Moving my work forward into a new year.

Every day that I am in my studio painting, I feel privileged to be doing what I love on a full-time basis. Nothing is more exciting than stepping back from a piece to feel the rush of accomplishment, the sway of emotion, the tug at my heart. I made some very good paintings in 2023, some just okay ones, and perhaps a few stinkers. Many sold and, of those that did not, I am reworking the ones that allow me to do so. (If something is in the studio long enough, it is bound to get a makeover!)

But, at the start of a new year, with a big fat winter ahead of me, I ponder how to push my work forward. Specifically, I do not want to get stuck in a rut. I am afraid to find myself relying on a formula to make a painting. (A dune + some trees + clouds = success.) If I were to start relying on a fixed method, I would be heading towards making a product rather than a work of art. I have been guilty of this! I suspect most artists are from time to time. It happens when we ask ourselves – Is this going to sell?

This painting, I Dwell in Possibility, is one of my favorites from 2023. I love how, when I look at the marks, I can feel my arm making a movement. Each stroke of the brush has its own identity while it also works in collaboration with the others. This piece happened accidentally, as all truly strong paintings do. I lost conscious thought and moved to some inner concert. (Or was it to Chet Baker, carrying me away on his trumpet?) So, how do I advance its looseness forward towards more abstraction?

I find one answer to that question in this 5×5 oil on canvas (2023), View From Oxbow Lagoon. I love how loose and emotive it is! On such a small piece, the brushes are proportionally much larger to the canvas than on a bigger painting. The marks actually mean more; each has more impact. In order to achieve this on one of my 36x48s or larger, I will experiment with using much bigger brushes, like those used by house painters.

This last piece is a work in progress. After the holidays, I began using paint that is very thinned down with medium. The washes do their own thing on the canvas, much like watercolors. Color drips and layers build up, so that surprises happen (always a good thing). I am a firm believer that the paint needs to speak for itself rather than bend to my will, and this method may enable that to happen with more ease.

So, that is my current artistic path in this new year. Like many goals, these methods will invariably morph over time. But I love to have a direction and some guard rails because the success or failure of making a good painting remains a mystery to me!

8 Responses
  1. John Thomas

    What I love most about your work is the artistic courage I see coming through. Loose or tight, the person holding the brush is always conveyed.

  2. Marcia Leben

    Am I being creative? Will it sell? Questions artists have asked themselves throughout the centuries. Both important questions.

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