If it’s not discovery, it’s not art! Artificial intelligence and forgeries reproduce existing information. An artist, through discovery, creates something unique, something only their soul can birth.
We learn the principles of the things we want to do so we can do them. With the principles in mind, we practice. Practice builds skill. The most skillful painter will likely tell you that each new painting was spurred by a desire to learn more.
It’s all an experiment.
My first vegetable garden was a mixed bag of success and failure. In my second year, I had more success and different failures. This pattern has continued throughout the years. Each year I try new things. I learn new things that encourage me to try other new things. It’s all an experiment. That’s the approach I’m taking with painting.
When I received an emerging artist grant from the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council, I had a plan in mind. With grant funding, in part, I would buy some much-needed supplies and add paintings to my new collection. I was also interested in learning more about watercolor and enrolled in an online course taught by Pat Dews.
I was feeling a bit cocky about my recent paintings. As a storyteller, I thought I was effectively executing the messages I set out to convey. And I did. The paintings are fine. But after taking Dews’ workshop, I was back to full-on experimentation!
Not everything is precious.
A dear friend once reprimanded me for trying to save every single Amaryllis bulblet. “Not everything is precious!” That message has stayed with me and served me well over the years. It really came in handy as I tried to follow along with Dews, who had been painting for 50 years. I failed miserably. I’m still failing, but I’m putting my failures to good use.
I don’t have to produce winners every time I paint, but I do want to learn from what I’m doing. This class opened my eyes and mind to things I hadn’t considered. What isn’t precious can be painted over, collaged, worked with, and overworked to find what matters to me as a painter—what matters in the composition and structure, not just the message.
I’ve discovered artists on YouTube and I’m obsessed!
In the mornings, I write. In the early afternoon, I write for clients. In the late afternoon and evening, if I’m not painting, I’m feasting on YouTube videos by artists for early artists like me.
Louise Fletcher blows me away! Her videos are personable and easy to follow. She doesn’t try to tell you what to do. She shows you as she finds her way through paintings, sketches at first to see what she likes and what she doesn’t like.
She offers an entirely new (to me) approach to what Pat Dews calls, starts—also a new concept. Fletcher, with abandon, uses a limited color palette of paints and inks onto large sheets of watercolor paper, cuts the sheet into quarters, then studies what’s calling to her from each section.
She does it this way, first because she likes to play (yay!), but after that, she’s looking for elements that are working and not working to develop a series. How efficient! All these segments end up in sketchbooks that she reviews and edits until she’s satisfied.
I’d never thought about making sketchbooks of “starts.” Now that I know this, I can’t unknow it and feel compelled to put it to use.
Pat Dews takes the same approach but does not break her large sheets into sections. Instead, she steps back, considers, then begins to work with what she has, adding textures, collage elements, and new colors. She calls these sheets, starts, and will save them (when dry) in a pile to work on for as long as it takes to get what she wants.
Both artists are looking for contrast in color, shape, texture, and what it is they want as a focal point. The editing they do is all about maintaining balance and focus.
Examples of my fails that are starts.
These are a little frightening because they’re such a mess. I will get something decent out of at least one of these, guaranteed.
Some of the artists I’m following on YouTube.3>
Nicholas Wilton—He also interviews other artists, new to me as well.
Mark Eanes—I discovered this amazing artist and educator via a Nick Wilton interview.
Kate Zimmer—She’s not on YouTube, but I learned of her through another Wilton interview.
The other way I’m discovering artists on YouTube is through endless art gallery tours.
Fail and fail again!
I am so grateful for the artist support I received from my regional arts council. With the grant funds in hand, I felt uncomfortable at first, buying supplies I didn’t know how to use. I did realize, however, that the purpose of this artist’s support is to help artists like me learn new things. With that in mind, I go forth happily, to fail and fail again!
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