Friday, April 16, 2010

Taking the PAIN out of Painting.... and other stuff

Satsuma Vase 16x12
See this and more at
Monadnock Fine Art Gallery, Keene, NH
opening reception,April 16, Friday, 6-8pm

The last several weeks have been just plain weird.  It's like I woke up and forgot how to paint.  Nothing I tried was successful, and I had an opening at a gallery that I really needed to get work done for.
Pretty frustrating.  
When I whined about this, several kind and wise souls told me to just relax,  don't be so hard on myself, and even take time off if needed.   Maybe that was the permission I needed, but thinking about their advise helped me to just sort of let it go, go with the flow, and not worry about it.  And then, voila! All of a sudden I'm
back in the groove, and things are finally happening.  Not a huge explosion of creative energy or anything, but
little happy blurps of painting joy.
So how DO you handle a painting funk?  What to do when painting is painful? (I actually did get a shoulder overuse injury from furiously painting for a show,but that's not what i mean).  Here's what I did.
First I examined what was going on in the rest of my life - stressors, or conflicts of time, etc. These kind of things require energy, and you only have so much of it. If you're overdrawn, then you'll have to pay the fine, which is a lack of creative juices where you might want them.  If you can't juggle your schedule, then just back off for awhile. This was partially to blame for my funk. We're trying to sell our house, and busy, busy, busy with that...
Then, I listened to the advise of some wise friends. They reminded me that, after all, God is still in heaven, and He's not shocked to suddenly find out that I am struggling down here. He's hasn't been asleep at the wheel, and I can trust him in this area of my life, just like all others.  When I remembered this, I put it back in perspective.  This is, after all, not life or death. It is important to me, but not, in the big scheme of things, earth shattering.  Trust. Let it go.
Thirdly, I think sometimes we struggle just before a breakthrough. Our artistic growth chart is a series of rises, leveling off, and maybe a slump or two, before it heads back up .... so, maybe this funk is the precursor to
Hey, I can always hope!

So, the opening is tonight, and this is the final painting I'm delivering to the gallery. Last minute, still wet, of course!  This is "not quite finished", as I have to re-draw in the faces of the two little girls on the vase, but needed to let the undercoat dry a little before doing it.. it is incredibly small detail and impossible to do if it's wet underneath.
I used transparent glazes for all the design on this vase. First I painted the background color, basically a beige. Just flat color for the light and shadow of the vase. Then, because this design was so intricate (and that's what attracted me to this vase in the antique shop!) I let that first color completely dry.  Then, with a small rigger, I outlined the drawing details on the vase, trying to simulate the stylized image as it really was.  Once this outline was dry, I glazed in very thin color, mixed with tons of medium, almost like a watercolor wash.  
Once that was completely dry, then I was able to add the blips of highlights and a tiny bit of shading to the edges to complete it.  This is not my usual way of working, but I liked the scene on this vase, and wanted to
do it justice.  I did enjoy this process - very slow and concentrated effort, and rather calming actually.
Of course, then the flowers made me want to swear, so goodbye calming!  It's done (or nearly) and I'm happy with the overall effort. Most especially, I like the color harmony in this piece.  The ladies at the flower shop will be happy - I spent alot of time there picking out just the right hue for the flowers!


Jeremy Elder said...

This is beautiful. I think the glazing worked very well for the vase - it really does mimic a ceramic glaze well.

Richard Schmid calls flowers "naught little children." I never got that until I tried to paint them - they are so difficult to deal with!

Judy P. said...

Beautiful work, Deb, and thanks for all the logical painting advice. I laughed reading your latest comment on Stapleton's blog- I'm getting those voices too! 'Smuggle red' 'anything in shadow is never as light as anything in light' 'is it warmer, or cooler,than the object next to it?' My voices like to add 'chocolate cake!'

Deb said...

Thanks both of you. Your kind words are truly encouraging to me.
I just edited the post because I left out part of what I wanted to say about dealing with being in a funk.
Jeremy, your broken color exercises are really fantastic - exciting texture you've created! I can't believe you've only been painting a year. wow.
Judy, Love the one of your two kids - what great smiles- it has life!

Kerri Settle said...

It's good to see you back, Deb. I like the result of the transparent glazes for the vase, and there's so much interesting detail in there that I can imagine trying to do it without glazes would drive you crazy. It works! I'm having a good time looking at the super sized image.

Deb said...

Hey Kerri

How's things? Thanks for checking in..
I'm off to the opening now, trying to keep this painting out of the rain while I transport it!

Mary Bullock said...

Good luck on your opening, Deb! The painting of the vase is just beautiful. And the technique you describe about glazes, is the technique that I use to paint skin tones for my figures. It is time consuming, isn't it? But end product is so worth the effort.

Deb said...

Good grief, Mary, I can't imagine doing that for a portrait or figure... but then, maybe I can. it was sort of fun. I will have to go check out your site online again and take a closer look!
Opening went well - 2 sold, so no complaints.

Anonymous said...

Hope you don't mind a complete stranger stopping by to say this painting is beautiful; the patient effort you've put in really shows in the final work. The lighting is gorgeous, and I love how the earthy background hues are offset by the delicate glaze on the vase. Also, you're thoughts on the possible benifit of 'funk' remind me of a concept in early childhood development I read about recently, (I'm raising babies in lieu of painting atm) that when a baby seems more out of sorts that usual, won't settle, even appears to have regressed a can be a sign that cognitavely they're attaining an important developmental milestone, and it will show in a sudden surge of new skills/level of awareness. I think they call the funky time: 'wonder weeks'.