not one painting, many

background detail

Every part of the painting can teach you something.  This morning I’m learning to think like the pattern maker.

Working on a large complex painting, one needs to break things into parts.  It’s not just one painting: it’s many paintings stitched together.  Each section becomes almost a separate painting to me — I am learning more and more to do this — and I strive to focus on that part and to see the possibilities that it holds within it.

Then one stands back to look at the whole thing.  The introduction of these new parts has to jibe with the rest.  It’s a back and forth.

I’m letting Brian Tracy coach me this morning.  He writes, “The bigger your goal and the more intensely you desire it, the more likely you will be to exert your powers of self-discipline and will-power, and the more capable you will be of making yourself do the things that you need to do to get where you want to go.” (p 140, Maximum Achievement)

I must say, the color blue is a good coach too.  The color blue always makes me want to do stuff.

new year’s resolutions

monet 1
Claude Monet – Haystacks

January is a natural time for making plans.  A whole year’s calendar sits there all open and full of possibility.  I’ve been reading a lot about goal setting during the last year and so my “new year’s resolution” this year is to be more consistently resolved!  I have always enjoyed making plans but I never realized that there’s a real art to planning itself.

I’ve been reading books by Brian Tracy, the best of which, in my opinion, are “Maximum Achievement,” “Goals!” and “Eat that Frog.”  And I just read Tony Robbins’ book “Awaken the Giant Within” which is full of wisdom.  Some of his stories are a little dated now, but the ideas are pristine.

The first element of goal setting is self-examination.  I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want from art at this phase of my life.  I look back at some of my earliest heroes, artists like Claude Monet (above).  I want to figure out how to emulate my heroes.  So, for instance, I’d like to master large landscape painting.

As the goal books will tell you, big plans need to be parsed into smaller, doable, trackable chunks.  For that reason I’m doing a gazillion small landscape paintings, and I’m approaching them in many different ways.  I’m using acrylic paint because it dries quickly but I know that much of what I learn from free-wheeling acrylic painting can be translated into oil also.  And I’m going to translate it.

There are many other facets to my particular plans and I won’t bore readers with the details.  Each person has different goals and every project needs to be thought through in its individual paths.

I just want to share some of my enthusiasm for the beginning of another year.  It’s a blank canvas.  It is full of possibility.  You have many choices about how to paint your year.  And I encourage you to embark on the new year with joy.

So, eat that frog!  You can even paint that frog.  If you’re an artist, you can have your frog and paint your frog and eat it too!

(You’ll have to read Brian Tracy’s brilliant book, though, if you want to get the joke!)

frog detail 3

more moth – Mothra!

moth two thirds way

The drawing that I chronicle here continues to gain more stuff.  I say “more moth,” but it’s really more leaves — though aspects of the moth evolves as well.  I see the edges of the moth in relation to the leaves, and it’s necessary to get the leaves in there so that everything can be altered later as necessary.  You can’t know what you want to change until it’s there to see.

This 32 x 24 inch drawing is preparatory for a painting.  The painting is larger and includes another element not present in this study.  I have a second more careful preparatory drawing that’s in the works as well.  These are the rehearsals.

A polyphemus moth in real life is large, easily 4 inches across.  This moth, of course, is much larger — though not as large as Mothra.  And it won’t be transporting any Japanese girls anywhere.  Nor is it likely to fight Godzilla — or King Kong — or anybody else.  It’s a peaceful moth.  The leaves in the picture are metaphors, and I wish I could tell you what they stand for metaphorically — I really wish I could.  But I haven’t a clue.

Sometimes the artist is the last to know.  I just paint what I’m supposed to paint.  It was my idea.  But my own brain is very hush-hush and “need to know” about the topic.  The conscious me who writes this blog doesn’t possess a high enough security clearance to be granted access to the Top Secret information …. so there you go.

Once all the leaf stuff is in this version of the picture, I can start moving leaves around.  It is as self-help guru Brian Tracy wrote, “anything worth doing well is worth doing badly at first.”  Not that I judge my moth and its leaves as bad.  Quite the contrary, I like them.  But a rehearsal might go really well too.  It’s still a rehearsal.

I need my practice moths so that my more deliberate moth can sail through its pictorial night and accomplish its symbolical purposes.  And if I do it right, who knows?  My brain might even tell me what it all means.