An Online Artist's Coop for Artists who Paint on Location
Because I am this way, I assume everyone is the same, but perhaps not. I go through phases. Ups and downs of being in the zone and not. Of being inspired where everything I look at I can see as a painting, to being in an uninspired mood where nothing I look at turns me on. Maybe this make me a bit bipolar. I do go through dry spells when I do not paint at all. I tend to explain that away to having so many other interests or distractions. This website is the most recent example of a distraction keeping me away from painting, however, in this case, there has been far more inspiration coming from our members than anything else, causing me to want to go out and paint all the more.
I recent years, since I quit teaching, I have been far more selective of my subjects, composition and color palette. Teaching others made me think all the more about what and why I did certain things and made me put into practice many of the design principles I had been teaching but was not conscious of using. Things like color schemes, focal points and the illusion of depth became much more present in my mind. I also realized that adding a figure or horse into the scene would not only add human interest, but would also add scale to the butte or mesa, without which, you really could not tell how big it actually was. Abstracting shapes such as a figure or horse really help you get the subject down quickly enough in a plein air situation, which otherwise would not be there long enough to study and paint in a traditional fashion.
I also find it interesting that certain things that I did not like to paint years ago, are now something I gravitate toward and seek out. For instance, in 2007 I did a whole series, maybe around 100, pastel thumbnail sketches in my backyard beginning in the Autumn with all the colorful foliage. This has always been my favorite time of year to paint and would usually stop when the leaves came off and left the limbs gray and barren. Well, perhaps I was just still turned on and in the zone, but I kept on drawing straight through the Winter into Spring. I began playing around with the positive/negative space of the gray branches, the tangle of detail that was the bare branches against the light sky of winter. You can see the result for yourself in my video posted here, but I am again looking forward to this winter to do so plein air oils out there. Maybe even get a bit of snow!
I think the subject is important, but the way the artist handles it is more important. The three states I have not been to to paint, Nebraska, Iowa and North Dakota, are relatively flat with not much in the way of natural subject matter to attract my attention (no offense). I may still go there to complete the list of states I have painted in and hope I will prove this assumption wrong when I do. Otherwise, it will be grain elevators and hay bails, and I will do my best to make an interesting series of paintings.
Logging on tonight, I wanted to pose a question to our members . . . being relatively new to this format, I brought up "discussions" and here was your question Bill - close to what I wanted to talk about. My question is "Do you paint what sells or do you paint what you are passionate about?" With any luck they would be one and the same.
My answer to the question of "subject matter" is quite simple because subject matter for me is secondary. My motivation is composition - creating a dynamic painting. Regardless of whether or not you were dropped off by the side of the road and literally had nothing more than weeds to paint - what would you do ?
Find a patch of ground, simplify, and create. We are artists, let's use our artistic license. Move things around on the canvas. Push the paint around. Stand back. Is the composition good?
That weed is just green. What would happen if you made it orange? What would happen if you put snow on the ground and have the weeds protruding out of the snow - twisting, poking, dancing. Oranges, reds, mint green - contrasted against the snow. Painting buildings? There are four windows, exactly the same. What would you do? Get rid of one. Put shutters on another. Paint the trim an exciting turquoise. But they aren't turquoise you say. That's OK, make them turquoise! Hmmm
Now to my question about painting what sells or painting your passion - any takers?
Bill,I hope there is painting in Heaven...we miss you down here, but thanks for the inspiration.
I usually drive around looking for a focal point in a context that will make a good painting. I try not to have a pre-conceived idea of what to paint before I begin the search. Since I have given up painting in the high elevations and have switched to the commercial/industrial scenes near home, the diversity of subjects has increased and as I do more work in this vein, new subject are presented to me. Old trucks, for instance, suddenly holds a fascination for me. I like the fact that as we mature, our tastes change, and we expand our view of what is right for us and what is wrong.
I think painting the same thing all your life would be boring ... except of course if you painted nudes.