Friday, July 25, 2014

no more boring art, get personal

It is Friday and my Friday newsletter has been published to my Newsletter Subscription usual, here is an excerpt...

(If you wonder what is in the newsletter that doesn't appear here, well there is some personal chat and this week I answer a question about my 2015 teaching schedule plus I also posted about my poppy project. I don't want to overwhelm blog readers with a lot of text so I just post the main article. If you would like to recieve the complete newsletter in your in-box each week, visit this link: newsletter)

This week I am going to chat about how as artists we can sometimes start to lose a sense of freshness with our work.

Let me ask you this, is your art feeling a little stale? Are feeling connected to it or do you sometimes feel you are just making ‘pretty’ pictures?

Today’s newsletter has a remedy. I shall give you one way you can really ramp up your connection and your enthusiasm for your art work.

Here is the cover of the latest issue of American Art Collector Magazine:
The artist who did the cover art is Heather Neill:  

(Her work is gorgeous; do take the time to check out her website. I especially like her room interiors.)

Heather’s work caught my attention from the moment I saw the magazine. I immediately wanted to know why she chose this subject.

Why did she choose to paint two older fellows, looking out to sea? I doubted she was enraptured by their um, buttocks! J

I suspected there was a story and I love art that tells a story or captures a mood; art that conveys something.

I quickly flipped through the magazine to read her story. Heather stated that she painted these two gentlemen just for herself and she said that these portraits were “very personal and straight from the heart”.

  She went on to say that “these portraits are all about love at the deepest part of my soul.” Woo-hoo. That is something to aspire to in our art!

One of the fellows in the painting was 97 yrs old and a long time friend. He died last year and his friend Pete, also in the painting, died shortly after. “I needed to see the two of them together – relating to each other but really relating to the ocean. They would sit together and wouldn’t look at each other and would exchange maybe five words in the three hours.”

So, there was a story and what she was painting was meaningful and personal for her.

So what does this have to do with you?    Well, I ask you, is your work personal?

Or are you just going through the motions, doing another still life, floral, or landscape even though you feel rather bored by it all? Maybe folks like these paintings, they expect this from you. Or perhaps you have done them so often you are comfortable, (and therefore safe, no risk involved if you do what you have already mastered). Maybe they sell well and you don’t want to rock the boat.

If your answer is yes, and you feel like your work has gone a bit stale and become a bit ho-hum why not try my fix:

My remedy is for you to examine your motives and put yourself back into the art making process.

Decide to do work that is personal, meaningful. Choose passion.

Even if you are a beginner, the best way to ensure that you will hang in there, doing what it takes to get better, is to do art that you want to do.

I occasionally hear people say that they took a drawing class and it wasn’t for them. When I start asking questions, I find out that they were drawing something that bored them to tears. Imagine spending every Monday night for 12 weeks drawing the same fruit basket arrangement. And yes, drawing classes like that do exist.

Why not draw and paint what you are passionate about?

If you want to draw dogs instead of still lifes, draw dogs! Simple, no?

(I took piano lessons as an adult and I couldn’t get into the kiddie stuff. I asked my teacher for something meaningful and she found me beginner classical stuff. I was soon learning a watered down version of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and it was a darn site better than plunking along with train songs and froggie stories.)

Bottom line, your art supplies are at risk of getting covered in dust, if at some point your art doesn’t make your heart sing.

The next time you choose a subject, before you grab your paint brushes or pencils, ask yourself why you would spend time on this.

Is the subject meaningful to you, is there a story (and it is okay if only you know the story), does this ‘float your boat’, is there a flicker of love for the subject, some passion?  If the answer is yes, proceed with joy and enthusiasm. If not, I suggest you pass.


Katherine Thomas said...

Great post! I think too much of the time we let ourselves be influenced by what others say and do. We think we should draw like that person, or paint a still life because this exhibition accepts a lot of still lifes... art becomes a quest to get something awarded to us from outside of ourselves... and that will never bring out the best in our artwork. Truly effective art has to come from inside one's self, and must be created out of personal need and desire above all other motivations.

Anonymous said...

Dear Teresa,
I appreciate your thoughtful and generous post. Returning to my studio after the show opening, I am
fired up and ready to see what the muses have brought home in their suitcases...after some garden tending that is. My best to you on your journey, Yours in flying brushes, Heather

Teresa Mallen said...

Hi Katherine, I so agree. I know it can be difficult for artists to find the right artistic balance - for example if we earn our keep by doing commissions or if our clients like a certain style. Still, keeping our passion for art stirred up is definitely worth shooting for.

Thank you for stopping by!

Teresa Mallen said...

Well as I live and breathe, Heather Neill is in the house! :-)

Thank you for taking the time to comment. I can only imagine how busy you are - from show openings to gardening.

I so truly enjoyed seeing your art and reading your story. It touched my heart. Your painting of your friends is such an tremendous tribute. And thank you for your inspiration to us - as we strive to keep our work personal and meaningful.