Technical difficulties on my blog last week didn't exactly create a seamless experience for my first auction. But I'm trying again with a new feature that I think will work much better. This week's auction isa sweet 6x6" Provence landscape. Congratulations to Pat H. for winning this auction!
Paintings of France, Italy, and Beyond ©Jennifer E Young
Well this painting has actually been completed for a little while now, but thanks to Hurricane Irene, we had been without power for over a week up until yesterday. Here is the final version of the Italian landscape work-in-progress I shared in my prior post:
I will keep this post brief today so that I can do a bit of clean up. From the looks of it you would think the eye of the hurricane passed right through the middle of my studio!
My painting (and posting) has been so sporadic lately that there are times when I am tempted to just announce a summer hiatus once and for all. At least this way, (I say to myself) I can engage myself fully in mothering an already active baby (who is soon to be an even more active toddler) and I won't have this anxious, "torn between two worlds" feeling when I can't make it to the easel (or produce anything noteworthy when I do). But the hubby doesn't think this is a good idea, and doubts I'd be happy with not painting at all, if even for a couple of months. He's probably right, but that still leaves me with trying to figure out how to enjoy the time I have in these two seemingly opposing life roles, without the anxiety I sometimes have that I am not doing well enough at either one. So I was taking my baby out for a stroller ride not long ago, and ran into a neighbor, who is also a mother, and happens to be a very fine artist. We have exchanged pleasantries a few times, but this was our first actual introduction and chat. We spent a good deal of time talking about the ups and downs of being both a working artist and a mother . We talked about finding the time and the peace of mind to be fully engaged in both roles, and perhaps most importantly, to enjoy the process along the way. I asked her if she felt that her work had changed as a result of having had a child.
"Oh yes!" she replied, "For quite a while I had to paint a lot smaller. "
This may sound like a punchline, but in fact, it makes a lot of sense. Before the baby, I had become accustomed to painting small in the field and using my studio work to develop my ideas and studies into larger scale works. As a landscape painter, my feeling was, why paint small landscapes inside if I can paint the same small scale from life?
But at present, plein air opportunities have been few and far between, so often it is studio work or no work at all. While I never really paint HUGE, I have struggled with my studio sessions, as they are both shorter in length and spread farther apart. Often enough I have found myself spending a good deal of a studio session just trying to get the painting opened up enough to start working on it again...just in time to clean up!
So, it makes sense, for the next little while, to try and work on a few small things. They may not all be landscapes, (and who knows? They may not all be oil paintings) but at least I will still be doing something.
So that is my commitment to you, dear reader. I will do something instead of nothing. And furthermore, I will post it here often enough so that you know I am still alive. How's that for an inspirational statement of purpose? Sorry, but this is the best I can do right now. ;-)
Even if it's just a little thing, it will hopefully keep the creative juices flowing, and perhaps make it easier to develop some skills that need brushing up, or to experiment with various designs, compositional choices and different color palettes. In the very least, I will get the satisfaction of having finished something!
Happy New Year everyone! Ok, so I know I am a tad behind, but this is my life right now!
This is one of a few paintings I had gotten to a point of 80 to 90% complete and then set aside for- like- ever! Even though baby E. is now 6 months old, sleep is still the most precious commodity at our house. Yes, I know--excuses, excuses! But I never knew what a challenge this life-change would be on creative work. So hats off to creative people everywhere who still manage to "do their thing" with a baby at home! (And while I'm at it, any tips?)
I had to finally table the Venice painting I'd been working on in my prior post (before Christmas- ack!) I'll come back to it at some point soon, but progress was really slow and it got to the point where I had looked at it for so long that I couldn't "see" it any more. So for my own mental health, and to feel like I can still complete *something* in my life every now and then, I did the old switcharoo and returned to one of my favorite subjects- Tuscany in springtime.
Hubby and I discovered this olive grove strewn with wildflowers on a well-remembered drive one day in the beautiful Val d'Orcia. It does my spirit good to meditate on that day of abundant sunshine, especially when we are in the midst of a mostly gray, soggy winter here in Virginia.
Well, for the most part, my resolve last week to get "back to painting" crumbled, as I found myself distracted by a number of other issues. I haven't been in the best command of the schedule I'd set up for myself, setting aside my painting time to do a million different errands and tend to personal issues as well. The tendinitis continues to bother me, too, which isn't helping my stick-to-itiveness. In hindsight, in spite of my injuries, I probably should have made myself stick as much as possible to the same schedule regardless of whether I'm actually "painting"-- filling the gaps with new art-related activities (like reading one of my gazillion art books!) In any event, I am starting again--finally-- with a color block-in which I'm including below:
Because of the shoulder/arm thing, I've had to make a few changes to the way I work so that I'm not in a huge amount of pain by the end of the day. I've lowered my entire painting setup, paint for shorter intervals, and also set a timer when I am painting to go off every 30 minutes. It reminds me to stop and stretch and give my muscles a chance to release the locked position I tend to take when I'm hyper-focusing during painting.
Coincidentally, artist Robert Genn wrote an interesting little article last week in his twice-weekly newsletter about the timed exercises he uses for attention and focus, (which naturally caught my attention!) In the article, Genn suggests that by imposing shorter time limits on a work session (in his example 37 minutes), one is required to come into sharp focus, thereby energizing mind and spirit (and often one's painting as well.) I don't think Genn is suggesting that one should always commit only 37 minutes to complete a painting! Rather, these are exercises to 'shake things up' and breathe new life and energy into old, comfy work habits.
It's a good idea. And it's one I've implemented myself (thoughI used a kitchen timer rather than an elusive 37-minute hourglass.) While Genn required his students to complete small paintings in his timed exercises, I've also found that the practice works great for plein air and larger studio paintings when you want to track how long you spend working on each stage of the process.
For instance, in plein air painting, where the shifting light already imposes a certain time limitation, the amount of time you spend establishing your composition is important not only to the painting as a whole, but also because it will dictate how much time you have left for the block-in and finishing. So for a smallish painting, I might wish to limit myself to 15-20 minutes to lay in my composition- DING! And 40 minutes for a block-in-DING! That leaves another 30 minutes to (possibly) an hour to make changes, refine shapes and edges and finish before the light changes too drastically (DING! Brushes down.)
You can play around with division of time if you wish, but the result, as Genn suggests, is often that you learn to hone your focus and think better on your feet, without giving yourself the chance to "noodle around" endlessly or jump into detail too early in the game. It helps in more ways too, than just keeping you on track. For some reason, the timer helps to address all of the canvas during each of the timed stages, thereby avoiding the tendency toget lost in only working (or overworking) one section of the painting to the sacrifice of the others. I'm not sure why this is. Maybe it's just that using the timer stage-by-stage causes you to take a more deliberate, conscious approach at each stage, making the approach more methodical by breaking things down into digestible chunks.
While the timed-stages works particularly well for plein air painting (when time is truly of the essence,) I've found the same principal can also be worthwhile when applied in the studio, either by similarly timing myself at different stages in larger pieces, or, as Genn suggests, by (attempting to) finish an entire smaller piece in a short interval, as an exercise drill or a warm-up. So I thought I'd try it for the painting above, timing the initial compositional sketch and the color block-in at 15 and 40 minutes, respectively. I don't intend to finish this piece in just an additional hour. It's a 24x30" canvas and I certainly don't want it to look completely slapdash. On the other hand, I do hope to keep it as fresh as possible to re-energize myself now that I'm getting back to work.
Of course, anything can be annoying if taken to the extreme, but I can see how using the timer periodically can serve a useful purpose. It also provides good insight for me about my process, and just how much time I am spending therein.