The Artist I Want to Be

Today I’m sharing the last of four questions posed by George Allen Durkee in his book, Expressive Oil Painting.

“What do I need to become the painter I want to be?”

Of the four questions, this is the most difficult for me to answer. Why? Because I’m not sure yet who I want to be as an artist. Even after three years of exploring the arts, trying different genres, and learning to use various media, I still can’t say with certainty that I want to be this or I want to be that.

What I can do is consider my likes and my dislikes, look at my strengths and my weaknesses, and maybe then I can get some idea of where I want to go and what I want to do in this wide, wide world of art.

I love oil painting. I hate acrylics. I enjoy drawing with graphite, charcoal, and conte — with pen and ink, not so much. Although I have beautiful sets of colored pencils, I rarely use them, nor do I spend much time with my pastels. I’ve tried watercolor, and while I love watercolor paintings, I’m not a watercolor artist.

Landscapes always speak to me, but so does the human form. I enjoy doing portraits but wouldn’t care to do them all the time. I’m not good at drawing animals, and I don’t think I’d ever want to spend much time doing still life paintings. Any sort of botanical drawing is out, as is architectural drawing — although I plan to keep working on perspectives. I’m intrigued by cityscapes and definitely want to explore possibilities there. Abstract art is a complete puzzle to me, but it is fun to occasionally try doing something so different.

When it comes to color, I like subtle colors — blues, grays, pale lavenders and pinks — that evoke quiet, pensive moods. I love yellow sunlight in paintings, too. I may enjoy seeing bright, bold colors in the work of other artists, but in my own, I prefer art that whispers more than shouts. That said, I do want to work on bringing more light into my paintings.

So, who do I want to be as an artist?

Primarily I want to be a landscape artist who works in oils. I want to be an artist who captures not the mere beauty of a scene, but one who creates mood and atmosphere in a painting. I want in some way to be an artist who gives others the opportunity to see familiar scenes in new ways, an artist whose work draws people in, invites them to feel different emotions, and leaves them enriched by the experience.

At the same time, I want to be an artist who is free to try different things, one who occasionally dabbles in other media and other genres, including abstract art.

The big question, of course, is how do I become this artist? Or as Durkee asks, what do I need to become the painter I want to be?

I need practice, of course. Lots of practice. Before I can practice new techniques, however, I first need knowledge on what to do and how to do it.

I need time, too. Although I’m feeling very comfortable with oil painting, I should keep in mind that I’m still fairly new to the medium. Other than one forgettable adolescent attempt at painting, I never tried oil painting until November 2016. Yes, that was less than two years ago, and I can happily say I’ve come a long, long way since my first oil painting.

My first oil painting
My first oil painting may not be much to look at, but I loved doing it. This simple scene inspired me to keep going, to keep learning, and to keep improving my skills.

Of all the oil paintings I’ve done in the last two years, I think my favorite is this one:

River Bend

Can you see improvement? I can. This painting, River Bend, was completed about a year ago, in October, 2017. It’s now hanging in a gallery in St. Joseph, Missouri.

My favorite recent painting is probably the one of gathering storm clouds.

New Farm Scene Framed

Some of you liked it, others thought it was better without the farm scene, but either way, I like the painting. I like the storm clouds, and I like the fact that I painted this with a vision — a plan of sorts — and that I was able to put my ideas on the canvas. Not perfectly, but art, I’ve learned, isn’t about perfection.

Yes, after two years of oil painting, I am getting better, and I hope my improvement will continue. I need practice. I need knowledge. I need time.

Add to that a bit of courage, perhaps. I need to be brave enough to share my art with others, to pack up my easel and head out to paint en plein air, to attend workshops, to take part in art shows.

After three years of drawing and two years of oil painting, I can say for sure now that I am an artist. The question that remains is who I want to be as an artist. Finding that answer will probably take a lifetime.

Question Marks

Who are YOU as an artist?

Who do you WANT to be in your art?

What do you NEED to help you get there?




  1. I believe I have achieved the artist I want to be. I have been seriously at it for over 20 years and with my beautiful bride Michelle Marie Moore by my side in her current state of existence I will achieve some of my greatest pieces as time goes on.

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