while now as possible paintings. I’ve taken pictures in the past, for reference, but never in good light/weather. So today was a perfect day to visit them again and get better photos.

Continue reading “Inspirational Day”

Winter Birch Forest Series

My first Winter Birch Forest Painting sold almost immediately. It has gotten more feedback than any painting I have done so far, and it was painted to specific requirements of the interior designer for the space it was to hang. So when it sold, I knew I had to expand the series and do a new Winter Birch Forest painting. Ultimately I plan to do a “Birch Forest” series encompassing multiple paintings in all four seasons. I really enjoy conceptualizing these birch forests, and choosing the birds to put in them. The choices are usually influenced by the birds I have been observing out my window the days prior to painting, and this time our resident downy woodpecker has been making the rounds.

I filmed the painting of both of these paintings and with some luck will be putting up a time-lapse video of the first of these on YouTube soon for those who would like to see how I approach these. Its possible I will do a short teal-time demonstration of how I paint the birch trunks with a little more detail. Its my goal to share how I learn and paint with anyone who is interested, as that is how I learn myself.

This painting is 16″ x 40″ x 2″ and the painting extends around the edges. It is currently on display at the Mad River Barn Inn and Restaurant in Waitsfield Vermont for anyone passing through.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed painting it!

Getting Started

I thought one of my first posts should be about how I got started, or re-started, painting. And what that experience has been like.

If you read my “about” page you’ll get a good summary of how I painted for a while in high school, and held an interest in art for the next 30 years without painting much at all. In the last couple of years however I started painting again. And the experience has been both rewarding and challenging.

The challenging part comes from a variety of sources. First being learning to paint in acrylics.

I chose acrylics over oils, which is what I painted with in high school, primarily because my first painting had to be done, and dried, quickly in order to be ready on time as a surprise gift for my wife. However I may have chosen acrylics over oils anyway because I like the idea of them drying quickly, and not having to use turpentine and other solvents.  I was not ready for the difference fast drying time would make for things like blending and reworking the painting. I like the idea of being able to paint over mistakes, but sometimes I think it would be easier if I could scrape off and blend my mistakes instead of having to paint over them. And not having the extra time to work the paint can be quite the challenge.

Challenge number 2. While I took some lessons in high school I either did not learn much or forgot everything. So I had to learn all over again. How does one go about learning to paint without finding a teacher or class, and spending lots of dollars and time wasted between lessons? You Tube of course. That and the internet in general. But a quick search on You Tube and all of a sudden there were all these free resources to get me started! Yay!

Of course free is what you pay for it. There is a lot out there and one artist disagrees with another about what is right and how to go about painting. So you have to sort of be careful and look at a lot of material to see what might be of value and what won’t. And, and this is a big “and” you need to be careful that you are not just copying what others a doing and not learning your own way of painting.

Continue reading “Getting Started”