Thursday, 15 March 2018

Paintings, Thoughts on Being a Painter and being Vulnerable

                                   The Loner, acrylic on canvas

Although I am essentially a loner, I also sometimes feel good about belonging to a tribe.  Artists are encouraged to associate with other artists, to share, discuss, encourage, promote, and I tend to find this idea at least a little bit repugnant.  I’ve always preferred to work alone, not been keen on sharing, not enjoyed hobnobbing and yet I do recognise that I sometimes enjoy the feeling of belonging as well as the pleasure of being able to discuss things with like-minded individuals.  It’s possible that one reason I don’t feel inclined to join groups is that I have a limited amount of energy and I would rather put it towards my actual creative work, though it’s also possible that is just an excuse I make to myself.

Still, for the benefit of others living with chronic illness I do want to make it clear that while I tend to write about what I am ‘doing’ I spend more time resting and sleeping than anything else.  While resting in bed I can read and write but I certainly don’t paint there.  I am too fond of my white duvet to introduce it to acrylic paints.  I am not attempting to make myself appear busy and dislike the culture of busyness in general.  It is my misfortune to be unable to work for a living but my fortune to have enough of an income and enough energy that I can dabble in my hobbies.  I work in spurts.  Often I am longing to paint but cannot manage it.  It is rare that I can paint for a full day and my maximum is probably about six hours, which I cannot do more than once in awhile. 

Here is a phrase I say and write often, 'recently I read...'  and it’s always true that recently I did read something about which I intend to bend your ear (or your eyeballs in this case)

During some resting time when I was particularly obsessed with painting but could not paint, I discovered a painter’s blog and began to binge read all that she had to say about painting.  Aside from serious blog envy, and the general feeling that if I were any good as a blogger I’d actually have a theme and stick to it, reading her blog posts and the comments left by other painters was quite enlightening and vindicating.  I may be a loner and a self-taught painter but much of what I do is similar to what other painters do.  No self-taught artist is entirely without  outside influence.  We all absorb ideas we are only partly aware of, and live in roughly the same world and are thus subject to roughly similar inspiration.  There are techniques I’ve learned, processes I have established for myself, ways of thinking about my art, which are also being used by other artists out there.  Sometimes it’s a bit disappointing to imagine you have invented something only to discover tons of others doing it too and some of them even earning money doing it.  It’s frustrating to think that my style may look similar to someone else who I had not heard of before and that it might look as though I copied it. 

Copying others has good value as practice and in some ways our own style will still come through.   Still, I would rather be unique and no doubt everyone would.  The more I look, the more I find artists who make me think ‘Damn I wish I’d painted that’ or ‘Gee Whiz I wish that were my natural style.’  (Okay, I confess I never actually say gee whiz.)  We are all influenced by the art of others as well as the things we observe in our world, and with the internet taking us to places we cannot physically go, showing us paintings and photos and offering websites that teach or describe techniques, nobody, even a self-taught artist like myself, is entirely unique and self-created. 

I have learned that I am certainly not alone in the feeling of being pleased with some of my work and the cringing certainty that my art is total crap.  I can swing back and forth between these thoughts from day to day, not to mention within one single day.  Self doubt is known to have plagued certain long dead and now famous artists who sold little or nothing in their lifetimes and who pioneered new techniques and styles in art.  I imagine supreme confidence only in those who create very realistic, photographic-like work and yet, perhaps I am wrong.  Many artists report at least periodically feeling like a fraud.

One of the reasons I share my unfinished and rough work and pieces I don’t love is because although I don’t enjoy it, I believe there is value in being vulnerable.  I’m not a big physical risk taker.  I won’t be bungee jumping anytime soon or ever.  But taking a risk, being vulnerable is what helps us to grow and helps others too.  If I share imperfect work maybe someone can learn something from it.  Maybe I can learn that I will not die ( by spontaneous combustion I suppose ) if I embarrass myself by putting something that’s not very good out in public.

And I am not always the best judge of what is or isn’t any good when it comes to my own work.  As with most things in life, it will please some and not others.  Someone will like it and someone else will not.  I don’t love every piece created by the artists I admire and I don’t love everything I create myself.  It’s difficult to get outside of my own work and see it objectively and this is difficult for all artists.  I used to think  it was some sort of defect in my ability when I left nearly finished pieces to be viewed for awhile before putting in the final touches.  I thought that it meant I was unskilled.  I’ve since learned that most artists do this.  If I leave my paintings where I can regularly see them it often comes to me suddenly that a shadow is missing, a highlight or that it would look better if some part were  different colour.  Maybe a shape needs adjusting.  Just as I discovered that I can better see how clothing looks on my body when I view a photo rather than my reflection, I find photos of my art are helpful too.  There must be some sort of sciency reason for it but I don’t know what it is.

