Like most people I am either in my comfort zone or in a rut, depending on the day, I guess.
My painting life is my comfort zone even when I am hating the image on the canvas and finally gesso the whole thing to start again from scratch. Which begins my story.
My rut is that I am redoing old themes because my brain cannot conjure up something new and exciting. Then I think maybe I can reinvent these old ideas with new techniques. To that end, I recently started using old spatulas from the kitchen. They look like brushes of any size but are made of silicone with an edge that allows you to smear paint around or draw lines by -duh- scraping through wet paint to reveal the color of the previous layer. Like I said – a new technique for me – but one I am not sure I have the desire to master. I bought one and then took an old one from the kitchen and cut it off to make it less supple. My brain fights the idea that these are used to scrape paint around. They are not brushes that hold pigment.
In thinking about the act of painting, one thing I do is try to evaluate whatever it is that may be holding me back. I know I am very frugal about my paints. This has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with growing up with very little extra cash and, even now, being emotionally unable to start a painting session with ample pigment. However, I know I need to squirt out a lot to achieve my goal of not destroying my rhythm by looking for the right tube or jar of paint. I finally covered my enlarged board under my easel with plastic drop cloth material and used it as my large palette. Since I have the paints, I store them in airtight plastic craft containers, and I can scrape excess paint back into the containers. I never throw paint away. And I have more freedom. Doing this works for me.
But back to rethinking my painting life.
I made a difficult decision today. I am not entering the Virginia Watercolor Society (VWS) show. Yes, not a misprint. I joined VWS after evolving away from watercolor years ago. I wanted to take their workshop led by an old friend that involves non-representational art. I wanted to perhaps learn new ways to be less realistic and more abstract or non-objective without losing the realism. I see faces in clouds and that is never going to change.
The show requires work to be in water-based media on paper framed under plexiglass. Everyone knows my story of quitting watercolor because my husband and chief supporter finally drew a line about the schlepping of heavy pieces framed and under glass. I have gradually been using up much of my collection of frames and glass and paper, swearing I was done with it. And adding a vow to limit my work to gallery wrap canvas (the canvas is on deeper stretcher bars and the staples are on the back so as to not be visible when hung without a frame.) Yet here I was with an immediate deadline thinking about painting 3 submissions on paper and framed. I even found some watercolor paper that had been painted then gessoed with lots of layers. Most of us acrylic painters occasionally do this but I am sure most of them agree that the surface becomes “plastic-y” plastic that fights the brush unless lots of water or medium is added. Otherwise, it resists you, fights you until you give up.
Rebirth of an Old Painting Subject Theme
I gave rebirth to an old subject theme spending several days recreating my cave ladies but finally saying enough.
The real revelation was that I am no longer willing to do participate in competitive art events.
I love to exhibit my art, show it to people, and sell it, but I am not interested in taking careful photos and abiding by the more and more complex guidelines to allow online accessibility, being judged, wondering if I will be accepted, framing art, hauling it to drop-off and picking it up again, etc.
I want to challenge myself, seek out new ways of painting and hopefully new themes or subject matter but I will do it independently. Fortunately, my family business is in a huge office, and I am the art director! I have new people and previous clients seeing my work. I can hang and remove at my art at will. I can even schedule clients to see much of my stuff in one place. What’s not to like?
Below are 2 works in progress in my painting life. The first is my cave women playing their musical instruments. Obviously modern day but hey it is my painting.
In the second they are artists drawing bison.