I wonder if it’s good to make paintings incomplete in this way - without the star of the show. What if the star of the show is a sort of emptiness? What if a painting is an empty bowl for the viewer to fill however one sees fit?Read More
So I did something I do very rarely and worked from mind and memory. I mixed my colors thinking about the sunlight and the abstract impact of the light on the architecture of the playground. I used the first draft of the painting as a map and made a value structure that felt more convincing to me.Read More
Mountains before they have turned green- I love that time of year. This picture was made standing behind the South County Library in Roanoke VA. I set up by the staff entrance- they have a great view! The trees had not leafed yet, but the grass was a beautiful yellow green and some of the trees were full of white blossoms. Everything about that day felt like the quiet before the boom of spring. The sky was a white light blue and so big. There were two vans parked near where I stood. The way the sun shone on their roofs looked so peaceful and still. When I look at this image I’m reminded of fish sleeping lazily on the bottom of a riverbed in the noon-day sun.
While I was working a woman arrived before her shift and she sat near me eating a meal, looking at the mountains and catching up with a friend on the phone. It was so sweet sharing that bit of private life with her watching the mountains and the sun. I love this picture- for its stillness, quietness, and vast sense of privacy.
It was a Wednesday morning. I remember it because May and my Mom went to the local library for Book Bugs. For some reason I couldn’t drive my car so my Mom dropped me off that this park down the street from the library. I never knew the park existed because it was so well hidden from the road.
I love how a place unfolds its secrets over time. As I slowly explore Roanoke I’m finding so many beautiful pockets- like this park!
So I set up under the pavilion with my easel on a picnic table (the leg on my french easel had snapped the day before so I used the picnic table as a support.) A few families were enjoying the playground nearby and the weather was strange. It was sunny and also sort of misty. It was hot and humid but still fresh- it seemed all the leaves on the trees had been born and were growing from yellow green to a bold green color.
I looked around to see what might turn into a painting. In the distance I saw a couple of warehouses and some equipment. One of the buildings was a lovely dark turquoise and the another a dark red brick color. They faced each other and beyond the two buildings was a white warehouse. The arrangement in space looked very abstract me- a block of blue, white and red sat in space in a row surrounded by green and enveloped in sunny misty air.
I kept thinking about what artist Ken Kewley says- paint what you love because the love comes through. So I selected the shapes in space that spoke to me one at a time and built a fiction. The picture is very small and almost square - less than 5 inches on one side. When I look at the picture I’m reminded of home and hidden spaces in the visual world and hidden spaces in the mind.
Before going to have Easter meal with my family I had a few hours to paint. I went to Lakewood park and watched the sunshine dance across the field. At the end of the field there was a road and a shopping center. It appeared as though the center was closed for Easter Sunday and the pink bricks of the building looked a soft mauve purple against the brilliant sunlight.
The holiday got me thinking about narrative. The building reminded me of the tomb- a restful sleepy sort of closed box waiting to be open for business by the next day. There was an exciting expectant sort of waiting about that spring day. It’s a feeling I always attribute to that holiday.
I grew up in the Episcopal church. One of its traditions is that no one says Hallelujah during the forty days of lent before Easter. On Easter Sunday everyone seems extra happy to say Hallelujah like they were holding their breath not saying it for forty days. The tradition reminds me of spring. The earth is holding its breath in winter for life to begin anew in the springtime.
Easter 2019 was one of those days where the clouds skated across the sky so that one moment the grass would look a dusty green purple and the the next it would be a shining soft yellow green. The leaves on the trees were new so when the sunlight hit them the trees looked as if they were glowing. Cars zoomed by me on my right and the wind picked up as the day grew long. It was a beautiful day.