So, after all of that rambling, yes I have some photos of the latest stuff and yes I am critical of it.  I know what I like about it and what I don't but I'll leave it for others to decide if it speaks to them.

                       Spring Garden, acrylic on canvas

                        Poppies, Acrylic on canvas board

Art Journal : exploration of techniques and styles.

                           Acrylic and Charcoal on paper

                     Autumnal Flowers,  acrylic on paper

                       Summer Flowers, acrylic on paper


  1. I love how you paint glass, and the composition of the spring painting looks very natural. And I really like the loner on the rock, in her old cosy cardigan popping out to see the sunset before the evening chores ( I may or may not have recently done this myself)!
    I don't share my poems on poetry sites because either everyone has done it and better, or they don't get it. Once I had someone who binge read them, which was gratifying.
    xo Jazzy Jack

    1. I'm not sure what's worse, not being understood or believing that others are doing it better! It's such a good feeling to create something that speaks to someone and the more someones the better, but in the end I think you are like me and you do it for yourself. I stopped sharing my poetry. Maybe I don't have the fortitude to share art and poems! I love your poems and I think you should self publish along with the photos. I will buy that book! xo

  2. I think most artists (professional or amateur) go through similar feelings. I don't use Instagram often anymore but when I did, I found lots of artists there who shared exactly the same feelings and thoughts. It is both comforting and frustrating to read how we all struggle the same way. I often feel guilty about putting so much energy, time (and some money as well) into painting. I wonder why I do it, since I don't really consider myself particularly talented.

    Back to Instagram and artist's refection I found there...Those that did realistic and hyper realistic art complained about not finding their distinct style or feeling like a fraud often enough. I must admit that I didn't see what drawing 'style' was when it came to hyper realistic painting because at first glance those things look like photographs, but the more artworks like this I saw, the more I noticed the subtle things and their 'inner struggle' started to make sense.

    At first I appreciated hyper realistic art for the obvious skill it took, but not for much more. However, now I see there is a lot of expression in it as well...hyper realistic is something I didn't try myself, but I'm considering doing it to improve my skill. I don't think I would ever be able to produce something of value that way because it is simply not something I'm naturally drawn to. But I learned to appreciate this style, if this makes sense. Sorry if this was a long digression. What I meant to say that I don't know any painter (from what I observed) that feels completely confident about what they do. Being vulnerable and constantly questioning everything seems to be an important part of being an artist.

    Feedback is tricky. We might see one thing now, and some other five minutes later, we can change our opinions often- both when it comes to our own art and the art of others. Both giving and receiving feedback can be difficult. I'm used to writing, but I'm not used to writing about art and paintings in a critical way. Curiously, I have never really done in earnest, in a way I write book reviews for example.

    Likewise, I have never tried looking for art blogs but I heard that there aren't that many of them. I have even heard that keeping a blog is bad for one's art because it uses one's creativity. The same is said for writers. Supposedly all the famous and successful writers and painters keep to themselves and don't even use social platforms and social media (though this could be disputed at least in some cases). It is what I read somewhere. I don't really have the energy to remember all the arguments in that artist vs. blogger discussion, but I might some day. It's a fascinating subject.

    The loner is a beautiful painting. I really like the texture of the rocks she is standing on and the way shades shift. The water looks 'alive', like it is moving. I like the posture of the lady, the way she looks reflective and meditative even if she has her back turned on us. The red cardigan she is wearing looks very cozy. Nice depiction of the clothes and I think that red is a good choice for her cardigan because it makes the eye go there. Lovely composition and beautiful colours.

    Spring Garden is a wonderful acrylic painting as well. What I like the most is how those green leaves in the right upper corner look like they are a green flower.

    The poppies are very lovely! I think that green background complements their vibrant redness perfectly.

    I really like the difference in tones used for paintings of different seasons, the difference between Autumnal and Spring Flowers.

  3. Thank you for all of your thoughtful comments, taking the time to think and respond. I nod my head in agreement quite a bit when I read your thoughts. I am mulling over this idea that blogging or social media gets in the way of creativity. I'm not sure I agree completely but I do think that we all have our own level of energy for everything and so we make choices on where to focus it, hopefully focusing on what is most important to us. Some people can do more than others can, some are enriched by a wider spread, others are better off to aim deeply narrow. I agree with you that it's a fascinating subject.

    I don't think of myself as a blogger. I am someone who writes on a blog because in some way it works for me. But I don't do blogging well or invest much energy into it. I just write things I am compelled to write and then post them. Sometimes with better editing than other times. LOL

    1. I think that when we think of blogging as creating something for somebody then it takes more energy than if we are creating something for ourselves. Perhaps it takes less energy if we are posting about what we are doing without overthinking it...or if blogging comes as an extension of what we are doing rather than it becoming a separate product we need to create and then present... not saying that it is a right or a wrong way to do it, but some ways are more draining than others, even if we take into account that there are different personality types and that some things always come more naturally to some than to others.


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