Sunday, October 25, 2009

Daily Painting Practice - Can Artists Keep a Schedule? Part 2

Last week I wrote about the new work schedule I developed with the goal of becoming more productive.  After the second week of trying to work with this new routine I have to admit a few adjustments were in order. ( no surprise there!) I thought showing my process in picture form might help explain what it is I am after... Originally, I wanted to have a new painting completed each week by Sunday afternoon. I missed that goal the first week and realised it is not a realistic target for me .
However, my goal is still to work on each of the 4 stages of development daily. Devoting a scheduled amount of time each day to each stage in order to move forward towards the goal of completing one painting a week is great motivation and does yield results.  ( my days of engineering haven't washed out of me yet , I guess). 
Here are the 4 stages:

Stage 1 - Come up with an idea. The calendar sets the priority. In other words, what is the next deadline? ( Show, gallery pieces, competition, just for fun...)

Stage 2 - Complete a transfer and under painting. Develop the previous week's idea into a composition and transfer the drawing to canvas.

Stage 3 - Complete painting to 80%. (from last week's transfer).

Stage 4 - Complete the painting. (From the previous week's 80%).

Above you can see the four stages of  development. I am cheating a bit here because the waterfall painting is still not complete.  

Here is stage one completed. My new gallery in New Jersey ( the desChamps Gallery) wants five small paintings in November for a holiday show. This would be one of them.

This is the completed ( sort of ) Stage 2 Painting.

This is supposed to be Stage 3 - the 80% complete painting. Hard to say if I made 80%....maybe 59 1/2%.

This should be a Stage 4 - Completed Painting, but oops! Again, the painting I was going to have completed last week still needs work. I thought I would be discouraged after missing my self imposed deadline. But that isn't the case, because the result of my attempting to be more productive is that I am being more productive!

 Last week I recieved a few emails and several comments  with some helpful and some humorous suggestions regarding the topic of artists and schedules. Some of you mentioned the  real goal is to be happy and not to let a schedule get in the way of  the creativity. I  agree 100% . One of my favorite emails included a quote which I will share. I don't know the author of the quote  but it is my new favorite mantra to recite when I get down on myself for not producing enough.

"God left the songs unsung The pictures unpainted the flowers unplanted so that we might enjoy the world of creation"

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Daily Painting Practice - Can artists keep schedules?

I have started a new routine. Yes I know, how many new routines can one artist begin?  It's a silly question, Obviously it takes as many as  is needed until I find the one that works. 

For years I have read about artists and their routines. They vary their approach to productivity as much as they do their style of painting.  Some get up early and are at the easel painting by 6:00 AM each morning, like clock work. Others  begin  more slowly,  they ease into the day, first doing a morning sketch routine to limber up. Others work late into the night needing the world to be quiet in order to be productive. Some approach art like a nine to five job.    

I have always had a hard time with productivity. So recently my daughter helped me with a new method and work schedule that seems to be a good fit.   For me coming up with a new routine is like shopping for  new shoes. I  know what I need but can only tell if I like it if I can see it and wear it for a while.

My main goal is produce one new painting each week. ( Completed by Sunday no matter what size!)  I also needed  to organize and prioritize my compositions. My approach needs to fit a purpose. I have deadlines and commitments,  ... galleries, shows, competitions, works in a series,  large works, small works.  The business side of art demands focus..... Did I actually say that out loud?

click on image to enlarge the painting
Northwoods series Number ??
work in progress
oil on canvas

Well it's Sunday night and I was supposed to have this painting completed.  I still have more to do to it, I'm getting close...  but I missed my deadline. So here's my problem, I am sticking with my schedule and will  complete next week's painting next Sunday, but I will need to make time to finish this one also. 

One of the hardest things I am learning about being an artist is the self discipline needed to produce good work and to keep producing it. So it's one more cup of tea and back to the studio. So much art so little time!


