Saturday, January 30, 2016

Listening to the Muse

©Theresa Grillo Laird - Opal Beach - oil on canvas - 24x30
I look at the work of other artists and I see I still have much to learn. What a trap it is when you begin to know something and you start thinking that you know most of what you need to know! 
I know intuitively when I'm not hitting the mark. I'll bet most artists do. No matter the praise, I know when the visual meets or even comes close to the sensation that's the heart of the painting. 
So, why look at the work of other artists?

Here are just a few among the many good reasons. In the isolation of the studio, it's good to look at other artist's work both past and present to remind you that you are part of  a community of artists stretching back through the ages who have left their contribution on the earth for the enjoyment of all, past present and future.

In more practical terms, you can find or create a solution to a painting problem either by seeing how someone else solved it or just by being inspired by their work to a new direction of thought.

Often, looking at other's work rekindles the fires of dreaming that can grow dim with disappointments. Whether the dream is places you want to go, or new methods to try to bring your vision into reality, you need to dream. Without dreams there's no creation.  

When isn't is beneficial to examine the work of others?
It's probably not a good idea during those times of temporary insanity when you lose all belief in your ability. The solution to that sorry state of affairs is to keep working and eventually you'll have the proof in front of you that you do know what you're doing. 
It also not helpful to search elsewhere when you're in a negative state of comparing yourself to others rather than a place of open minded exploration.

I will keep studying the work of other artists, remembering to look forward to the exciting possibilities in front of me, and not banking on painting goals already reached.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Smoke and Mirrors

©Theresa Grillo Liard - Oil on canvas - 9x12
click here to ask about this painting

I was listening to an interview on NPR today of Pete Wells, the New York Times food critic. He commented that people today are getting their culinary information predominantly from sources like Instagram. He made the point that the pictures are beautiful but a misleading impression of how food is prepared and how it would taste. By the time all the minute touches are put on the plate for the sake of the visual impact of the photograph, the food would be cold and ruined. He lamented that social media sources like Instagram or Pinterest give people who are searching for an outstanding food experience, a picture that's presented with visual impact in mind rather than an understanding of the actual taste of the dish.

I was struck by the similarity of his complaint to the world of art. It's relatively easy and even necessary for artists to create awareness of their work through social media. That also means that for anyone with enough technical savvy and enough nerve, the sky's the limit for whatever picture of their worth as artists they choose to create and present to the world. Sometimes the autobiography is accurate and just. Sometimes it's as unreal as an instagram post of an amazing dish that can only exists as a photo. 

So what's an artist to do? Shameless self promotion knowing that the buying public will always choose a product that's packaged as a winner? Or work your talents and count on the world eventually noticing a good product? 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Around the Plein Air Lunch Table

©Theresa Grillo Laird - Across the Bay - oil on canvas
click here to inquire

I say it's high time we take back the definition of "plein air" from the multitudes of former illustrators who have hijacked it. 
"Plein Air" means painting outdoors plain and simple. No where has it ever been said - until very recent times - that you don't dare touch the painting again and that it must be finished quickly in one shot. 

Before the computer age, commercial artists had to work quickly and in a kind of painted shorthand if they expected to keep their jobs. Artists aren't bound by the same constraints. For well over 100 years artists have toiled in front of nature blissfully ignorant that the masterpieces they were turning out weren't legitimate plein air!
Imagine telling a Monet or a Redfield or Edgar Payne that they were unwelcome to exhibit or join an artist's association because their painting lacked the freshness and spontaneity that only something painted quickly in one go could have.  

Painting in front of nature is without a doubt the best way to learn landscape painting. Colors and values aren't very accurate in photos and photos completely lack the sense of air space between and around objects. Painting on the spot also gives you familiarity with the elements that a landscape might be made of. A tree isn't just any tree for example. Each tree and each kind of tree has it's own unique characteristics. The same tree will even look different under changed weather conditions. Nature is never a boring teacher!

So grab your paints and head on outside. Learn everything you can. And don't let anyone tell you that your work is less worthy because of when or where you chose to call it finished.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Who's life is it anyway?

“To award prizes is to attempt to control the course of another man’s work. It is a bid to have him do what you will approve. It affects not only the one who wins the award, but all those who in any measure strive for it.” 
― Robert HenriThe Art Spirit

Robert Henri-Tam-Gan

New Year, new beginnings, new directions...

Recently I was talking with an artist friend. The recipient of a lot of prizes and honors, he surprised me when he said he was veering away from the competition circuit, to forge his own personal path to a successful art life. We talked about how disappointing it is to see the elitism that seems to have developed among some of the award givers and recipients and how this has led to a select few who are repeatedly awarded wins even when their work is less than outstanding. While recognizing that contests and plein air events work for some artists to bring their paintings to the attention of collectors and gallerists, he decided that he is not going to rely on the subjective opinion of judges to determine his critical and financial success.

When you look at all the variables that go into judging and winning art competitions, you could drive yourself crazy looking for the answer to why some paintings win and others don't. And you can throw yourself way off course trying to change everything you do in order to be includes among the honored. I admire my friend's clear minded pursuit of the direction that means something to him personally, individually.

Before jumping on the bandwagon with the rest of the hopeful crowd, it's worth asking what artistic success looks like. You may be wasting a lot of time, money and energy on contests and accolades that don't serve you. 

It's your own personal adventure. Don't let anyone else dictate it's direction.


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