Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Showing Up with Paint

Peonies in a French Vase, © 2011, oil on canvas, 12" x 12"

"Are you willing to show up with your paint and just 'be' with whatever happens?" a coach once asked me years ago when I was feeling in something of a slump with my painting. I had internalized someone else's negative opinions about my paintings, handing over all authority (and responsibility) for my art-making in the process. I very nearly stopped trying to paint at all, but a deeper, braver, art-ward part of me wouldn't let me.

Mostly I had gotten stuck because I was afraid. Afraid of what? you might logically wonder. Some sort of blob of largely unchallenged fear.

Afraid of doing "bad" work (determined by whom?), afraid of not really trusting myself and painting in a straightjacket, afraid of not liking my own work, afraid of succeeding and failing, both--perhaps even at the same time!

But I at least knew I was willing to show up with my paint (and brushes, etc.) and just "be" with whatever happened. And I found that the more I did that, the less I worried, and the more I wanted to keep painting.

Writers and writing coaches often speak of the virtue of "just showing up"--of making a practice of showing up at your desk (or wherever you prefer to write) every day and writing something. Not waiting to be inspired. Not waiting until the stars seemed perfectly aligned and every other issue has been resolved.

And the same seems to hold true for painting as well (and, I imagine, for just about every kind of creative endeavor). 

These days I've been showing up with my paint several times a week, and it's amazing how many more paintings I have to show for it! (Of course it helps that many of them are smaller canvases, too.)

The image above is one of them. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

In the Garden with Paint

In the Garden, © 2011, oil on canvas

I delivered this painting yesterday to the Yarmouth Frame Shop and Gallery, just in time for their next show, "Dog Days of Summer," that opens Saturday, August 6. If you happen to be near Yarmouth, Maine on Saturday, come by (720 Route One) the Gallery for an opening reception from 4 to 7 pm. The show features work by thirty artists, so there's plenty of variety!

This painting started as a drawing back in June when the irises and peonies were in full bloom. I sat on our front steps just a few feet from the garden bed and drew several quick sketches. Here are two of the sketches:

graphite on paper, © 2011

graphite on paper, © 2011

It's pretty obviously that lines, shapes, and patterns of lines dominate my sketches (rather than worrying about shading, perspective, or creating the illusion of volume, for example). Contour drawings--following the edges of things--sometimes even without looking at the paper, are almost an every-day practice for me. I love "watching what happens" in the process of creating new patterns on the surface of the paper.

I've been trying to pay closer attention to my drawing-and-painting process, because I've been teaching a class at Artascope Studios in South Portland. Being able to understand and then to communicate my process to others has become more important! It is both challenging and very engaging.

As people often say, if you really want to know how to do something, teach it to someone else!