Yup! You read it correctly. Failure is a huge, ugly demon in life whose bark is greater than its bite. The fear of it keeps artists from stepping into the ‘untried’ and ‘unacquainted with’ parts of art. In other words, many of us are fearful enough of failure that we remain in the warmth and safety of the comfort zone. Any suggestion of moving away from, or out of that zone scares hell out of most.
If we actually examine it, we find (usually) that failure is not some gnarly, nasty, covered with spikes, 200 mile per hour motor scooter diving off the edge of a rocky cliff. In the world of art, Failure is the name of our teacher(s). It is in the crashes that we find our best lessons . . . that is in life, too, usually. And those lessons are remembered well!
Unlike the Indy 500 race or any other race where there lurks the grim reaper if a mistake is made, we must court failure as a welcome passenger all through our ride through the art jungle. One could almost say that in art, failure is the mentor.
It is from that mentor that questions are generated and answers sought. It is from disappointment that we seek to improve. It is from knowing where we want to go and falling short that we hear the voice “try again.” No one ever died or sustained serious injury from a mistaken painting. Yet, unexplainably, some artists absolutely avoid any risk of shortfall at al costs.
Now . . . .where is that machete? I need to hack my way through this jungle of color and pigment and mediums and drawing and perspective and all that stuff. There are snakes afoot, too! But so what?
I have fallen in love! Yup! I did!
With a color! In fact I like it so darn much that I even ordered it for my watercolor pallett. (sp?) Transparent Oxide Red is sooooo versatile! It combines with greens to make the most natural greens any one can imagine. Yet, the greens never go to that forbidden totally neutral place called black . . . or worse . . . M.U.D. ! It just keeps pushing the greens to a place that gets more neutral but stays green somehow. And with other colors . . . .Oh, Yes!! This lil girl flirts with em all.
That said, look at the greens in the last 6 or 7 paintings. (The monitor could be off a lil bit, so don’t take what you see too literally). It has earned a permanent spot on my palette!
Today I wrestled. As in physical struggle with another being, larger than I. The other being was this little 8″ x 10″ canvas and my attempt to show aerial perspective at work along a hazy beach. He won. Yup! Beat me fair and square. Not just in ten rounds either. I put up a galiant fight (I think I did) which took much of yesterday and a good part of today. I am sure he will be back to take me on again and again. But I am not giving up! No surrender here!
This was a particularly difficult subject because the aerial perspective on the beach was throwing off the feeling of closeness of the foreground sand pit. Back and forth, scraping and brushing and wiping and trying I went. All said and done, I blended too much and spoiled the effect I once had with strokes.
Richard Schmidt has been ringing in my ears, of late, while I paint. Edges! Transitions! Values! Today his lesson (from the book) was this: Given two shapes, one large and one small, same color and value . . . .in the distance, the smaller one will appear to be lighter than the large one and have softer edges . . . .all due to the effects of the atmosphere and light. (This is a simplification) . . . .I can see why now.
This entire painting was about those lessons of aerial perspective and edge management. Slowly, I am beginning to make my strokes more deliberately and less often. When I do that, I find the painting to be much more fresh and the colors crisper. (Another lesson to be applied in future paintings . . . .!! Gotta put a sign on the wall!)
Anyway, the work we do alone or together always pays off in solid lessons learned and practiced. From that perspective, it was a very successful day.
Morning light from behind the far cliff.
Since there is little color in these cliffs, much of it is left to the artist to create and decide how he wants to represent them. The light, however, is what makes a painting come to life. Lighting from behind, contra jour in French, is particularly challenging because in a short time, that which is backlit is fully illuminated. So, the painter must memorize or sketch the light and shadow . . . then stick by that for the entire painting session . . .which means there is little reference to paint from as the painter develops the piece. Hence, we paint in haste!
Yesterday, we spent another morning and part of an afternoon painting atop a high precipice above sharks tooth rock. The difference in light is noticeable in both these pix . . . .morning (11 AM) and afternoon (1 PM) . . . .notice the far cliff is backlit. This was fascinating because the edges of that dark slab of rock and sandstone were lit up like neon (halation). The striking part of the morning light was the difference in value of the two cliff faces, in the light and out.
Oil on canvas, 16” x 20”
One is honored when another person of like mind and soul will drive nearly 100 miles to be with you, or to be part of what you are doing.
Yesterday, again, Elio Camacho did precisely that to see my studio, my work and to paint together en plein aire.
This guy is all about mastery, as am I. Mastery is what we both seek . . .I may never reach it, but it is the reason I exist. To be with someone who eats and sleeps and works hard to reach that same goal is a rare privilege. I don’t want Elio to get a big head or to think I am ‘in awe’ or acting like a groupie. No! We both know that it is a rare thing to be with another person of like mind and motives.
We went to “Sharks Tooth” beach up the coast from my studio and home. And stood apart and furiously attacked our respective canvases or boards. A wise crack here, a glance there, or an expletive or a laugh is all we need to connect. We watch each others’ methods and processes without comment and proceed down each of our respective processes. Two paintings as different as night and day came out of this session, yet, again, I gained knowledge, encouragement for myself and a larger degree of respect for him and his work.
Is he a master? I don’t know. I think mastery is familiarity. It has to do with brush mileage, or how many acres of canvas one has painted. At any point in the process, one holds mastery over their previous work, but what lies ahead? How much work is one person willing to expend to reach a new level? And that is why he and I connect, I think. We both are willing to stretch and reach and work every day.
Yesterday was exactly that. Each held a little challenge, or a plan in our respective minds, before putting brush to paint, to tackle something new. For me, it was using a different set of colors on my palette and to see what I could derive from that. . . ..and to push the color in places where nature was offering bland, neutral tones.