This post is by guest author, Richard Scott Morgan. This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
Hi all, hope this finds you doing well in the New Year! My comments are directed towards the question proposed by Kathy Chin when she stated the following...
"At my stage, it's lovely to be 'in the zone,' and I appreciate it when it happens. I also agree that hard work and discipline will yield the most growth. But, and here I admit my shortcomings, I too often let a day, or two, or even three go by without working. For you disciplined artists out there, what's the internal dialogue you use to kick yourself into gear?"
For me personally, painting is about "The Big Picture"
. What is it that we want out of our art? Do we want a successful career? To provide for our families? To make a bold artistic statement? Is it the simple need to express ourselves? To point out the beautiful creation around us? It is a passionate drive... the reason we are here? Like many of us, it is a combination of all these things and more!
To get my artistic drive in gear- I often like to make a visit to the library and read about Art History, see museums and exhibitions, research other painters' websites, or go to workshops and lectures of those I admire. These artists have laid the ground work before us or are currently doing so. Their stories and experiences invariably seep into my subconscious and to some degree become part of my own. Another thing I find valuable, is to have a Note Book of images on paintings and photos. The book represents catalogs from past art shows, magazine articles, print outs, and images of those whose work I hold in high esteem. I often look through the book before going to to the easel and I find it really motivates and reminds me of what is possible!
If I still need inspiration at this point, I often have another cup of strong coffee and thumb through one of my favorite Old Masters' books. Between the artwork and stories, I will often find the motivation I seek! When I think of dedicated and hard working artists, I think of Claude Monet. As most of us know, he would paint the same subject over and over again to study the play of light and mood. Or, how Joaquin Sorolla agonized over the intense scale and the massive amount of "studies" he did for his paintings (most of them outdoors). Also, why John Singer Sargent got to the point of dreading portraits (and the demand for them) over his more personal landscape work! We all stand on the shoulders of those that came before us and it is our responsibility to do our very best work- for God, for our families, for history, for ourselves, and for our audience!
As far as my approach to painting, I like to break it into three simple stages- Prayer, Planning, and Persistence! Pray
- get your heart and mind right and into the game at hand. One can't create a beautiful painting if, you aren't focused and at peace. Planning
- research your subject, visit the location and do as many (plein air) studies as you can. Persistence
- keep at it and don't give up! By comparing ourselves to those who have been working in the field of art for years and years, we often become our own worst critic! Your style will naturally come out of your devotion, hard work, and consistency.
Analyze your work
- take the best aspects from each plein air painting to compose your larger studio piece.
- compositional and value studies to get a complete thought and your strongest idea (make your design functional and simple with a good flow).
Don't be afraid
- to throw out your weaker ideas or move objects around (the more studies you paint, the more you will have to choose from).
- your digital photos as reference for shapes/structure and your studies for color notes. I often paint without photos and just use my studies (after all you are already using the editing process outdoors when you created the study). If I do use a photograph, I like to paint from the computer monitor as it gets truer, more vibrate color than a print out.
Get organized and be on time
- whether you are in your studio or in our greater outdoor one, be prepared! I have a list of items I use to check off before I go into the field. Also, have plenty materials at hand. Nothing is more frustrating than going out to work and not having enough paint, paper towels, thinner, or canvas! I keep all of my supplies in a heavy duty backpack and my extra gear in a large plastic bin in my Jeep and at the ready. (On Scott Christensen's site- he has a great break down of the essentials for outdoor painting and how to simplify it!) Also, take the pressure off of yourself and become a zealous student of nature. Think of your paintings as a stepping stone and not the end all be all!
Monet would always emphasize the 3 basics when looking at your subject- color, value, and shape. After roughing in your sketch, forget about the object itself and- simply try to match the color, its shape, and value as close as possible. By doing this, (and orchestrating the picture as a whole) it will naturally fall into place and develop before your eyes! Clyde Aspevig calls his approach the "summation of abstraction.
" If the smaller shapes are strong and graphic, then they will enhance the whole design and make a complete composition.
I recently went to a demo/lecture by, the impressionist, C.W. Mundy and he mentioned what he felt were the two big factors of painting- mileage and values
- the more we work on something the more confident we get with that particular subject matter- regardless of what that might be! The more one can streamline the process- the faster one can get and thus produce at a higher rate. Values
- are a simple concept but, are often over looked or at least not fully realized. They help tell the story, direct your eye through the painting, and give your work a sense of realism or focus. And finally, whatever your approach or style, constantly "squint
" at your subject and canvas!
Ultimately though, painting has to be about the emotion- the driving force behind why you picked up the brush in the first place. What made you stop the car and pull to the side of the road to paint a particular scene? Was it the composition?, the subject matter?, the striking colors?, the crisp lighting or tonalist mood of the scene? What really moves you as an artist? Chances are, if we paint with conviction; passion; and knowledge (all balanced on a strong foundation of art)- our audience will see the truth behind our brush. And, when truth meets opportunity- anything is possible. "What one man can do, another man can do!"