The Laws of Nature

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Finding Solutions

Winslow Homer once said "Look at nature, work independently, and solve your own problems." I'd like to focus on the last part of that statement. As an artist, solving my problems is discovering solutions. There are a variety of avenues that I can take to arrive at a solution, and here's an example. Those of you who've been following my work for awhile know that some of my posted eggshell paintings are repeats. That's because I've been busy for the past two months preparing 34 oil paintings for an upcoming solo exhibition next June. Half of the canvases were completed last year, but the rest are new. It'll take me a few more months to complete all of them, so my eggshell painting is on hold for a couple more months. Yesterday, I hit a technical "wall." I've been painting for decades, but just couldn't find the proper technique for rendering two of the paintings. After experimenting for weeks without success, I put down my brushes yesterday and spent some time reviewing old notes to see if I'd forgotten something. Nope! Couldn't find anything. So, where can I find other possible solutions? Ask advice from professional artists, read more books on oil techniques, keep experimenting, step away for awhile to refresh my creative mind, complete a series of indepth analyses of successful paintings to discover a useful technique, and - my favorite - persevere! Don't stop until I've found the answer. I love this aspect of painting: the challenge of problem-solving. Isn't that part of being a "professional" artist? If I were a professional button maker I'd have to exhaust every avenue to find ways to solve production problems so that I could fill orders on time with a quality product. I couldn't just give up. And, as Homer suggests, the artist needs to be independent. How successfully I solve this technical problem depends very much on my personal and independent decisions. Now ... back to problem-solving!

8 comments:

Sheila said...

You're the ultimate professional I'd have to say. I am curious about the technical problem that befuddled an experienced artist like you.

On another note; 34 paintings!? Wow! Congrats on the solo show and what a wonderful project to work on.

Kathy said...

Hi Sheila,
Nice to "hear" from you! The technical problem is in creating a particular illusion with the paint. It's hard to be specific about it, but I think it's in the application of the paint and I can't find the correct method. But - I'm getting some expert advice and doing research today. Hopefully, I'll jump this hurdle by tomorrow. We'll see :)

Margaret Ryall said...

Isn't finding solutions the story of life? It certainly is my story for art. Right now I am using encaustic as a new medium. I feel so competent in acrylics and now I'm back to square one again. It seems every thing I try to do creates a problem to be solved. My response to encountering problems goes one of two ways depending on my mood. Sometimes I will keep experimenting and when I am in a more pensive mood, I head off to research ideas using people, books or the internet. Sometimes you don't know what to research though. Happy problem solving. Can't wait to see the solo exhibition work.

hwfarber said...

After looking at your website, I have no doubt that you'll reach that "Aha--I know exactly what to do" moment and put another notch in your belt. Painting or sculpting might become boring if there were no problems.

34 paintings! What a show that will be.

Celeste Bergin said...

Well, I like both ways--thinking it out "on my own" and sometimes asking for opinions (from respected sources). By far the persevere thing is tops! I read somewhere a statistic about how many people stop painting during the first year after taking it up. I find that so sad! If only they would stick with it..through the discomfort..they will be rewarded later. Certainly your work speaks to determination on all fronts!

-Don said...

When I train new artists as an Art Director in television the one thing I drill into their heads more than anything is: "Every day something will go wrong and you're going to need to figure out some kind of work-around". Working in an environment that often requires less than 2 hour deadlines we have to stay on our toes because there are no acceptable excuses for not getting our work done and delivered on time.

This same truism occurs daily in my life as a painter. So far, there has been no project that I've done as an artist (or human, for that matter) that did not involve problem solving. I really think that finding solutions to get the end result you desire is a big part of the fun which is all rewarded by getting to that "aha" moment that HWFarber mentioned.

I look forward to seeing what you've been up to the past few months. Too bad I have to wait until after June. I can be VERY patient in problem solving, but not in waiting to see good art.

-Don

Kathy said...

Hi Margaret - yes, encaustic can be tricky! When I was in college I spent one semester painting with encaustic and loved it. However ... I developed severe headaches and it turned-out that I was allergic to the beeswax that I was using (I melted it and added pigment). I look forward to seeing your creations!

Kathy said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence, HW! In fact, I reached a solution yesterday and am again painting happily :)

Celeste - I didn't know about that statistic. Alarming! I wonder if it's because so few beginning artists find an appropriate mentor? Or maybe they just don't have the gut desire to keep going.

Don - sage advice to newbies!! So true. And, I agree that the satisfaction that comes with each breakthrough is uber-rewarding! I feel great today :) Sorry about the delay in posting me new work, BUT I'm working on all 34 canvases simultaneously and they're very incomplete. I hope (fingers crossed) they turn out well :0