We are on our third week of quarantining and social distancing here in California. In normal circumstances three weeks at home is a gift for an artist but I’ve spent very little time painting. I can’t help feeling guilty for having the privilege to stay home and paint when so many others are struggling. I’ve heard lots of artist friends say they are unmotivated. But there are also a whole host of very motivated, kind and generous artists out there offering free and discounted classes, sending out daily encouragement and sharing their knowledge. It’s nice to have these posts popping up as a distraction from other news.
Here are a couple of places I’ve been spending my time.
Paul Foxton: Paul has been live streaming every week day from his studio while he paints various spring flowers. There are not many people I can watch paint but Paul’s set up allows you to see his canvas, palette and subject in on one screen. He has a beautiful, calm energy and describes in detail his thought process as he works. He is well worth checking out and you get a British accent too!
Michael Klein: A few months ago I met a beautiful flower artist who told me she had learned most of what she knows from studying the videos of Michael Klein. I find it really difficult to learn from videos. I find myself switching off and wondering what I’ll have for lunch, but during the month of March Michael Klein offered his Flower Painting Insights video for free. I managed to watch it on the last day of the offer. The video is made over three days and shows you his process from start to finish with lots of close ups on the brushwork. Now I completely understand how someone can learn to paint from Michael’s videos – I didn’t think about my lunch once during the 1 hour and 15 minutes. Unfortunately, the free access has expired but even if I’d paid full price I wouldn’t be upset. In fact, the next time I paint with oils I will use the video for my starting point.
Will Kemp: If you are new to painting or even want to refresh your skills or get a new perspective classically trained Will Kemp offers lots of free videos. They are clear and easy to follow and another British accent too!
We can’t all be on the front lines fighting this virus but we can use our time productively while we practice social distancing, keep healthy and be kind.
Just start. Don’t wait for the perfect day when you have the house to yourself. Don’t wait until you have entire afternoon to devote to your art. Don’t wait until you have a better brand of paint or that one particular color. Don’t even wait until you are inspired. Just sit down and start. Use what you have. Paint over an old canvas, mix your own colors or do without. Paint your dog or your cat or your half empty coffee cup and the plant that’s sitting in the half light on the window sill. Today more than ever it’s important to use what we have and the time we have. Just start and see where it leads…
How to be a Better Artist #2
Once you know the medium you want to use you need to know how to use it. We all like to say ‘there are no rules in art’, but there are a LOT of rules in art and you will have an easier time of learning if you know how to get the best from your products.
For example you will have less control of watercolors if you do not stretch the paper before painting and oil paintings may crack or never dry if you don’t follow the ‘fat over lean’ rule and a beautiful graphite drawing may yellow if the paper is not acid free.
Before you sit down to create do an internet search or get a book on your chosen subject and learn a few rules and techniques. It won’t take away all the frustrations but will help the learning curve to flow easier.
How to be a Better Artist #1
What can you do to be a better artist? Here is something that is free and easy and can be used by anyone. It can be for new artists looking for a starting point, those who have been painting for some time and looking for the next step and experienced artists looking for a new direction. I’ve used this method several times and it always gives me focus, clarity and a new direction.
So it goes without saying, if you want to be a good artist, you have to look at art. Look at lots of art. Look at good art and bad art. Look at art in museums and galleries and on the street. Look at art on book covers and in magazine pages. Look at the masters and look at kids’ art.
But don’t just look – ask yourself what do you like about a piece of art? Is it the subject matter, is it the colors? Ask yourself what you don’t like about a piece. How does it make you feel and how could it be improved.
Now you’ve been looking at artwork, create a Pinterest account and create a board named ‘I Want to Paint Like’. When you find a piece of artwork you would like to aspire to add it to the board. When you have about twenty images or more ask yourself what they all have in common – are they all portraits or landscapes or still life subjects? Are they oil paintings or watercolor? Are they collage or missed media, abstract or realism? Use this information to help you decide what direction you should be going in and your next steps.
Click HERE to see my ‘I Want to Paint Like’ album on Pinterest and discover new artists…
Last year my goals were all about big, bold flower paintings using acrylic paint.
Then in December 2018 I switched to oil paint and decided I wanted to try still life subjects on smaller canvases.
I can feel the shift. My output has slowed down and I find painting more stressful than relaxing. The learning curve is real. Suddenly my goals that were so clearly defined have become a big foggy mess. So I’ve decided to be kind to myself. I have two, possibly three painting workshops to attend for February and March. I’ll attend these and then reassess at the beginning of April. I’ll still paint when I feel it’s a joy rather than a chore, and in the meantime, I’m cleaning up my website. In the past whenever I work on my website my painting falls behind and vice-versa so this feels like a good time to switch gears.
How do you set your creative goals? Are they set in stone or are they open to change? Drop a comment below and let me know.
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