Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Painting for Yourself

Creek Overlook Sketch, 9x12 oil

Do you ever paint just for yourself?  I  mean, without giving thought to what the gallery wants, what the students need, or what your spouse thinks would help your career?

It's hard to ignore these voices when you paint, especially if you're a professional.  You've trained yourself to listen, and to do so very closely.  If you hadn't, you most likely wouldn't be where you are today.  Sure, some mentors say, "Paint, and the money will follow" - but how likely is that, really, if you disregard the world?

But once in awhile, it's nice to do exactly that and to paint for yourself.  It's like giving yourself a present.

The other day, I went out with our local painting group.  The view was a stupendous one:  a broad view of beautiful Oak Creek, its riverbanks studded with sycamores and cottonwoods, and over it all towered the hulk of Cathedral Rock.  Here are some of the thoughts that went through my mind while I was poking around for a subject:
"I should paint some of those sycamores.  People like my sycamores.  They sell."
"I've always liked this view of Cathedral Rock, but I've been told pictures of these red rocks don't sell - and I've found that to be largely true."
"Or maybe I should paint the distant view of those mountains.  Lovely violet shadows.  The scene looks generic in a way, not tied to any particular location.  It might be an easier sale."
Once these voices had their say and things grew quiet, I realized now that "I" could step in.  To heck with all of that!  I was going to paint something that appealed to me.  I wasn't thinking exactly, but I was instead feeling what I wanted - thicker paint, texture, abstraction, color.  I grabbed a painting knife and began.  No thoughts, just motion.

When I paint like this, I usually end up with a piece that I really like and find difficult to part with.  The result, the painting above, is something I intend to keep.  There's more of me invested in it than just skill and time.  There's a little bit of soul.

It makes me happy to say, "No, it's not for sale."

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