September 26th, 2015 – the day we hosted our first monthly Member Painting Critiques webinar – the first of dozens now available to out members in our replay library.
Time flows like a deep river – from a distance the surface appears quiet and slow, yet when we dive in the current moves us along with breathtaking speed.
Since that first webinar we have had an incredible number of artists from all over the world join our community, and though the swift current requires much of our attention right now, we have developed relationships with many artists as they’ve shared their artwork with us. The world has grown more beautiful!
The monthly webinars have given us a chance to see hundreds of paintings – from seasoned pros who want a fresh eye to spot out of harmony nuances and patterns that elude the best of us, to fresh off the block ‘just picked up a brush for the first-time last week’ up and comers who are eager to advance their skills and fulfill newly designed dreams of mastery.
Endless possibility is what breathes life into the soul of art and helps it rise to the dizzying heights of imagination’s powerful capacity – hence the supremely subjective nature of painting.
How do we determine what artwork is good or bad, stylized or incompetent, advanced or amateur?
That is a debate that fuels critics’ careers and never leaves us with a satisfactory answer. And I’m grateful there isn’t a simple or formulaic response. The elusive nature of art gives greater facility to our faculties for growth and invention. Art would lose its savor if we were required to follow step-by-step in the footsteps of another.
So, is our best course a careening ‘free for all’?
To answer that question, we can simply turn to Google, type in ‘oil painting’ and click the images tab.
After doing that, does anything appeal to you? Why?
Was it something like this…
What about this…
Do you think it’s the amount of money we spend that makes a difference on whether it’s considered good art?
What makes Clyde Aspevig’s paintings sell for tens of thousands?
Or Clark Hulings’ work cost hundreds of thousands?
Or a de Kooning fetch hundreds of millions?
Is it the time it takes to create them?
Maybe it’s the school the artists went to or how cool their signature sounds when we say it out loud?
Most will agree that it’s not simply how real it looks.
With how difficult this first question is, let me ask another-
What is it that drives us to paint?
If it’s about the money, we could just content ourselves with replicating what’s already been done – at least it seems to work well for the factory artists in Dafen where tourists can pick up a handmade historic classic for their walls.
Most in the Master Oil Painting community don’t think it’s about the money, and I wholeheartedly agree.
Let’s discuss a more revealing question then – what causes you to catch your breath and go still as you wonder at the mastery and majesty of an artist’s creation?
Distraction abounds in this world of shiny commodities commanding that we look – not to mention an ever-encroaching online world teeming with images designed to detour us down a slope so steep we slip and struggle to grasp handholds or slow our pace long enough to see if the destination is desirable.
We are artists – we can create those handholds and scenic byways that give respite to the weary traveler and allow them to catch their breath and look around.
With imagination and determination, we can withstand the current of consumerism and be a gentle reminder that life is finite and swift – we must not be pulled along by compulsion – rather we can forge ahead with inspired intention and create paths for others that allow them to revel in the majesty of God’s creations and walk in sunlit streams of thought and gratitude.
So, again I ask-
What stirs your soul?
The greatest of paintings rouse emotion – if not, it would be a simple process of learning to paint lifelike images of nothing in particular – not as difficult a task as it often seems during those first few art school semesters.
Think about this – when we see photographic paintings, we are immediately impressed by the ‘talent’ exhibited and the time it must have required, but what then? Do we feel a desperate desire to grasp hold of our overflowing emotions, bottle them up and release them in our studios with the hope that they will flow into our own creations? Or do we instead say something like “wow, that was cool, must have taken a lot of time to do”.
Now, this is not a slur against photographic work, some is certainly moving. It’s to demonstrate that masterful realism is more than impressive draftsmanship and color rendering. It’s poetry – sometimes sloppy, other times careful, but always it affects us!
So, does the creation of poetry require anything beyond our unique way of seeing the world?
If you’ve beheld paintings that tangibly touch your mind and heart, can you go right now to your easel and produce something like that – with the intent that you can help someone else feel that way?
If not, why? Do you feel inadequate, like most all of us do at times.
How then do we acquire poetic painting mastery?
There’s something magical available to each of us that transforms our stumbling inadequacies to confident striding before the easel. It’s study and work And then more study, and more work, and more work, and then more study and then… on and on!
A quote attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed but that our power to do has increased.”
But what if we persist in doing the thing incorrectly?
When we paint from, and ponderingly observe, life as much as possible I don’t believe we can persist in “doing it wrong.” Over time, we gain such a friendship with our surroundings that our observations become enhanced by tender appreciation which imbues our abilities with increasing clarity, vision and direction. We get better, not because we increasingly want to prove we’re good, but because we are so moved by our now familiar friend (life) that we want to share what we experience.
That’s when the inadequacy heartwarmingly humbles us, not from fear that others won’t be impressed – rather, the cloudy veil of vanity vanishes from view, engulfed joyfully by the radiating and penetrating light of gratitude. We begin to paint with passion – we yearn to express through paint the feelings that have filled us up and enrich others as we have been enriched.
