Starting Points

Thinking of art as a journey necessarily implies a few travel-related questions about destinations, roads traveled, and places to see. My personal art journey has often been more like wandering — with no real idea of where I was going or what I might discover when I got there.

I still feel lost a lot of the time, I’ve experienced my share of bumpy roads, and on occasion I’ve run right into barriers blocking my way.

Road WorkAt the moment, I think my pathway might best be described as “road work ahead” because a lot of new things are under construction in my art.

After three years of drawing and two years of painting, I’ve almost figured out where I want to go. Although I love many things in art — figure drawing, portraiture, graphite, charcoal, conte — I’m happiest when I’m at my easel painting landscapes.

Landscapes speak to me in ways no other art genre does. Landscapes often take me back to childhood, to places I’ve been, to summer days, crisp autumn afternoons, and cold winter mornings. I love the moods evoked by lights and shadows. I love how different colors provoke different feelings. I hope as I improve, my own artwork will reflect these qualities more and more.

Where I’ve been indecisive has been in knowing how far I want to go toward impressionism. I’ve traveled along the road, stopping here and there to see the scenery, and I’ve also plunged forward past the point of any reason or logic in my painting. I have a better idea now of where I want to be, but like impressionist painting itself, that place feels a bit uncertain.

And so, my destination remains unknown, and that’s all right. What’s more important for me is having a good starting point.

Oh, do I love creating starting points on my canvases! I’ve come to see each painting now as a journey in itself, a chance for me to go somewhere imaginative, to follow pathways of my own choosing, to explore different possibilities in shapes, colors, lights, and shadows.

What I’m working on now — or perhaps I should say playing with — are techniques for:

  • Creating soft edges for a misty, hazy effect
  • Blending colors smoothly
  • Adding texture with brushstrokes or other tools
  • Using color to bring a painting together
  • Adding lights and shadows

Yet the fun really begins long before I give any thought to what particular scene I will paint. I’m approaching my paintings now in an experimental vein of starting with shapes and colors, stepping back to see what they are saying to me, and then picking up my brushes to create what I’ve imagined. It’s my own dream-like process, and it’s proving to be interesting.

Here are a few canvases that will be starting points for future paintings.

Starting Point BlobThis was my second attempt at just putting blobs of acrylic colors on a canvas panel. I started with a brown — very watered down — and then added an orange and let it mix in a bit.

Here I can imagine a huge wolf standing at the edge of a deep, dark forest. Of course, I won’t try painting a wolf — I still can’t draw them —  but I will have fun turning this into a landscape scene.

Start 3.I got a bit bolder with this one using yellow and brown. I have no idea what this will ever become, but I can sense a lot of rocky ledges and a waterfall.

Or maybe it will turn out to be something entirely different.

Before I begin to paint this — or any other canvas — I will turn it this way and that, looking at it from different directions.

Who knows what I’ll see!

I do know that not every starting point will take me to a successful painting — I’ve learned that lesson already — but I’m enjoying the sense of freedom I find from this approach. It’s one more part of my journey, one of many pathways to explore. Besides which, it’s a lot of fun, and right now, that’s what I need most of all in my art.


  1. You’re painting the way a good painter paints, inspiration from the canvas started or not. The canvases here could go any direction. I saw colors of Degas in the first one, the second has so many options. Follow you gut and when it tells you to paint something else you’ll change. 🙂

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