Hello! I’m back again — briefly — with a quick update of where I am and what I’ve been doing for the last few months. It’s been a fun year, although it hasn’t included any painting until today.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been in musician mode, spending most of my time playing classical favorites on the piano. Now, thanks to my husband, I’m also spending a bit of time each day practicing my violin. Yes, we’re both learning to play, and it’s been a fun experience.
At a recent symphony performance, violinist Stefan Jackiw was the featured guest soloist. Before the concert, I had a chance to get a little advice from him — along with an enthusiastic thumbs-up from conductor Michael Stern (son of violinist Isaac Stern.) That advice included, almost as an afterthought, an admonition to “Oh, yeah, practice every day,” and I’m pleased to say that since getting that advice, I have not missed a day of violin practice. And, yes, I’m getting a little better. I’m not quite as squawky and squeaky as I was at first.
But, this, of course, has nothing to do with visual art. It was such a fun experience, though, I had to share it.
Another thing I do each summer is re-read my favorite book from childhood. Treasure Island. In the past, I’ve shared pirate drawings, ghost ship ink drawings, and some of my attempts at creating islands and seascapes.
And, as it turns out seascapes will be the theme of our next art club meeting. So, after a long absence from my easel, the sea has called me back. While this painting isn’t completely finished, I’m sharing it here today along with a few thoughts about returning to art after my musical hiatus.
As with most of my paintings, there are some things I like, and some things I don’t like. I think it’s interesting, though, to see how my style has gone more toward impressionism. I seem to be most comfortable there. Instead of concerning myself too much with any sort of detailed realism, I’m trying to step back and view a scene as a collection of colors and shapes, lights and shadows, texture and movement.
What do I like in this yet-to-be-completed painting?
- I like the sky.
- I like the somewhat vague, almost indistinct, yet recognizable background.
- I like the overall impressionist style.
What I don’t like?
- The typical muddiness I get in my paintings. I tend to over-blend and end up with a mess of mud.
- My ocean seems to be rising up rather than gently spilling onto the sandy shore.
- Although I deliberately left a lot of thick brushstrokes in the waves, I’m not completely happy with the results.
- As always, I need more contrast. I need more light; I need more dark.
My plan is to let the painting sit on my easel for a few days and then go back and try to add those lights and darks and make other corrections.
How Did It Feel to Be Painting Again?
It felt both familiar and unfamiliar. I’ve eased my way back by thinking each day a little more about painting, by telling myself — and my husband — I’m going to start painting again, and by re-focusing my attention more on art and my role in creating it. I chose today as “The Day” to go back to my oil painting, and even though I felt a bit hesitant this morning, I gave myself a little push, took a deep breath, and started setting-up my workspace.
Getting ready to paint is probably more of a challenge than doing the actual painting. I had long since put away my brushes and paints. My medium had dried up, too. It was such a daunting task, I had to ask myself “Do I really want to do this?” But, as with practicing the violin each day, this was something I had committed to doing, so I took another deep breath, threw on my old painting shirt, and got to work.
My attitude toward painting has changed a lot in recent weeks. I no longer want to think about turning out great works of art — as though I ever truly thought I would be capable of that. Instead, I am focusing now on being the artist I am — good, not-so-good, impressionist, reflective… whatever. I can’t change who I am, and that’s true not only at a personal level, but at the creative level, too. So, I’m just going with it, painting however I paint, and not letting too many self-doubts get in the way.
Yes, I still believe that practice makes progress, and I know there’s tremendous room for improvement in my paintings. But I’m going to enjoy the process of creating art, knowing that I do have a unique style, and that nobody else sees the world — or paints the world — exactly as I do.
I do have several unfinished paintings which I intend to get back to, but for this first “re-venture” into oils, I wanted to start fresh, have fun, and play around with my paints and brushes. The last thing I wanted was to worry about making mistakes or ruining a painting in progress. I’ll have plenty of opportunity for that later!
I used a canvas that had an acrylic underpainting — swirls of different colors — and yes, you can see a few streaks in the water. That’s part of the acrylic underpainting. That’s another area I hope to address in a few days as I work to complete the painting.
One thing I know from today’s experience of getting back to my easel is that I still need to bring a little more organization — and a lot more patience — to my painting. I know how important it is for me to take my time, and especially for me to step back from the painting so that I can get a better look at it.
So, all in all, even though this new painting isn’t a masterpiece, I’m quite proud of how it’s coming along. I think I’ve been away from oil painting long enough now that I’m teachable again. What I mean is that I no longer have lots of pre-conceived notions, rules, and guidelines running through my head. I’m more willing now, I think, to start with a blank canvas in my brain as well as on the easel, more willing to experiment again, more willing to follow my instincts and intuition.
That’s what art is all about, right?