Oil on Panel
Mixed Media Artist Carol Sesko hosted a group critique last week at The Rock in Truckee, where she is currently exhibiting her paintings. It was my second critique with Carol, and I loved it. It's soooo helpful to be amongst creative people for a couple of hours, talking about your processes, hopes and fears, marketing, exhibitions, techniques...and so much more.
What's interesting is the diversity of our output doesn't make a spot of difference when we're discussing the emotional and practical aspects of making a career in art. We had a poet, a few painters of different styles, a couple of mixed media artists, and an illustrator.
The format went as follows: we each bring a piece of work to show the group, which we might need help or encouragement with. Each member introduces their work, and the group gives feedback. That's it. And it's great.
This blog actually helps me to organise my thoughts about my practice, more so than a private journal, because I have to consider my audience, as well as dig into my own soul to provide some sort of context to my work. I know a lot of artists don't agree with talking about the 'craft' of art, but I've found the internet to be immensely helpful in improving my technique and studio practice.
I've become especially fond of YouTube artists demos. The main thing I've learnt from that is that it's OK for a painting to go through a period of looking a bit crappy, because you work through that, and your 'ugly duckling' can become a swan if you stand back enough, evaluate your painting, correct the mistakes, be willing to wipe it down, and have faith in your ability to make it the best painting you've ever done.
Something which came up in the critique which was a relief to me (to know that others share my slightly schitzoid tendancies), was that looking at other people's work, often we go home and try out their style. If that happens often enough, it gets really confusing, and suddenly you don't know who you are any more. I wrote about that recently on this blog, illustrating it with my unmovable image of Derek Zoolander looking in the mirror going, "Who am I?"
The conclusion I've come to, is that if you're not disciplined enough to maintain your style in the face of all the other exciting styles out there, just incorperate a little tiny bit into your work, and see where that goes. You can't not have influences, we don't live in isolation from the world, history, other artists, etc., so I think if you're particularly chameleonic, (like me) the best you can do is try and stay true to yourself - having learnt from others, and absorbed the best and most relevant lessons to you, go back to the drawing board, and forget everything.
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I had one of those eureka! moments watching Finding Neverland the other night. I often get inspired by particularly 'painterly' films, like The Piano, and Girl with a Pearl Earring. This is inspired by a still from Neverland, of lovely Kate Winslett. I got my sketchbook out as soon as the film ended, excited and impatient to capture the image with seemed to be a crystallisation of what I've been restlessly striving for.
I've been struggling with this concept I have for portraits of women - they've just been coming out crap. I think I was confused about what I wanted to achieve - I wanted 'feminine' and I painted 'girly'. I want to paint something which speaks about women as people - emotionally and psychologically different from men, but also I want to capture something of the human condition, in an unspoken narrative.
I've also been stuggling with my 'style', such as it isn't. I've had this rather unappealing image of myself as Derek Zoolander standing in front of a mirror, going "Who am I?"
I want to paint loosely, and then I get all uptight because I'm all excited about ideas, and forget to let it flow. The studies came out great, nice and loose, lots of energy and clean paint - and then when I try and transfer that to the real thing...well, not good. Maybe I shouldn't do studies, I never used to. Maybe all the energy is spent after I've painted it once. I have learnt a lot though, about colours and the type of space I want to create, so all is not lost.
Anyway, I'm really happy with this Kate Winslett painting, and I think it's opened the door to a lot more. Yay!