Thursday, December 16, 2010
Climb Every Mountain
Here's an inconvenient truth for you: Painting is hard. Now, I can hear some folks saying that I'm a wimp to think that. They'll say that there's no heavy lifting involved in painting, no boss yelling at you. All you do is put some pleasant music on the stereo, swish some pretty colored paint on a canvas while you let your muse create whatever comes to mind. Then you call it Untitled Dreamscape #184 and sell it for a million bucks. To that I call B.S.!
This month marks my third anniversary of painting full time. Back when I decided to jump off the cliff and see where I'd land, I thought it would be easy. I mean, I'd been painting for thirty years and sold almost everything I painted, and I won some awards. So why not just throw myself into doing what I've always wanted to do? How hard can it be? I admit, I've had some success, and some setbacks. But the one thing I've noticed like a zit on the tip of my nose is that I need to get better. In these three years I've immersed myself in the study of other artists and what they do to create their beautiful paintings. What I've found makes me feel like I'm flying a crop-duster by the seat of my pants, while they captain 747's!
As a lover of analogies, let me use one to describe my Artistic Journey. Let's say I want to climb Mt Everest. I fly to the mountain and start heading on up. When I get to the first camp, I'm told I need a thick, warm blue parka. So I go back down, and though it was hard to find, I get one. I climb up past the first camp to the second, where I'm told I need more orange rope. Back down I go to get it, where I notice it's really expensive. But I get it. Then back up the mountain even higher, where now I find I need a bottle of oxygen if I want to go on. After going all the way back down, then all the way back up to the top, I look and see that I was on a false peak, and I still have more mountain to climb! But I've also learned that I didn't really need a blue parka, any color would do, and green rope works just as well as orange. The one common denominator was that everyone on the mountain had a parka, rope and oxygen.
And that's what I've found in studying my craft. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know, and how much more there is to know. But each nugget of information is another step up that hill. Every artist I've studied uses a different technique. Some artists use extensive studio prep work, others plein air. Some glaze while others might paint wet-in-wet. So what I look for are the commonalities, which are; superb drawing skills, awesome design skills, and a scientific knowledge of colors and what they are capable of. Another thing: while they may have been born with more talent than I, they worked countless hours at all of those phases to be what they are.
So after three years of living the life, and enjoying every moment of it, I can safely say I have now reached the bottom of the mountain. I guess I'll start climbing now.