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Daily Painting Practice - Northwoods Series continues

Our vacation to the Northwoods of Wisconsin at the end of the summer gave me a lot of reference photos and a few surprises. One of the surprises came on our first day out, this beautiful white deer.  She sat there as if she was used to paparazzi snapping photos of her all day long. She was so unafraid I probably could have  set up my paints and painted her on the spot.

Reference photos come in handy for the details needed in  my paintings. Usually my eye for composition in the photos isn't very good. The best ones have a focal point and connect me to the environment right away, but I usually end up cropping  and rearranging the scenes back in the studio.

Falls of Kaaterskill by Thomas Cole

I have been thinking lately a lot about what makes a good a focal point. What actually makes it work and  how did the master landscape artists handle the surrounding area? Thomas Cole was one of those master artists I enjoy.

In this detail, I think the surrounding composition near the focal point still makes an interesting painting all by itself.  So I started another  Northwoods painting with that idea in my head.

Here's the beginning of the under painting for the entire composition. The water leads your eye slowly to the focal point, the sunlit bunch of swamp grass just under the dark shadows of the distant trees.

So here is my idea: 
The focal point and surrounding area should stand alone as a painting within the painting.  I should use this method from now on in my mental checklist when building a composition. I don't know if this helps any of you or is such a simple idea that everybody thinks of this all the time. But I believe, that for people like me who need help building good compositions, using this idea might be an indicator of when we are on the right track. 
Happy trails!


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Daily Painting Practice- Tips for newbie plein air painters - avoiding crowds

When I paint plein air I enjoy having friends or fellow artists around me. I may not be able to walk and chew gum at the same time but I can talk and paint. However, this was not always the case. Like most artists when first venturing out to paint in public I was uncomfortable with people coming up behind me and watching. So here are a view tips I'll share with you plein air newbies.

Approach number 1:
Try concealing what you are doing.  Don't give up your personal space. keep everything close to the vest... or chest in this case.

Pick a location that normal people( people other than artists) would find hard to get to. Be ever vigilant in the woods though, hikers like to sneak up on you.

If you are in the open try looking a little... how do I put this? deranged! People keep there distance if you look like a nut job. Squint constantly. Not only will this help you control the values in your painting but it makes people uneasy and helps to keep them at a safe distance. ( wearing weird shoes helps too)

Here's a neat trick. Set up an empty easel. Pretend you are in the process of cleaning up or just staring out  at the horizon ...but actually you can be painting a small color study holding the canvas in your hand...( Artists must be creative in so many ways.)

Finally, stand in a place where they have no way to get behind you. Also dressing like a tourist  and pretending to be lost while you are sketching is a good disguise.

I hope this helps any of you who are worried about  getting out there and painting plein air. Of course you could just decide to enjoy the day and paint. One of the benefits of having people come over to check on you is....they might buy something.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Daily Painting Practice - Painting at night

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh  -
at the Museum of Modern Art  in NY.

As many of you know, one of my art heroes is Vincent Van Gogh.  His vision of a star filled night is one of my favorite paintings of all time. However, after my experience of painting at night in the Northwoods of Wisconsin I know there is no way he painted that outdoors.

This is me attempting my first ever night time plein air painting. I had the crazy idea of trying to  paint the moon over a marsh in Northern night! Our  friends up North let me borrow a head lamp like the ones people who explore caves wear. It was the only light I had and it worked great. However, I would not be alive today if they had not dressed us in mosquito proof clothes including a hat with netting. I couldn't see with the netting so I sprayed myself with  Mosquito repellent and painted like a crazy person as the hungry buggers flew in front of my face.  I apologize for the fuzzy photos but  my blog photographer /wife could not hold the camera still  with the woman eating mosquitoes attacking her.

Oh, did I mention I was standing on a narrow board walk as I painted this. If  I took a step back, it was going to be a mucky walk back to the cabin.

It took me about 10 minutes then I had to call it quits. I was so surprised, the night sky changes as much as daytime.  The star on the right of the moon is actually a planet,  I forgot which one though.
click on the picture to enlarge the image
Moon Rising 
oil on canvas board