As I sit in my studio writing today’s post I am surrounded by messes. These messes can be seen in the rest of the house as well – the dining room, kitchen, and family room (no messes in the bathroom, though). Oh – but this time the messes are GOOD MESSES! They are evidence and confirmation of goals achieved and a dream come true. I sit surrounded by 20 framed paintings awaiting hanging wire to be attached by my studio assistant (AKA my husband). This is my Out and About series, 20 paintings that will be on exhibition starting Friday.
I started my Out and About series at the same time I started this blog – February 2009. I even talked about it in my very first blog post ever! It’s very exciting and satisfying for me to see something that existed only in my imagination 2 years ago actually surrounding me today. This series is the first extended series I’ve done where I began with a list of parameters that I set in advance with the goal of making my art more personally satisfying. In creating this series I learned a great deal about my art ideas and philosophies, and also about myself.
Many of us are searching for that magic bullet – that “secret to successful painting.” I’ve learned that the only secret to creating the kind of paintings that appeal to us is to paint all the time. I’ve also learned that while that sounds very simple, it is not at all easy. Balancing painting with the rest of life is a huge challenge that must be acknowledged and addressed. Waiting for large chunks of time doesn’t work. Life these days is too busy, too complex, too full! I’m learning to work with life as it is, rather than wait for life to be the way I’d like it to be. I have a very full teaching schedule and a house and a family – all of which I love dearly, so I’m working on finding ways to keep myself connected to my work and progressing as an artist in the midst of it all.
Working in a series helped in so many ways. First of all, I didn’t have to worry about what to paint when I walked into the studio each day. Secondly, getting more and more familiar with my subject as the series moved forward freed me to tackle my goals for improving my work because I knew I would be able to work on my drawing, painting, seeing, content, design, style, and technique goals in many paintings rather than in my next painting, I felt more relaxed and joyful as I painted. Eventually a natural rhythm developed where one painting led logically to the next because I learned what I should be working on in the next painting from the painting I had worked on last. The result is a cohesive body of work that I love, and I look forward to seeing where it leads me next.
Working in a series can help you find your personal style and your personal art philosophy. It can also help you clarify your ideas, identify your strengths and weaknesses while providing a safe place to grow both your strengths and weakness. Series work increases your confidence, unearths your imagination, helps you discover who you are as an artist!
Above is the invitation for my upcoming exhibition – I wish you could all join me next Sunday! I’m hoping to get some photos to share with you in my next post.
I’m excited to say that my painting in today’s post, Look Both Ways will be included in the 2010 National Watercolor Society Exhibition that opens later this month in San Pedro, California. It was a breakthrough painting for me, it’s one of my favorites, and I am so thrilled that the jurors liked it too!
In his book Do More Great Work, Michael Stanier writes, “There’s a basic pattern, a rhythm, to the creative process, a backbeat driving the emergence of ideas:
You open up, expand possibilities, and have ideas (out, expand, diverge, create). Then you narrow your focus, close down options, and make a choice (in, contract, converge, select). And repeat.”
Half the battle of improving our work and getting it closer to where we really want it to be is knowing what we want. I find it extremely helpful to sit down with my art journal and get my “wants” into specifics. I make lists of the ideas and elements I want to add to my work, and then I search for ways to implement them. The second list of “ways” is actually more important than the first list of “wants” because the items on that list will often be outside of our current areas of expertise and therefore will require learning something new, trial and error experiments, failing, leaving behind old habits, and starting from square one again. While it sounds simple, it’s not easy. But, it is the secret to doing more great work!