So you have a particular skill set. Maybe you know something about computers, knitting, music, writing or as in my case painting. Why should you consider passing on some of those skills to others? Here is what I discovered while teaching an oil painting class recently.
Planning a class forced me to think about why I do the things I do when I’m painting. I’m an intuitive learner, but that doesn’t work when teaching. It would not help my students to tell them to feel their way to a beautiful painting. It forced me to become conscious of every detail of my process. Knowing why I do things has made me a better painter.
Your mother, father, teacher and any adult you came in contact with as a child encouraged you to share. It’s still a good idea to share. Sharing your knowledge and skills with others broadens your world and enriches your life.
The last day of our class many of my students made a point of letting me know how much they enjoyed the class and learned. One of my students became so passionate about painting she reported that she painted all the time now. She doesn’t cook, clean or do any of the things she used to do. I’m hoping her family doesn’t come after me. Another student told me with tears in her eyes that her mother was an artist and taught her to paint years ago. But since her mother passed away she hadn’t been able to pick up a brush at all because it made her so sad. This class was the first time she held a brush in years. She was so happy to be able to paint again. Then she thanked me. You never know how sharing your expertise will change another persons life.
Teaching hones the skills you already possess. It enriches your life to share. And best of all, you can have a part in improving someone else’s life.
up against the wall
Every creative person experiences dry seasons from time to time. The sooner you can get out of the desert, the sooner you can start your next masterpiece. But what can you do to shake things up and start the juices flowing again? The following are some of the ways that I blow the artist block blues.
1. Learn something new. Take a class. The wonders of the internet have made education very affordable. Nobody is cheaper than yours truly, but I will happily pay for a reasonably priced online art class. I’ve taken a number of classes online from Ken and Johannes Vloothuis through Wetcanvas.com . They are beyond reasonable and informative. I always come away with wonderful nuggets of artistic wisdom to put into practice. If you can take an ‘in person’ class so much the better.
piles of tiles
2. Try a new medium. If you are a painter you could get some clay and try your hand at molding or sculpting. If you work predominantly with oil paints then give watercolor , encaustics, acrylic, scratch board or pastels a try. The unfamiliararity of a new medium can release your pent up creativity.
3. Visit a museum or go to an art show. Find out what other artists are doing. Look at the work of some old masters as well as some new cutting edge artists. Are there techniques you see that you can incorporate in your work?
4. Spend time with other creative folks. Art groups and writers groups are invaluable sources of creative inspiration and support. Find a group and get involved.
5. Try teaching a class. Every time I teach a class I learn a lot myself. It forces me to examine why I do the things I do and to pay closer attention to my processes.
These five practices for finding your creative sea legs again work for me. What works for you? I’d love to hear how you blow the artist block blues.
There seem to be few hard and fast rules in oil painting which can be both liberating and paralyzing all at the same time. The one rule I do try to follow is the lean to fat rule. I generally use straight paint until the final layer where I may add a little oil for glazing or small touches. When the painting is dry to the touch in about a week or so I will go over the whole thing with oil. This may or may not be the prescribed method, so if you would like to school me on what is proper please leave a comment. The following is the process I used for this particular painting.
Step One: First I sketched out my composition with vine charcoal, taking pains to get the lines and angles positioned just right.
Step Two: I very loosely blocked in the buildings and water. Then I began painting the buildings on the right, working in an abstract texture with a pallet knife. This was a lot of fun for me to create texture and design using a knife.
Step Three: Here I began working on the left hand side buildings going from back to front. I wanted to keep the back buildings a bit hazy and less defined to indicate distance.
Step Four: Now I’m ready to begin a slightly more finished look on the front buildings. I would still like to keep it fairly loose so I go back to using my pallet knife to add texture but no real detail.
Step Five: It is time to put in the boats on the left and do more work on the gondola on the right. I also decided to add another figure at the railing. She wasn’t in my photo reference, but she was in my head. Also, I’ve made a few adjustments here and there on some of the window lines that looked a little wonky to me.
Step Six: I went back over the water, adding highlights and reflections. I added some flowers to a window box on the right, and went over the sky again. Then it was just some general tweaking and I was ready to sign.
That’s how I tackled this 48″ x36″ work. I used a pallet knife for about 70% of the painting. Comment to let me know what painting rules you follow and which ones you like to ignore.
Several people wrote that they couldn’t see my final photo of the repaired canvas well enough so I thought I would post a larger image here. I have continued to tweak this since yesterday, but I’m really trying to leave it alone now. I’m happy with the results and will put it in the frame sometime tomorrow. Hopefully this will never happen to you, but if it does at least you know all is not lost.
Kind of creepy huh? The truth is that I also paint the living. The important thing (to me at least) is that they were captured on film revealing a bit of their personality as well as the personality of another era. I love to imagine what life was like for them in the early or even middle part of the twentieth century. Those old photos give me a glimpse at a life I never knew. Pictures of my grandparents first as children and then young adults seem to be strangers looking back at me. What are the emotions I see? What can I tell about their personalities? Were they happy? Scared? Weary? In love? In one picture there is a group of children standing in front of a house in the middle of nowhere. It appears to be around the end of the 1800’s and they all are wearing large hats and holding dolls. Hmmmm… I can’t begin to guess what that was about. In another picture I see my great Aunt as a young girl clowning around with a man’s hat. I didn’t know she had a sense of humor! Now I’m looking at two young men with their arms companionably draped over each others shoulders as they grin into the camera. One is smoking a cigar, the other a pipe. I like to think that they are best friends celebrating something. Maybe one of them is getting married in the morning. I have collected hundreds of these pictures from my parents and other relatives. I insist on snagging every photo destined for the trash bin as my parents prepare to relocate. “NO! I want that! I might want to paint it later!” Even if I never get around to painting half of them, it’s important to me that someone preserves our pictorial family history. It’s my pleasure to be that person. And besides, I will get around to using most of them as references in paintings eventually. If I live long enough. And if I don’t, maybe someone will paint my portrait from an old snapshot they find stuck in the bottom of a dresser drawer that they are getting ready to sell or throw out. Then the tradition will continue. They will “paint dead people”.
Have some old photographs you would like to have painted in either oil or soft pastel? Contact me at Leah@lwiedemer.com