I came to painting unconventionally, with no memories of childhood painting aptitude and little painting experience outside of my elementary school art classes. I’ve always liked to draw, but my ability to render what I saw was never remarkable. Playing sports and being a good student were more my things.
There is some photographic evidence that hints of my early interest in painting, but being an artist was never part of my identity. I’m not sure what it would mean to claim that identity at age 50. Nor do I really feel I must do so, at least not any more than I’ve defined myself in other ways. Am I a painter? Someone who likes to paint? Is there really a difference?
I don’t know. I’m just curious about these sorts of things, most especially how each of us develops and claims aspects of ourselves that have been unknown or previously dormant.
Moving is tough, more so when you learn the new owners don’t want any of the remnants the last owner left behind (which in our case includes a lot of unused house paint, among other things that are costly to dispose of). After an initial meltdown, many days of exhaustion/tearfulness, and no time made for the creative things that fuel me, I turned the garage into an impromptu studio and made this painting using some of the paint to be discarded. Lemons into lemonade.
I will treasure this as a piece that holds the many wonderful memories of the house we’re leaving and symbolizes where we are heading. The surface is quite rough and highly textured (largely due to the limited paint application tools and the viscosity of house paint), but even this seems metaphorically apt.
Celebrating my 50th birthday today in the most perfect way for the day, as required – packing boxes, taking out the trash, connecting with so many of the people I love, and painting.
Before I knew anything about painting – only slightly less than I know now, mind you – I was heavy handed with the color purple. For no reason I can really remember, purple (one shade, straight from the tube – ugh!) was my go to color.
Then I learned to avoid it, along with the color red. An unconscious hedge against the inadvertent possibility of making purple, I’d guess.
Blues and greens were safer choices, certainly for the seascapes I’m so fond of capturing. The real problem was that I didn’t understand color mixing, among other things. And dark purple was a good cover for poorly considered brushstrokes and color choices that couldn’t be undone. Hmm… maybe I’m starting to understand why I used it so much!
I cringe to think about some of those paintings now, even as I also see how much I needed to make them. And I’ll almost certainly know this feeling again when I look back at my currently unrecognized shortcomings. So it is with growth, when we’re honest about where we’ve been. Hindsight and all that.
My learning curve as a painter is still on the rise, but I’d rather risk exposing flaws than continue hiding behind a limited palette. Or worse, stop sharing myself as I am.
Progress, not perfection, my friends!
This painting, with all of its transparency, shows a bit better in person. Even so, the color palette soothes me, as I hope it will you.
What do you avoid because you don’t do it well? What colors in your life need to be reclaimed?
One of the best things about making art is the essentially infinite possibilities. Not everything works and, of course, we all have preferences or definitions of a ‘good’ painting. Like most things in life, I suspect it’s important to find balance in painting, to blend technical excellence with expressiveness.
Recently I’ve been trying to stretch myself by working with more representational images, focusing on drawing skills and perspective. This older painting is a reminder for me to stay loose, to balance technical advancement with enjoyment, the reason I started painting in the first place.
Fellow painters: How much you play with different styles? What style you prefer for your own art making? Do you find that switching styles helps you progress?
The title is borrowed from a recent Yogi teabag, but is a practice I’ve been trying to embody. Only partially successful a lot of the time and well aware of my imperfections, I still aspire towards this goal. In the light of my best self I hope to find humble solace, to generate true love for others, and to move myself (and hopefully others I encounter) out of darkness.
Early lighthouse paintings
As a lover of nautical themes and lighthouse symbolism, I’ve long wanted to make a decent lighthouse painting. My first attempts, about 2 years ago, were so technically poor I’ve stayed away from painting them since. The first of the series (pictured right) was done as a small sketch to prepare for the intended bigger version. It was ok, but I had difficulty seeing beyond the imperfections.
My second effort (pictured left) was no more successful – maybe even less so – but came with a personally meaningful insight, the reason I treasure it. Made shortly after a disheartening world event, I, like many others, was searching for peace and hope. The working title for this second painting – To the Lighthouse – is also the title of my favorite Virginia Woolf novel, which added intellectual appeal. But as I worked on the painting for embarrassingly many hours considering the outcome, trying and failing to figure it out, my perspective shifted from seeking the light to being it. It almost seems silly now. After all, the idea is popular enough to be printed on a Yogi teabag tag! But at the time, it was an ‘aha!’ moment for me: You don’t need to find the light, you need to be the light! This insight unfortunately didn’t translate into making a luminous painting, but it did change me and necessitated a title change for the painting. To the Lighthouse became Beacon.
At times I feel future paintings are simmering in the background, not ready to be conceived, but still in active preparation. I’m not sure this makes sense to someone who isn’t me, but captures my experience of making the lighthouse painting shown below.
Nearly two years after the first lighthouse painting, I started by sketching lighthouses, this time using a photo model, to better understand perspective and form. That helped a lot! The first two paintings were generated from my imagined picture of a lighthouse scene, a vision equal parts primitive and inaccurate. I can see that clearly now.
The photo I used as a model for the new painting waited as an open tab on my internet browser for over a year, a long simmer! Finally, over the past weekend, I made the painting (pictured below). It’s still not perfect, but I’m happy with my progress.
After I’ve finished a painting, I not uncommonly see new things and have impulses to change it. Away from it for a day, seeing it in my mind’s eye, I decided the sky should be a darker. When I shared that idea with my husband, he protested. The sky, almost indistinguishable from the lighthouse, is what he likes best about the painting. As a lover of metaphor, there are worse things – as we spread light, we may become one with the sky. I’ve quite a ways to go, but happy to be getting closer. Thanks for joining me on the journey!