Friday, October 26, 2012

A Work In Progress

Yesterday, trying to decide what I should paint next, I got into a discussion with a friend. He said that I should find a theme of painting and work on it to improve and excel in that genre. Again, the 10,000 hours to master something. I protested that all of the great artists painted a variety of things...landscapes, florals, still life, portraits. Even my beloved Van Gogh painted a very wide spectrum of subjects. However, I had to pause when he asked me to tell him without thinking what paintings of his do you remember most? I responded with "Sunflowers" and "Iris's"

There were many more, "Starry Night," his self portraits, his mother, the room he lived in, "Yellow House," but those flowers are what I remembered most. In fact I saw my first of his three "Sunflower" paintings as a child at the Portland Art Museum where I was taking art classes. That was his point. Van Gogh painted many subjects but a few stood out from the rest.

So we discussed flowers and floral subjects. He felt at this point florals were my strength. I had an ability to give flowers vibrancy, a voice so to speak. I decided in class that I would put the landscape aside for now and try to paint the plumerias in my yard.

As you can see, this is a work in progress. It is strange but I find the beginnings of paintings rather ugly. The under paintings are jarring. Odd colors colors are often used; they appear to be discordant but if you look closely at a scene, you will find a cast, a tint that somehow ties the painting together. I noticed the profusion of subtle pinks in my cactus painting and built the entire painting around that. There are many greens but pinks touch every part of the painting. Here I found an undercurrent of peach tones, in the flowers, the edges of the leaves, the surrounding color.

Using acrylics it is easy to add layer after layer building up colors without worrying about the color below. I sometimes miss the smearing around with oils but have a new appreciation for being able to go back and add a transparent layer and see if I like the effect without having to wait for it to dry and being able to quickly remove it if I don't.

I guess in many ways, we need to find the underlaying "color" of our lives. We are a work in progress and remain rough images until we begin to flesh in the details. In adding these details we flesh out a our lives just as we would a painting. It is these colors, shadings, nuances of color that flesh out and complete the whole.

The same can be said for an artist. A good artist is always a work in progress. Each creation is an attempt to create an iconic image of the world. Create something we love or hate; the hate being a symbol of something amiss with the inherit beauty of the world, the love being the beauty, something we appreciate and want to share with others.

Art is never in a void. Much art is created every day. Yet of all the art in the world, there remain those pieces that move us, if not sometimes to tears by the shear beauty of what they represent.

I was able to hear Steve Wozniak the other day, the co-founder with Steve Jobs of Apple Computer. He urged the audience to never give up. Do what your heart wants to do. This from a man who in many ways singlehandedly created the computer that revolutionized the world. He was saying again what Joseph Campbell said in his books about the myths of man, "Follow your bliss."


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