Tag Archives: making art

Evolution of a painting

Yesterday was a day of uninterrupted studio time, and I was able to work on this piece…..a 30″X40″ acrylic/colored pencil painting. I have been documenting (loosely) the evolution of this piece on one of my “PAINTINGS” pages.  This is a “follow the painting” painting.  I begin with a general idea, and then keep adding, subtracting, adjusting. My initial idea is now only a memory, as the painting has led me in a different direction.  This is the exciting part of the process…..I really don’t know what the final result will be, or when it will be completed. (Hopefully before the show I am preparing it for, which is in November)

This is where I stopped yesterday (it was time to relax by the river and enjoy a glass of wine.)


There are many fears that plague the artist, but the most debilitating is the fear of failure.  Much of this type of fear can be traced back to that kindergarten teacher telling you that you were wrong when you painted the sky green instead of blue.  More goes back to the belief that there are “rules” for making art.  Still more comes from the mistaken belief that a good artist, an artist with true talent, doesn’t ever make any bad art.

The only way around this problem is to recognize these 2 realities:

1. When it comes to making art, THERE ARE NO RULES and THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG involved.

How can this be? How about all the Principles of Design? What about balanced compositions and complementary color schemes and the rules of perspective? They are all observations/suggestions/considerations/ideas that are good to be aware of and will sometimes come into play as you create, but THEY ARE NOT HARD AND FAST RULES. Name any design principle, and I will show you a dozen pieces that successfully defy that principle.

So if there are no rules, if there is no right or wrong, how can you fail?  Easily.  By making art that does not please your own sense of what is good art.   I will discuss this issue in upcoming posts, but simply put, you need to determine what it is that YOU find pleasing/compelling/meaningful in art.

2. Every artist…..EVERY ARTIST….makes some bad art.  Every artist has failures, and in reality each failure adds to your body of experiences. You learn from every failure.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, in order to become a good artist you need to do hundreds of paintings (or drawings or whatever), many of which will be failures.  The secret (one of the few art secrets there are) is to avoid the inclination to get angry at yourself when you fail, or to berate yourself for your lack of talent, but rather to consider why you feel the piece is a failure and to file that information in your mental file of art experiences. I also get around the issue of feeling that I have wasted materials by saving and either repainting or repurposing every failed piece. (Fortunately, I have a lot of storage space in my studio.)

What I am saying is this: Get out there and just make art. Don’t be such a baby…..so what if you fail? Get a big trash can for your studio.

If you won’t believe me, consider the words of these three great philosophers:

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.     George Bernard Shaw

A man’s errors are his portals of discovery.       James Joyce

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.      Wayne Gretzky


I will not……

Words of wisdom from John Baldessari

New paintings

Yesterday was one of those particularly exhilarating days in the studio……a day to begin new paintings. I always work on more than one piece at a time (to allow for drying times, thinking time, using up left-over cups of paint, to be able to try out an inspiration that comes to me while working on one painting to another piece), and I am ready to add to the MINDSCAPE series and begin a new series of small river-related canvasses, title to be determined. 16 new beginnings, no rules (except for the size constraints), no specific plans other that to experiment and play with the textures and the colors. I crank up the music and do my best to keep my mind open to what is happening on the canvasses, confident that I will be able to move forward  to a successful conclusion with each piece.  I already know, based on past experience, that some will coalesce fairly quickly, and some will develop in a somewhat  orderly manner, step by step, and that some will be real, frustrating struggles.  Yes, I am interested in the destination, but to me the real joy is in the journey.

“You should have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague one. If you know exactly what you are going to do, what’s the good of doing it? Since you know, the exercise is pointless. It is better to do something else.”   Pablo Picasso

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