oil on canvas, 29 x 16.
oil on canvas, 14 x 14.
|Anakin Padawan, 2009,
oil on canvas, 44 x 28.
I have blogged previously about preparing for my exhibit, “Myths and Individuals.” I worked on the paintings, and planned this show for almost three years, so needless to say, I was just a little bit excited when the big moment arrived.
I had the “out of town opening” in St. Louis, at the St. Louis University Museum of Art. I included over 30 oil paintings and 6 drawings on view.
In reflecting on what I have learned through this journey, there are two takeaways that I want to share with you.
First: “If you build it, they will come.” This reflects the principle that in working toward a goal, sometimes you have to build it first, and then the opportunity will fall into place. I have been envisioning my goal of a large show in a New York venue for a long time. Three years ago, that goal seemed elusive, but I began to create the work anyway and trusted that the road would rise up to meet me. When the opportunity came, last year, I was already well underway to having the body of work I needed to have the exhibit at Forbes. In the words of Dorothea Brande, “Act boldly and unseen forces will come to your aid.”
|Waiting for Supper, 2010
oil on canvas, 18 x 35.
The second lesson: Consider your artwork as a whole—what are the large themes, the connections, and the persistent vision you are expressing? My work is almost all figurative, but sometimes it is mythological, sometimes there are portraits, and sometimes simple figures. I needed to reflect on the whole group and see what common themes they shared. I had to think back to the very first ideas I had in creating a composition, and consider what the original motivations were. Then I began to see similarities and connections in intent and philosophy between paintings, and see the common threads that had been there all the time.
Oftentimes young artists are given the impression that the artist must start with a vision, the grand theme, and then you find the tools to express your big idea. I’ve come to another conclusion through my personal journey. The artist excavates the vision out of one’s body of work, out of the long process of becoming the artist and creating the work. Like a refiner’s fire, the artistic process clarifies the vision, and shapes the artist.
So, take a group of your paintings or drawings, and consider them all together to see the underlying themes in your own work. Make notes of your strongest impressions, or even write a couple sentences about each picture, asking yourself “Why did I make this painting?” and “What am I trying to express?” Even if your notes are more word association than sentences, you will see themes emerge. You could also gather a few trusted artist friends, and do this together.
Next, you can ask yourself, “Is this what I wanted to do?” And, moving forward with your artwork, you will have more ability to consider how you shape the underlying themes you express in your work.
For more painting instruction from Patricia, check out her latest DVD, Figure Painting: Realistic Skin Tone.