Defining Your Artistic Process
It’s always inspiring to hear artists describe their process in their own words. Steve Henderson is an artist many of us at Artists Network have admired for his uplifting paintings, business acumen and artistic generosity.
Below is a conversation we had a while back that I wanted to share so his words of wisdom can inspire you anew like they did me. Enjoy!
Tell me about your process. Are there rules you adhere to for how to paint certain things or just the opposite?
Steve Henderson: Although I do follow fairly strict procedures, I permit myself the freedom to give new approaches a try. If they work for me, I adopt them; if they don’t, I toss them.
Different paintings require an appropriate approach. For some paintings, I take the time to study their design structure through preliminary sketches and studies.
Other times, I decide how to paint differently. I enjoy jumping right in and applying the paint alla prima, allowing each stroke of oil on canvas to mold the image into being.
One thing that always holds true is that I ask myself many questions before I even begin the painting process. Questions such as: Why am I painting this? What does this image mean to me? What more can I do with it?
How do you view experimentation in painting?
SH: I view experimentation absolutely positively. Artists should have a spirit of experimentation at every level, style, medium and subject matter.
An abstract painter can benefit from the discipline and draftsmanship of representation. And the representational painter can benefit from learning how to paint with the looseness, compositional possibilities and imagination of the abstractionist.
Where does illustration fit into your oil painting practice?
SH: Working in the illustration field for 20 years kept me flexible and disciplined: flexible in that I illustrated everything from medical illustrations showing blocked arteries and hip replacements to cartoons of angry germs and tired office workers; and disciplined in that I had to meet deadlines and please art directors.
How and where do you sell your work? What has worked for you?
SH: I sell my work through direct sales on my website, representation through fine art galleries and indirect sales through workshops and classes. Stay flexible and eclectic in your approach.
Offer items in various sizes, formats and price ranges to expand your body of interested buyers. And keep in touch with your collectors through direct and indirect contact about your latest work and activity.
Painting on Your Own Terms
As Steve says, staying eclectic and flexible keeps artists thinking while shedding light on how to paint on your own terms and with processes that are tried and true.
Two resources, Mastering Composition Collection with Ian Roberts and Composition Secrets: How to Plan a Painting with Liz Haywood-Sullivan, will give you that same kind of flexibility and an adaptable foundation for painting. What’s more, they are exactly what we need to progress in our art but from the convenience of our own homes and studios.