Body of Work, My process

Putting the “practice” into my studio practice

An online class led by an artist whose work I love and respect has turned my attention to the idea of practice. I found it illuminating that he warms up—practices–every day in the studio before turning to his serious paintings. After decades of being a successful artist, he still practices. Eight quick studies of a pear or a flower or a figure, each one different, but using the exercise to explore, to correct, to learn, casting off what doesn’t meet his standards.

That motivated some self-examination. How often have I plunged into a project headfirst, expecting the result to perfectly sync up with my vision, but wind up disappointed, not just in the painting, but in myself as well? My self-esteem plunges and I’ve squandered time and materials. My artist friend Betsy said, tongue firmly in cheek, “Well, every painting is a masterpiece.” That may be the intention, but how often do I fail to meet my own expectations? Calling it “practice” removes the pressure. Practicing on paper instead of pricey canvas helps.

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New Mexico Landscape Study 4              New Mexico Landscape Study 1

Right now I’m on a practice binge inspired by my summer trip to New Mexico. (See previous blog: Why I took a class in textile dying.) I’ve immersed myself into abstract landscape painting. Although many of my previous abstracts have had a landscape heart with horizontal lines and shapes and references to the land, this is a road I haven’t traveled quite this way. I’ve been doing this for several weeks now, and there are some real clunkers (wa wa wa, descending scale), but I see something happening.

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Red Bluffs

So why do we resist practicing? (Only speaking for myself here. Kudos to you if you’re already dedicated to practicing.) Is it because practice reveals weaknesses? Oh. That’s the point. Practice builds skills. Practice breeds confidence. Practice improves results. Practice closes the gap between so-so and competent, even awesome. And practice assumes I’m going to improve.

So I’ve vowed to practice more. I will give myself time to self-evaluate. I’ll allow—and acknowledge–mistakes. (Let’s hope I notice the worst ones–and learn from them.) I’ll toss out the losers—or paint over them–without looking back. I’ll look for where I need correction or development. I’ll allow the idea to mature and evolve. And I’ll aim less for the masterpiece that for excellence and the pure joy of creating art.
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All art is copyrighted and may not be reproduced without express written permission. Copyright 2018 Laura Hunt

 

 

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About the Painting

Four Things to Look for in My Paintings

The seed for this post was planted recently at a group show where my work was exhibited. I was having a pleasant conversation with an attendee, a woman who seemed to be enjoying her time in the gallery. She wanted to know which paintings were mine, and as we strolled around talking about various works, I began to point out several features, especially those that recurred. As our conversation closed, she thanked me in such a genuine way for increasing her appreciation of my work.

Later reflecting on the conversation, I realized that what is obvious to me can be hidden to the typical art lover. So what do I want people to look for in my work? This is a bit challenging, as so much of what I do is intuitive, but I’ll give it a try. Here are the features I’ve identified as being a part of almost every work I create, and how you might approach it.

Texture

Look for the tactile qualities of the work. Is it bumpy or gritty or fine? Smooth passages next to rough ones? Does the texture sit on the top layer of the painting, or at the very bottom? Does paint skip over the valleys and hit the ridges? Do raised lines define elements in the painting? Is there a passage of paint that looks corroded or worn? Do you want to touch the art? (Go ahead; I don’t mind.)

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Detail from Moon Over Canyon

 

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Detail from Deep Water

Pattern

I am drawn to all kinds of visual rhythm. As we respond to the beat in music, tapping our toes or bobbing our heads, so we can respond to the beat of the painting. Find something that is repeated. Do you notice a linear texture, or a swirl of concentric arcs, or a row of trees on the horizon? Is there a pattern of raised dots forming arcs or squares or lines? Is there an allover pattern, or is it random? What does the beat say to you? Straight lines are calm and serene; squares symbolize strength and stability; diagonals connote action; arcs and circles and spirals speak of energy.

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Detail from Dove in Mourning

 

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Detail from Prevailing Winds

Color

I’m willing to try any color or combination that advances the narrative I have in mind or the emotions I want to evoke. Consider how various colors make you feel. Do oranges and reds excite you? Do blues and greens give a sense of serenity? Do neutrals like white, ecru and tan make you feel quiet and calm? Do the colors tell a story, from reds and oranges in one part of the painting, to blues and purples in another section? Do the colors sing with each other in harmony or dissonance?

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Detail from Elements of Time

 

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Detail from Crosswise

Surprise

If you look closely, I’ll reward you with a small surprise, a little like an Easter egg behind the wildflowers. Are those linear elements made of vintage maps? Are there little gold or silver “pearls” tucked into a crevice of the texture? Does a shiny metallic pattern contrast with a softer earthy background? Viewing the painting from across the room is one experience. Engaging closely deepens it.

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Detail from Elements of Time

 

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Detail from My Jupiter

There are art professors, docents, curators, and art historians more qualified than I to teach art appreciation. This is just my attempt to help you enjoy what arises out of my artistic vision. Even though I had something in mind when I created the painting, please don’t be afraid to insert your own narrative. It’s your response that completes the work.

 

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