The Laws of Nature

Friday, June 19, 2009

90% preparation 10% execution

I haven't posted a new painting for several weeks because the process of preparation is lengthy for me ... certainly much more involved than the actual application of paint. I've spent weeks developing a new concept for my egg shell series, and then almost another week creating an effective design and selecting a palette. I've transferred my drawing to watercolor paper and will begin painting fairly soon (once my gardens are weeded!). In the "old days" I spent little time in preparation. For some reason, I bought into the notion that good art is created during an inspired moment when the artist spontaneously and tornadically throws paint at the canvas and - voila! a masterpiece. Well, I guess that could work for a select few, but even they had years and years of traditional training before reaching that stage. I work better when it's planned and deliberate - not that I don't make spontaneous changes as I work, but those changes spring from years of study and practice. I sound stodgy and uninspired. But , I do find inspiration in my concepts and great satisfaction in transforming them into two-dimensional works of art.

Monday, June 15, 2009

What I'll do for LOVE

So many people ask me about my cholesterol level because of all the eggs I've cracked for this series. In fact, I don't eat eggs at all - I eat "Eggbeaters." So, for the love of painting this series, I buy the eggs, crack them, and rinse the contents down the drain unless a neighbor wants them. But, I've only used about six dozen egg shells (see photo above of my "muse") for inspiration in the entire series of over fifty paintings! I've sketched them in all kinds of poses and - at this pont - paint them from memory. However, I have a box full of carefully preserved broken shells just in case I want to take another look. So, don't worry about my cholesterol folks - I'm OK :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


"Rome wasn't built in a day" and neither are my paintings. Years ago, I was very impatient to quickly execute each piece and move on to the next. Although this helped me to gain proficiency in handling a brush, it did very little else. These days, I purposely compose complex paintings that require deliberation over each aspect of the composition before the first brushstroke. Patience is a great teacher. When I allow time for analysis, my work advances. When I don't, my work becomes repetitious and flawed. It's easy to develop bad habits by working too fast without critical analysis along the way. This painted panel on the left (oil on board) is only a third of a triptych posted earlier on this blogsite. It was a challenge to work out each panel as an individual work of art, but also to pay attention to the overall composition of the entire triptych. It's kind of like solving a jigsaw puzzle. I like the challenge, and (here's another adage) the harder I work - the greater the reward.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The weight of opinions and maturity

I've been recollecting my earliest days as an artist and remember strong feelings of insecurity about what I painted, how I painted, and who saw it. I was soooooo inhibited and apologetic about my work that it was pathetic. I realize now, that the driving force behind what and how I painted was the opinions of others - a purely external force that drove me toward unoriginal thought and imitation. I played it safe because I knew that people liked landscapes with barns, or seascapes with sea gulls, or flowers in vases, or impressionistic style, etc. I nearly killed the creative artist within in order to find acceptance. What a mistake! Luckily, I recognized this and changed course pretty fast.
I'm not saying that expert opinion is unimportant - we all need substantive critique. My meaning is that the driving force for artistic creation should be internal: how do I perceive things? how should I express those perceptions? Inhibitions be damned! In my opinion, this is the path to artistic maturity. Where am I along that path? Probably a teenager. But, I'm getting there ....

Friday, June 5, 2009

Criticism and Filtering

Before I begin today's ramblings, I want to sincerely thank those of you who read my blog and make substantive and supportive comments! I love reading what you have to say, and really appreciate the comraderie.
Painting is about making a series of decisions about the concept, composition, palette, technique, and so on. As I mentioned earlier, I usually work out the majority of my decisions before I lay brush to paper. Generally, I know what I want to say and how I want to say it. BUT ... I also keep in mind the advice and criticisms I've been given by others over the years. So, how can I execute my vision and not get distracted by all those voices? FILTER! The first filter retains comments given by those with expert knowledge who are motivated to help me grow as an artist and removes those with lesser motivations. The second filter removes comments by others that reflect personal preference rather than objectivity. The third filter is then applied to remove inhibitions from my own thinking.
What's left in the filter can be used in conjunction with the fundamental principles of painting to create a new work of art. What's the flaw in this filtering process? I have holes in the mesh that allow things to get through that shouldn't sometimes. So, as I paint I try to recognize that and selectively eliminate those thoughts. I think that the filter with the greatest number of holes in it is the third one. It's very hard to ignore my inhibitions! If I did so fully, I'd probably paint like deKooning :)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Finding your own voice...

Years ago, a painting instructor said to me "You KNOW how to paint, but you need to find your own voice". What did he mean? I took him to mean that I should move away from imitation and express who I am in my work. Be unique! I began by consciously listening to my subconscious. By tapping into these thoughts, I found a fresh perspective for my work. Think about it: how many artists have painted portraits? Bazillions! But, you can easily recognize a portrait painted by Van Gogh, or Renoir, or Picasso. Why? Because each imparted his unique viewpoint and style to his portrait- a "solto voce."
Lately, someone admonished me, "You don't want to be known as that 'cracked eggshell artist!' so move on; do something else!" Well, I'd be very happy to be known for this body of work. It is unique. It's better than not being recognized at all. And, I do paint concepts other than egg shells, but I keep this series going because it forces me to tap into my subconscious on a daily basis. One of our fellow bloggers, Don Michael, Jr., is very successful at this (I hope you don't mind the plug, Don!). Take a look at his work at So, the point of this rambling is to find what makes you unique as an artist. Steer away from imitation and be original!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Subjectivity and The Beholder's Eye

This painting, entitled All Cracked Up III, is one of the first in this series and was completed nearly four years ago. I'm posting it because it's relevant to a statement that one of you made on your blog. The statement was about an artist's discouragement over a rejection from a juried competition. Those of us who annually engage in the world of juried exhibitions know how fickle they can be simply because of the subjective nature of individual judgement when it comes to art. This painting has been juried into and rejected by many jurors over the years. A few years ago it was juried into a major international exhibition where it won second prize. I remember walking around the exhibition, examining all the paintings, and then standing in the middle of the room to evaluate how my painting looked in comparison to the rest (I felt humbled!). Two women approached my painting (which already had the award affixed) and became irate. I remember hearing one of them say: "The judge got it wrong! How could he have made such a big mistake? This is an awful painting!" The other agreed, and stated that her painting, which wasn't juried in, was much better. You get the drift. I could have felt offended, but I didn't. The fact is, every eye that beholds an artist's work views through the lens of personal taste. So, I smiled when I heard the comments because - at least there was a reaction to what I had done! That's better than no reaction at all. Discouragement is a waste of time. Use it to work harder and produce better work.