Painting Is Fun!!

Fashion Statement, oil on canvas, 8x8 in.

There is a widely held belief that the life of an artist is a struggle,  a constant battle to attain the level of proficiency that you desire. Making a living and paying your bills on an artist’s salary is a struggle, but the process of painting should be a joy. Why would you want to do something that you don’t enjoy?

Becoming a good artist and enhancing your skills takes practice, are you not more likely to practice something you love to do than something you find tedious, or frustrating? Artistic angst is not a necessary component in becoming a successful painter.  Approach your work with a positive attitude and free yourself up to experimentation. Take risks, it’s only a piece of paper or canvas, you can’t hurt anyone with it.

This is not to say that you should not always try to improve your skills and reach the next level. But to do that, you have to acknowledge your strengths first and make a specific plan for overcoming those areas that you find difficult.

How do you do that? You can start by learning how to objectively look at your work.  Pretend it was done by another artist and make note of the things you like about it, as well as those you don’t. Be sure to note at least one thing positive, then specifically identify the areas you find fault with and figure out how you would make them better. If you don’t know how to fix your mistakes, ask an instructor or experienced artist to help you, but be very specific in your request. Don’t just say, “what’s wrong with this?” or “what do you think?”, because everyone will have a different opinion, you have to learn to trust your own judgment. Instead, tell the instructor what you like about your piece and what you have identified as not working. For example, let’s say you feel your colors are working well but you’re not happy with the perspective on your painting and you don’t know how to fix it. Simply say “I’m pleased with the color harmony but I know my road surface looks like it’s running uphill, how can I correct that?” If that sounds like simplistic advice, you’d be surprised at how often students have difficulty articulating what they don’t like about their work. I often hear in class “It’s awful!” or “I’m just not good at this.” Statements like that don’t allow the instructor to put you on the right track, you have to be an active participant in the critique in order to improve.

Also, we often associate only negative comments with critique. I try to stress the importance of identifying your strengths and building upon them. The more often you tell yourself you can’t do something, the more likely that is to become true. So lighten up, experiment and have some fun!!!

Important Reminder! Register by Sept. 3 to Avoid Late Fees!

I have a great new class that focuses on experimentation using acrylics and pastels on a variety of surfaces, it’s called Works on Paper and it’s offered at the NJ Visual Arts Center for 10 weeks on Tuesday afternoons. Best of all, materials are included! You don’t have to drag a bunch of supplies with you, just come to class and have fun! For more info on this class and my other courses at NJ VAC, please click here to visit their web site.

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2 Responses to Painting Is Fun!!

  1. Shy says:

    I love your work, and I like what you have to say. But with two small kids, and a job at night. It’s hard to find the time and to focus or practice. What do you suggest?

  2. kullaf says:

    Thank you! Finding time to practice is really tough, especially when you have a job and small children. A couple things you can try:

    – see if you can get some of the Tombow brand markers I talked about in an earlier post (I think it is the one just before today’s, my Vermont sketch book). You don’t need a whole set, just 3 or 4 grey scale values will do the trick. They are easy to take with you, clean up fast, non-toxic and generally not messy to work with (important when you have kids around).

    – set up a small, simple still life with a few objects, easy stuff like apples, a wine bottle, cup, bowl, etc., even just one object, light it with a single directional light (a desk lamp works great for this)

    – have your kids draw the still life with you, explain to them about shading, light, form and value–explaining the concepts will help YOU to understand them better. You be the teacher and you’ll be surprised how much you learn from having to explain the concept to someone else, especially if you have to simplify it for a young audience. You’ll also be surprised by how your kids grasp what you are saying, I did this with my daughter when she was about 5 or so, maybe even a little younger. Even if they don’t do what you are doing, at least they will keep occupied enough so you can do some drawing.

    – set a reasonable expectation for yourself, just sketch with the intent of practicing, no pressure. Drawing from life is probably the best exercise ANYONE (even abstract painters) can practice. Why? Because it teaches you to really observe form, value and light, and from that observation comes an understanding that will make drawing second nature to you.

    – try to do this for about 15 minutes each day, or at least 3 times a week. Do QUICK sketches, block in form with big bold strokes. You can’t erase marker, which is a good thing, just go over your mistakes until you get it right so you can SEE where you were off.

    I hope that is helpful. I totally understand time constraints–I teach about 8 courses a week, exhibit with 5 commercial galleries and have a family. There just are no shortcuts, eventually you get to a point where your technical skills are solid and you can get your practice in creatively (for example, my practice sessions are often my demos in class where I do studies for things I intend to paint large scale). Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, it sounds to me like you are motivated and inspired to put the time in that it takes. 🙂

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