I spent hours and hours standing at the easel this weekend, determined to once again try to paint a portrait of a little boy whose photograph I took a couple years ago at the San Francisco Museum of Art. After many hours and sore feet, below is how the painting turned out:
It had a few promising phases but I just couldn’t “execute” any of them to completion. At the end of the day I gave up and saved the lovely linen canvas to reuse by painting it over with white paint.
Tonight I decided to do something in watercolor just to try to have a little fun. When I went looking for a subject to paint everything seemed tired and insipid. I think I’ve seen one too many meaningless little still lifes with a clove of garlic, a lemon slice, or an apple. I started wondering, “What’s the point?” so the pointy juicer seemed a perfect subject.
I wasn’t happy with the first (overworked) version below, so I tried it again and the second version is at the top of the post. I didn’t have an orange to juice so I made pretend orange juice with watercolor paint.
Since I’ve been in a stuck place for a couple weeks I’ve been trying to figure out what kind of artwork would bring back my creative juices. Just making pretty pictures, developing good enough technique to be able to make classical still lifes or impressionist landscapes or traditional portraits isn’t it. So I made a list of what I do enjoy:
- going out sketching with ink, watercolor and sketchbook
- painting subjects with emotional content (like the two autobiographical series I’m planning)
- painting large, getting lost in the painting, having unexpected things appear and running with them
- drawing complicated subjects or painting details in watercolor
- painting my crazy dreams
- creative thinking to come up with concepts and images based on one-word challenges like Illustration Friday offers
- painting without a lot of planning, just jumping in and seeing what happen
I was stuck on #2 because I was envisioning working with large canvases (30×40″) but thinking about the cost of the canvases and the paint to cover them, and where I’d hang them or store them if I actually made as many in the series as I intend…. and then as I was writing about this in my journal I realized the solution:
Just start! Go for it! Go wild! Play! Forget about the product and enjoy the process. So I’m going to START with the bigger of the canvases I have on hand and just keep going from there. And I’m going to get out and sketch more.
13 replies on “What’s the Point?”
I love reading your internal dialogues. They make me think and reflect on what I really love to do and how I want drawing and painting to fulfill my creative needs as I get closer and closer to retirement on June 30th. I will continue to follow your blog with interest!
Thanks Shirley. I’m so happy for you about your upcoming retirement! (and envious!). But my day will come too, and you’ve certainly earned yours! It’s going to be really exciting to watch you blossom and explore!
I sympathise – we all go through these dry patches.
I find this one works for me. Don’t allow yourself to paint – instead go and look at as much art as you can – in books, museums, art galleries – and then don’t even try and pick up a brush until you’re absolutely bustin’ to get something down on paper.
Brilliant! It’s like what I’ve read sex therapists tell their clients: no sex for a certain period of time. I guess it builds up the desire. I definitely didn’t have the desire to paint that stupid kid but it was an incompleted project that I wanted to check off my painting “To-Do” list.
I’d thought he was so cute in a fussily dressed-redheaded sort of way when I asked his mom if I could take his photo. Afterward she told me that she’d signed him up to be a model. (He was about 4 years old). That made him seem much less appealing to me. and the lighting in the photo wasn’t very good either. Maybe I’ll dekete and shred all the photos of him so I won’t be tempted yet a third time to get him painted!
I thought maybe I could paint him as the little manipulated, foppish, wanna be he became after hearing her talk about what her plans were for him but that just felt depressin so I went back to trying to do it as a more traditional portrait. Ugh!
What a good list, except I like it in reverse order. That’s what I tell my workshop people who can’t decide how they want or should do something. I tell them, “Just DO it!” It’s amazing how much better paintings that are done with only play in mind, than those that have a special subject or goal in mind.
Thanks Merle. I always find it so much easier to tell things like that to students than I do to myself. Or I tell it to myself and then forget somewhere along the line. Thanks for the suggestion to move PLAY up to the top of the list. All of my favorite work I’ve ever done came about as a result of a sense of play and adventure, not work!
Are you taking request, Jana? Because I’d love to see the return of your funky postcards and dream sketches.
(And the poor little kid with the pushy mommy? He’ll likely end up on a therapist’s couch!)
Haha! I want the postcards and dreams to come back to. Now that was fun!
thanks for the comment, I just read it this evening! I’m still in a rut, my art journal page this evening turned out AWFUL, but I keep telling myself that at least I did it, and the journaling meant allot, and i don’t have to show anyone.
I feel better after reading your post too, I’m going to go write a list now:)
I love your watercolors and I’m interested in reading about the other things you do, too!
Ah – I painted over a canvas myself this weekend Jana, so it seems we’re in a similar place – although you are much more productive than I am. We are going to SF this Spring for sure – it looks more like May than April at this point. Sketchcrawl, anyone?
Jana – How interesting to follow your dialog about creativity. I have been thinking quite a bit about this too, and my conclusion was that as long as I draw/paint what I love/care for, my creative juices are flowing. Of course, sometime a vacation may be what’s needed!
This is a great post thanks for sharing and being so personal about your experience. When I am in a rut I typically go back to what is most comfortable and “safe” feeling, I play in those areas for a bit and then start to branch out and experiment a little more with new things. Before I know it, I am in new territory!