When we were in Spain a couple of years ago, I had the privilege of seeing an exhibit of Andrew and Jamie Wyeth's art. I was impressed by the number of pieces the museum had in the exhibit...but more than that, I was shocked at the many works which were on scraps of paper, on cardboard, plywood, butcher's wrapping paper, and anything else that was at hand. As well, it didn't matter to either father or son what medium they were working in...pencil, pastel, watercolor, oil and so on...it was all there, without prejudice for one over another.
The strongest impression I retained from that exhibit was that you do not have to have all the latest equipment, gadgets, brushes, paints, pencils and holders, and ad infinitum, to create. You do not have to be accomplished at drawing, painting, sketching, etc. to start. What you DO have to have is the courage to let go - let go of expectations, let go of fear of failure, fear of not receiving approval, fear of your art not looking like others' art...and a hundred other fears. You just need to let go.
Sounds simple, right? Not so. Letting go of fear and expectation is one of the hardest things an artist has to do. In taking the next few months to explore and to learn, I've found the first step for me is to learn to let go. If I fall, I can get up. If I am unhappy with results, I can try again and do something differently. As a bit of a perfectionist, I am exerting quite a bit of energy to build those "let-it-go" muscles. It's a slow process. But I'm seeing some movement. That's encouraging. Sort of. It might get easier sometime in the future. Right now, it feels like a big risk. One that I am willing to embrace.
I loved a series in the exhibit, which is also in the book above, called The Seven Deadly Sins, painted in 2008. It is of seagulls...each painting demonstrating one of the 7 deadly sins mentioned in the Bible. I "loosely" drew a rendition of a couple of these in my sketch book, not thinking about whether they were perfectly like the original, but just feeling the rhythm of the pencil, looking at the composition and line, and trying to shut off the critical voice in my head that seems to constantly be on high alert. I'm posting the sketches here as a let-it-go exercise. Building those muscles. It kind of feels...ummm....okay!
Learning to let go.
I'm back from Spain, and getting over jet lag! We had such a wonderful visit with our kids and grandkids that it was hard to leave, even after almost 6 weeks. We did a LOT in the time we were there: a trip to Granada (where we explored for a week, including the Caves of Nerja, touching the waters of the Mediterranean, and an afternoon at The Alhambra), a trip to Toledo, several trips into Madrid, and so much more!
During a couple of those Madrid days, we went to two world famous museums. The Thyssen Museum had a special exhibit of Picasso and Toulouse Lautrec. At first, you might not place these two artists together, but it was fascinating to see how so many of their pieces were similar in several ways! It was a very interesting exhibit.
The second museum was the trip which excited me the most...visiting the Prado has been such a wonderful experience every time I've been there that I can't wait to go back! This time, the special exhibit we experienced was the works of Fortuny. Oh. My. Word. This artist was amazing!!! He was a master of so many art forms...watercolor, oil, charcoal, pencil, lithograph, and on and on. The exhibit had an incredible number of his works from his very earliest to his last - paintings, sketches, drawings, journals, and lithograph prints - that it took hours to go through the exhibit. It was truly wonderful...I could have stood in front of two or three pieces for hours! After the exhibit, there was no question I would buy the book "Fortuny (1838 - 1874)"!!! As I thumb through its pages, I am reminded of the feelings Fortuny's pieces invoked in me as I looked at the life work of one artist who lived such a short number of years.
Every time I visit these museums, I comb though the bookstore. And, believe it or not, I buy these extraordinarily heavy, approximately 400+ paged histories of various artists to bring back home. I am willing to pay extra charges for overweight baggage if need be, to have these books in my collection. Why? Because it is a proven way to learn and become a better artist to study the Old Masters! And I have so much to learn! These are the 4 books (pictured above) I brought back this time...the Rembrandt and Carrivaggio are smaller books in dimension - still around 200 pages of photos of paintings and information about the artists. The Ingres and Fortuny are both written in Spanish, but that's okay, because it is the photos of the paintings I will be examining and learning from. Other books in my collection include William Bouguereau, Andrew and Jamie Wyeth, Picasso, Michalamgelo, George Barque and a few others...enough to last me far more than this year! Each artist has something to teach me, and I have my favorite drawings and paintings, patterns and colors of mixed paints which I will be working toward. Lots of hours ahead just trying new things, without any true expectations of end result. I want to enjoy the process.
I've been reflecting for weeks on what I would like to achieve in my art this year. I have finally chosen what some people call a "guiding word" for the year: FOCUS. I am going to focus on learning from the Old Master artists in my book collection. I am going to focus on learning from several resources I have, but have not taken full advantage of yet. And, I plan to focus on playing, exploring, trying new things, improving, revising technique, drawing and painting those things which have been in the background of my thoughts and plans for far too long. I'll post my sketches, drawings, paintings, whether they are successful or not-so-successful. (I refuse to call anything I do a failure, because it teaches me so much each time I don't achieve what I set out to do!) So, it's going to be a very different year for me, I think.
Of course, I will have to focus on balancing the "rest of my life" with the time spent in the studio. I live in such an incredible part of the world that it would be next thing to criminal to not get out, barefoot, on the beaches, hike the many trails close by, and enjoy the inspiration of ocean and mountain in my own backyard! I have a sister who is currently not well, and requires some of my time also, so I will factor that into the balance of life.
In many ways, I am a person who finds it difficult to make a plan and stick to it. My daughter thinks I may be ADD - in a creative way of course! For example, if I have a menu plan for the week, I rarely end up following it...I just don't feel like making that dish on that night, or eating that breakfast that day of the week...it feels too constrained and restricted. The same with following a recipe...I always seem to change it in some way. So, we shall see how my plan for my art in 2018 progresses. It's going to be a challenge and I think it will prove interesting in ways I can't anticipate.
So...here's to 2018! May your days be creative and move you toward your goals in life, as I hope mine will.
These Birds of a Feather will soon be flying out the door, and into Salish Sea Market gallery, along with 15 more. These are original 5" x 7" art cards, which I have done in acrylic on prepared 300 lb. watercolor paper. They are quite beautiful, especially when popped into a frame!
Not only art cards will be flying out the door, though. In exactly two weeks from today, Syd and I will begin our journey to Spain!!! Yes...we are going to be with my daughter and her family for December and part of January...SO EXCITED!
It's the most wonderful time of the year! :-)
As you can see, I am busy creating original Birds of a Feather art cards for Salish Sea Market's busy Christmas season. And in coming to the time in the paintings when I need to do detailing on these cards, I have found, to my dismay, that my favorite brush is missing. I have had that beautiful detail brush for over 20 years, and it is irreplaceable. I am heartbroken because I don't have another one that can even come close to taking its place. I've searched everywhere, but think it must have escaped on one of my plein air painting sessions. Not a happy day!