Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tough Night in the Hen House, 5x7, ugly roosters, hung-over roosters, big, ugly cocks with feathers, bad hair day

"Tough Night in the Hen House", 7x5, oil on linen panel

This rooster's appearance epitomizes the way I felt yesterday. Tough Night in the Hen House actually equates to Tough Day in the Art Studio because that's pretty much the way it's been going for me lately, and for quite some time.

One of my issues is that I am struggling to find myself again. As of last month I have been officially painting for four whole years! My four year journey into painting has been accompanied by many joys and successes overall. On the other hand, the amount of frustration has been rather agonizing for me, a perfectionist, and yesterday was a culmination of about six to eight months of misery.

Yes, over the past 8 months I have had some nice success with awards and shows- being juried into The American Impressionist Society this past summer was a huge accomplishment for me, and one that I am proud of. Recently one of my paintings was also juried into Paint America, Top 100, another prestigious competition and little feather in my cap to be proud of. There have been smaller successes as well, like merit awards at local shows and a couple second and third place ribbons as well. But do any of these things tell me that I am actually GROWING as an artist? Not really.

I recently took a workshop with acclaimed artist and teacher David Leffel. I enjoyed the workshop tremendously but was left wondering which direction I should follow in terms of overall style and technique. I frankly do not like representational realism at all- as beautiful as it can be, I find it frankly boring in terms of passion and overall expression. Please do not get me wrong- I have the utmost respect for painters of realism and can only imagine how many hours they have put into honing their drawing skills and brushwork in order to achieve such realistic-looking subjects. I consider Leffel to be more of an abstract realist whose objects are painted with an intrigue and mystery that superceeds the boredom that I usually feel when looking at a perfectly rendered still life or portrait. That is why I wanted to take his workshop in the first place.

ON the other hand, after taking it, I realize that it would be very hard for me to go in that direction, even if I were willing to take the time to hone my drawing skills and learn the ins and outs of a much more tonalist palette. As someone that started painting pretty late in life (54), I was already quite myopic at the age of 8 after a nasty bout with chicken pox or measles (can't remember which) that ruined my perfect eyesight, and truth be known, there are days when I feel almost blind while painting, what with being ultra sensitive to light, very near-sighted and very far-sighted at the same time, and having astigmatism as well. So for me to paint in a realistic style is pretty darned near impossible for me with my limiting eyesight. So I have gravitated towards impressionism and painting with a palette knife in order to compensate for poor eyesight and very unpolished drawing skills. It has worked to a point, but has also been limiting me in my own mind, since I do want to render more expressively than a palette knife allows me to do.

So I have been experimenting with different color palettes and a brush over the last 6 to 8 months with mixed emotions and totally underwhelmed by the results achieved. But I definitely need to stop focusing on my shortcomings and just go back to what I once enjoyed- which was to paint just for me! And with color! Beautiful, luscious color!

I look at some of the other daily painters whose work I admire and I sometimes wonder if they ever go through the same kind of angst that I seem to constantly have lately. One of my favorite painters is Robin Cheers and I was delighted to read her post today about perfectionism. That helped me a lot, so today I am going to try the same approach that Robin did, and see what happens. And no more comparing myself to painters like Dreama Tolle Perry, either, who has that same passion for color and impressionism that I have, but is quite successful at expressing it. By her own admission, Dreama has been swinging a paintbrush for 20 years, which gives her an 18 year head start on me! I'm betting Robin has had some very fine atelier type training, too, so I'd best not ever try to compare myself to her-ever!

So I said to myself "Self, just be you, and have fun and stop trying so hard!" That is the advice I am giving myself today, so we'll see if it helps.

Back to my rooster- he started out as a sunflower bouquet that went terribly wrong, then became an abstract landscape and finally evolved into a rooster. Although I generally enjoy painting roosters during the rare occasions that I do them, I was in such a bad mood while painting this one, that it just naturally translated into this guy's expression!

The painting easily has about two hundred dollars worth of thick, expensive and totally wasted paint in it, so I hope the person that buys him will realize that they got him for a bargain because he had a tough night in the hen house and I had a tough day in the art studio!

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