That desire and our poignant introduction to our insufficiency compel us to seek the richest sources of knowledge to learn from which in turn fuels our confidence to risk failing as we leap longingly toward our vision.
Which brings us back to those hundreds of paintings from the critique webinars and a few timid tendencies that inevitably stifle the poetry – that most of us suffer from at one moment or another, and that can unquestionably be conquered.
A few weeks ago, during one of our webinar critiques preparations, Kristie and I discussed a few of those all too familiar traps and that’s when she came up with an idea and the title Extreme Painting – Paint to the Edge.
I think it would be best to let her describe it in her own words – next week!
What do you think makes a particular painting great art?
And what tendencies do you have that might be holding you back right now?
Enjoyed the thoughts and insight of this blog entry very much. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, or the perfect art rendition is an artwork that enlightens the emotions deep within the artist. If an artist creates a piece that says “Wow!” to others, plus himself, then perhaps the artist has created a masterpiece. My grown children created masterpieces, to me, when they were toddlers. Now they struggle to achieve that same greatness of art to this beholder. I struggle with each painting that I paint, but it is my quest to produce a masterpiece for the ages.
I have no doubt you will be successful in your quest Spike! Your paintings now are moving and beautiful.
Thank you! These are helpful thoughts to reflect on in my own journey with painting.
You’re very welcome Shirley! I’m grateful to hear you enjoyed the post.
I found your blog very encouraging………..and I loved your first landscape and wish I could produce something like It! Since giving up on myself and loosing confidence I am back to the very beginning……but I am now determined to paint every day, if I can, even if only for 30 minutes!
Thank you Patricia, I love to hear that what we are doing is encouraging others! 30 minutes a day is better than 8 hours every couple weeks – there’s something magical about daily habits over periodic marathons – we progress faster and with greater insight and clarity. With that first landscape painting – it’s amazing, but I still remember painting it and how excited I was when I finished at realizing what was possible with oil paints (I had been using pastels and watercolor before that, which I loved, but oil paints for me seemed to have even more directions I could take).
THANK YOU BOTH… Great blog.. It really made me think about my paintings and others who paint… But I come from a long line of kniters and sewing.. And the perfection they would strive for.. I think Art is in many things and we can live our lives seeing art and wonder.. Or anger and limits..
I agree Dawn! I’m grateful for the vast variety of different types of art. Creativity, even in seemingly mundane things like shoes or door mats, brings joy to life and living.
I loved reading this blog! I definitely feel that when I focus too much on the “rules”, I lose the emotion and the paintings are just not as good! This blog has inspired me to paint more with instinct and emotion. Thank you!
Thank you for that Silvana! Stapleton Kearns said it well when he spoke of painting with poetry. When I let my instincts and emotions guide my intellect the result is much more fun and invigorating. Knowledge is definitely critical for successful paintings, but the creative flow does not come from intellect alone.
Learn moreeach time I read your musings and advice. An other artist I admire told me to paint not only to the edge but also the edge itself, and it truly made a diverence. Especially since I cannot always afford a frame, but cannot stop painting, I even dream about my paintings I hope to have enough soon to have a show…. how to aproch that is another matter maybe one time you like to discuss. Thank you Yvonne
I’m glad to hear you have some good instructors helping you along Yvonne! I know what that’s like – struggling to pay for frames and still wanting to paint daily. Just keep at it – paint now and let the frames take care of themselves later. Once the work is powerful, a good gallery might help you with the framing. We had an excellent interview you will enjoy, with Jason Horejs, who went into detail about how to get into galleries and sell our art: https://www.masteroilpainting.com/blank-canvas-an-interview-with-jason-horejs/
Bill: I feel so great full I discovered your site. I have been painting for many years, first in watercolor, acrylic, pastel, and now teaching myself oils. Your philosophy as an artist and instructor is so inspiring. Love watching you paint. I am most enamored by the way you use your brushes; so much to learn?
Thank you so much Valerie! Sounds like you have a wonderful foundation for oil painting. I’m so grateful I started out with pastels because I feel like I learned a lot about color and how one color looks placed next to another from using pastels. I hope you have a joyous journey as you learn to use oil paints.
I am like a child discovering art for the first time, at almost 70 years of age. I’ve had a successful career, which was all consuming. I still work, but choose now to pursue the things I am running out of time to do. That which stirs me is how awesome the spirit of life is. I am laughed at sometimes at work because I go to great lengths to rescue a bee that is trapped on the window pane, or a grasshopper that is exposed on the cement and could become a morsel to the birds…. I think I am more aware at this age, which reaffirms the fact that every age has its advantages. With that awareness, and the work involved to learn to paint, I will continue to enjoy.
I am with you all the way Cheryl – I too go to great lengths to save a trapped bee! Kindness as a way of life tends to increase our happiness and optimism I believe. Painting will go a long way in helping you continue to be stirred by the awesome spirit of life.