Friday, October 16, 2009

Artist's Block: What makes a painter freeze?

(photo courtesy Carson Lommers)

I had a great conversation with a Mom today during a field trip for our 5th graders. We hiked to the top of Bald Hill (Corvallis, OR) as a part of a topography study and had a beautiful view of the valley. The other Mom asked what I do (I paint), and she mentioned her attempts at learning watercolor. One of the tips she received was to paint a scene of clouds every day for several days in order to help her master particular watercolor techniques. She didn't feel it helped her greatly improve. WELL...

Painting is an interesting study in human nature. Certain subjects/objects are particularly difficult for beginning painters because they cause them to freeze up and focus solely on the object rather than the painting itself. I have found CLOUDS to be one of these objects. Part of the problem with painting clouds is that they make such interesting and breathtaking formations on their own, that if painted, they wouldn't look believable. It can make even the best painter doubt their efforts. It almost works best if your painted cloud formations are NOT believable. Weird, huh?

Painting people, birds, pets and buildings will often have the same effect. We freeze. We worry and fret. We no longer are working on a painting, but doing what we can to try to make a realistic person, bird, etc. Suddenly our big arm movements and freestyle brushstrokes become tight and tentative. RELAX!

I have found 2 solutions to this problem: Paint often and paint FAST. Don't let yourself dawdle on the specifics of an eyebrow. Keep the big picture (aka composition and style) in mind. It's not easy. It takes practice - so DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP about it! Keep painting and have fun!

And - I hope I encouraged the Mom to keep trying... at least with something other than clouds!

You might even try a floral! (They don't seem to engender the same effect)

Happy Painting!


Jennifer Lommers said...

I also meant to mention that I spent my entire first year back at painting (after taking about 15 years off) just painting florals. I found limiting my subject a great way to reaquaint myself with the fundamentals of painting without engendering the fear of realism.

Alisha said...

So true. I had a painting teacher once who would always say "you're not making a [insert object here, like cloud, bird, etc.], you're making a painting." I think he was trying to get across a similar point...and that we should treat the entire painting the same way.

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