Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What's Your Why?

Sunrise & Cathedral
Oil on Panel - 8"x10"
60 minute landscape study

Two topics have been roaming around in my head these technical, one philosophical.  So I'll start with the philosophical question that I think all artists have to ask themselves, "What is my why?".  For me this is very important. As an artist who is trying to make it professionally there can sometimes be a lot of distractions:  sales, shows, teaching, facebook likes, blog on and so forth.  When I'm sitting at the easel I've got to let all of that go. I have to have the freedom to try something new, to experiment, to explore without regard for where it will end up or who will like it or who won't. After all, this is why I loved creating in the first place.  I've heard it said that we do everything for the Self and I can see where that is true.  Sometimes selfishness gets a bad rap, but as artists I think we are honor bound to be selfish.  To paint what only charges us up because in that we are being completely sincere - we feel so good, we indulge, we dig deep, we submit, we persevere. I believe it's those desires and feelings that resonate with a prospective viewer.  I always know when I am operating in this state because I feel right, at peace and totally engaged and connected to the world around me.  This feeling is my why.   Included in this post are studies/sketches that will never wind up in a gallery or competition, but are a necessary part of artistic growth and because of that are probably closest to my heart.    

Route 66 Farm
Oil on Panel - 12"x9" -
 60-90 minute landscape study

Now for the technical!  I had a question today about how can I paint so fast. My answer at first was: lots of bad paintings, talking to yourself and doing demonstrations while teaching. There are  a couple other ways that you can learn to paint faster and one is paint faster! Ha ha, but seriously you have to set a time 20 minutes, 60 minutes, etc.  The examples given here, I have no choice but to work fast. The model only took that pose for 20 minutes, the sun and clouds are going to totally be different in 30-60 minutes. So I automatically have to prioritize: big to little and paint with as much concentration as I can muster.  However, I think there is another aspect that will help you paint quicker and that is building your visual memory.  For instance, the painting at the top: Sunrise & Cathedral, is a site that is close to my house and I have seen the sun rising and the sun setting behind it on a regular basis. Yesterday morning, I got up before the sunrise and went and parked at this site with the intention of just watching the blessed event and do some writing. Over the next 24 hours I just kept re-visualizing the event and my brain was painting the painting without ever picking up a brush.  So when I went to paint it this morning I was more prepared.  In the other cases (when I don't have this luxury), I generally take the first seconds or minutes to paint the painting in my mind first- to see the whole thing and actually picture what the finished painting will look like. Over time, you will just get faster and better results.

 Figure studies of Tammy on Oil Paper -20 minutes each
And to wrap up, I leave you with the wise words of Kenny Rogers!

You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run
You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin'
When the dealin's done


  1. This was so helpful! Especially the part about painting with your head before your hand. I have felt like I am being lazy when I am just THINKING about a painting, instead of just going it and putting some paint on the canvas. This let me know it is OK to do that, even when someone pressures me with, "When are you going to start the ...... painting?" It will be born when the gestation is complete.

    1. I would say too FreshPaint, that your working time should always outweigh your thinking time :) Sometimes you have to paint 5 failed versions of whatever the so called painting is until you get to the one you wanted to see. It only becomes a reality when it's on the canvas.

  2. I have enjoyed your blog so far. And your paintings. Theonly thing I don't like about DPW is that your first image always shows up on their site. Sometimes we just want to blather on about what we are painting or living w/o having it go to DPW . Anyway someone will enjoy your blog I'm sure of it. BTW this is Sue

  3. Thank you Sue. I am glad that you enjoyed it.


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