The picture is overwhelmingly green. When I fist look at it I see mostly a rectangle of dusty green. But as I look into it the plants start particularizing themselvesRead More
My favorite part about that house was the light that came in the windows. Because of all the trees and the humidity in the air, the light in the house was a minty warm green color. It was almost like living on the floor of a rain forest.Read More
I love the order one can find in a subconscious mess. I’m talking about the kind of mess where you didn’t hang up your coat when you got home because you were just too tired. I wonder if there are some secrets (music of the spheres?) hidden in these messes.Read More
Have you ever found that you had to forget what you know in order to see what you’re working on?Read More
Words from Stuart Shils on hearing your own voice.Read More
What do you do when you don’t know what to do next? I think of what I learned from artists Ken Kewley, Stuart Shils, and Israel Hershberg.Read More
...my difficult picture is a gift. If it looked pretty throughout the whole process there would be an absence of struggle. The picture is a gift because it is asking me to wrestle with it.Read More
No I don’t mean I stick a paint brush between my toes (though that IS on my to do list)- I mean I paint with my feet in the same way I paint with my eyes.
Let me explain.
I’m a huge Yoga with Adriene fan. She has a YouTube channel where she releases a free yoga practice once a week. I’ve been practicing with her most days for the last five years. So as I’m painting at my easel I sometimes think about my yoga practice of the day and how it might inform my painting practice. Here’s where the feet come in:
In yoga practice Adriene says to be conscious of all four corners of your feet on the floor. When I’m standing at the easel I think about standing this way activated and aware. My soles and heels are what are physically tying me to the motif. My feet and the motif are both touching the same ground. The motif and I share the same foundation. So I like to think that if I work to be aware of them, my feet can interpret the motif as much as my eyes.
I think that feet can read the energy or “vibe” of a place. What role does the vibe of a motif play in a work of art? To me the vibe is the unseen livingness connecting all things together. The vibe is the mysterious music between colors and forms. The vibe is the language a scene speaks when it says “paint me! See me!”
When Adriene begins and ends her practice she brings her hands together at the heart and then raises her thumbs to her third eye and with a little nod she says she is bowing the mind intelligence to the body intelligence. How does this attitude translate to a painting practice? I think it could mean that the awareness required in painting can extend beyond the head and hand and into the whole body.
When I studied in Italy in Israel Hershberg’s masterclass I was happy to meet lots of other artists who also practiced yoga. There seems to be an interesting connection here. Readers, do you paint? Are you yogis? Are you both? How do you think the two practices might be related? Leave a comment below!
I’m a painter. And like most painters I know, I sometimes find myself in an anxious, dark place that is the creative block. I find I’d rather do anything else or even nothing else than sit in front of my easel. I have had to work out a strategy for getting through those times, for getting from being stuck to getting into the flow, from being distracted to getting into the zone.
When I don’t feel like painting, the first thing I do is focus on setting up:
• I walk into my studio.
• Pick a project to work on.
• Set up my easel, glass palette, paint box and chair.
• Then I sit down and study my project.
One thing calls out to me and then 100 a hundred things call out for attention. It’s easy to then become overwhelmed at this point. This is the most important step in getting unstuck. I remind myself I can only mix one color at a time. I go back to the first color that I observe in nature—the one that jumps out at me and I focus on mixing that one color, Then I try to focus on making that one color exactly right.
This requires staying present in that one task. It’s not easy. I’m inclined to allow my mind to drift towards other tasks that need doing. But if I can stay razor edge focused on that one first color, things happen. A nice steady pace sets in and tends to keep me going for the rest of my studio time.
Again, I start with my first best guess of what that first color is. Then I look at nature and back at the color I just mixed. I ask the color I just mixed: “What do you need?” over and over again until the color replies, “ I don’t need anything!”, and it starts to sing with the colors around it. I suspect you know that feeling, when things just start to resonate on the canvas.
This is my preferred flow state. To get to this point I periodically close my eyes and take five breaths—thinking only about those breaths. This works as a sort of reset button to clear the cache, quiet the noise, and pick one color.
Artist Chris Gallego offers more tips for getting in the zone: https://www.chrisgallego.com/how-to-paint-when-its-the-last-thing-in-the-world-you-feel-like-doing/
I hope this helps! If you have any tips for overcoming a creative block, leave a note in the comments below.