Happy 2018!

View From my Studio Window

I want to wish you all a happy, creative, and productive new year!

As promised in my last post (sorry to be so long), here are some things I tell myself when working on a painting…………..

Donna’s Notes to Self While Working on a Painting 

• No judgements allowed – paint spontaneously and then respond.

• Only create work you love – pay no attention to what anyone else says of thinks.

• Who you are is found in what you love.

• Find and paint that thing that is your own.

• Explanation is the biggest obstacle to creative and personal painting.

• Creativity trumps accuracy.

• Make it ARTificial, not real.

• Don’t paint things, paint shapes, patterns, and relationships.

• Be willing (and even excited) to embrace the mistakes, missteps, and surprises that show up along the way.

• Every painting goes through an ugly adolescent stage – don’t worry, just keep going.

• A painting is always about the artist rather than the subject that inspired it.

             And, here’s one more thing I’m adding to my list in 2018…………

• Take more risks – make your paintings more controversial.

The inspiration for that last note came from a book I’ve been re-reading recently – Finding Your Personal Voice, by Dakota Mitchell – where the author recounts the advice a friend gave her that helped her move past her hesitancy to paint less realistically and more expressively: “I don’t think anyone taught Jackson Pollock to paint that way. I think you should be controversial.” I love that!

Happy Painting in 2018!

Diebenkorn’s Notes

First of all I’d like to thank Carolyn Wilson for sending this photo my way on my birthday last week. You totally made my day, Carolyn! The photo was taken at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco’s 2013 Richard Diebenkorn exhibition, “Richard Diebenkorn, the Berkeley Years”. I was teaching a workshop in Santa Rosa, CA and in one of my talks I showed this Diebenkorn (one of my favorites) as an example in one of my talks.

2013 Santa Rosa Watercolor Society Fieldtrip

Richard Diebenkorn, Seated Woman

Someone in the class mentioned that a Diebenkorn exhibition was currently up in San Francisco, and immediately it was decided that we must take a class trip to see that exhibit! And – the next morning we drove to San Francisco! We all had a wonderful time that day, and the exhibit was spectacular. Here we are at the museum….

I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to see most of the major US Diebenkorn exhibitions that have been held because, as I’ve mentioned a number of times on this blog, Dieb is one of my all time favorite artists.

I found this in the catalog from that exhibition. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Notes to myself on beginning a painting, by Richard Diebenkorn

  1. Attempt what is not certain. Certainty may or may not come later. It may then be a valuable delusion.
  2. The pretty, initial position which falls short of completeness is not to be valued – except as a stimulus for further moves.
  3. Do search. But in order to find other than what is searched for.
  4. Use and respond to the initial fresh qualities but consider them absolutely expendable.
  5. Don’t “discover” a subject – of any kind.
  6. Somehow don’t be bored – but if you must, use it in action. Use its destructive potential.
  7. Mistakes can’t be erased but they move you from your present position.
  8. Keep thinking about Polyanna.
  9. Tolerate chaos.
  10. Be careful only in a perverse way. 

Do you have specific things you say to yourself when beginning a painting? In my next post, I’ll share some of my own “notes to myself.”

Bye for now…..Donna

Following up on my 2017 Watchword

Donna Zagotta, Everyone Has a Story

It’s hard to believe, but in a little over three months the year will be over! Instead of waiting until the end of the year to assess how I did with putting my 2017 watchword, Follow Through into my art practice, I thought it would be better to do it now, while there’s still time to clarify ideas and make any necessary modifications.

Looking at the definition of follow through that I pinned to my studio bulletin board at the beginning of the year, I was reminded that following through means:

  • Completing
  • Seeing through
  • Bringing to completion
  • Bringing to the end
  • Finishing off
  • Finishing

Back in January, when 2017 was all sparkly and new, I had lots of new ideas for improving my work and for taking it to the next level. Now I realize that was really just the “wishful thinking stage” of the creative process. What I learned this year is that when I’m in that stage, it’s as if I’m in la la land! I feel like I can conquer the world….anything’s possible – I’m Super Artist after all! I become overconfident in my skills and abilities, and as a result I don’t recognize the amount of time and effort it would take to master the new skills and abilities that I might need in order to successfully bring any of those ideas to completion. So without really having thought things through, I often jump right in and before long I inevitably find myself feeling frustrated and discouraged because I wasn’t able to pull off an idea that seemed so simple and perfect when I first encountered it. More often than not, those events lead to a slippery slope that ends in abandoning my idea altogether. And the sad thing is – maybe that was the perfect new idea – the one that would have taken my work to the next level if I had just seen it on through to the end.

Reflecting on all of this recently, I decided that I really need to learn how to follow through on new ideas. One thing I know for sure is that abandoning an idea when the going gets tough creates the opposite effect of my intention, which is to move my work closer to where I’d really like it to be. I need to create a list of action steps for acquiring the skills and abilities needed in order to bring an idea to a successful completion. And more importantly, I need to take the action steps and do it until the idea is brought to a successful completion.

It’s often been said that when a goal (or an idea) isn’t working we shouldn’t change the goal, we should change the action. Creating a list of action steps and then taking those action steps is a major key to achieving goals and successfully implementing new ideas. Without the action steps, the goal (or idea) forever remains in the “wishful thinking stage” of the process.

So here’s my plan ………

  1. Put together a list of action steps that might help me express the ideas that I think may help me move my art to where I really want it to be, and at the same time acknowledging that it’s quite possible that an action step might not take me anywhere. We always have to allow for, and be ok with, the inevitable mistakes, failures, and missteps that are part of the creative process.
  2. Instead of just rattling off a list of cliché or abstract actions that I think I “should” take, go deeper and search for practical and doable actions that really stand a chance of producing successful results.
  3. Commit to choosing one action step at a time and keep working that step without judgement until it’s brought to a successful completion.
  4. Detach from results. This takes away the pressure of having to create a masterpiece every time I walk into the studio and puts learning new skills and exploring new possibilities into the category of experiments, play, and fun adventures. Fear is what often stands in the way of taking action steps – fear of making the wrong decision or choosing the wrong path, fear of failure, and the fear of disappointing ourselves. Detaching from results is a great way to by step those fears.

How are you doing with your 2017 art goals?

My painting in today’s post, Everyone has a Story, is currently part of the American Watercolor Society’s 2017 Travel Show.

Bye for now…..Donna.