On Finding Personal Style

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8 x 6-inch oil on linen panel pochade study.

This wet (yes, those are rain drops) pochade study is #2/50 that I’ve committed to doing. My intention and reason for doing 50 out-of-door studies is two-fold. I want to improve my technical skills and I want to better understand my personal style. Austin Kleon wrote, “You can’t find your voice if you don’t use it.” I want to know my voice.

I do one timed study a day. When the chimes sound on my iPhone after 75 minutes, I have to stop painting and then I have to resist the temptation to finish the study that I always feel. The goal isn’t to produce finished artworks; it’s to improve my art. And it’s been proven that making 50 starts—and applying deliberate practices that are tied to a goal—will help me reach my goals faster.

Why show work that isn’t finished? There a several good reasons.

  • To document the process and to share with readers any discoveries that occur along the way. We humans have a tendency to forget what it’s like to be a beginner at things. That’s why experts have a difficult time speaking to or writing for the average person. They often know so much that they’ve forgotten all that they once didn’t know and, therefore, are unconscious of their own expectations.
  • To inform. Many people wrongly think artists who “make it” do so because they’re talented. More often, artists who are “making it” have worked really hard to build skills and understand their art, and to know their place in their chosen field.
  • To encourage others to share their work. It’s easy to adopt the mindset of hiding until we’re good enough to share what we do with the public. That is a self-defeating, self-perpetuated mindset. How can you know if you’re good enough at what you want to do if you don’t try, and then share your work?

 

 

 

 

Trees and Sky

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When the goal is to get better, deliberate practice is the strategy to use. Deliberate practice works because it makes the difficult familiar and, therefore, easier to do. Deliberate practice involves repetition and having a coach or mentor who can help guide the practice and offer constructive critiques.

What I learned about painting a tree and sky holes

I thought it might be easier to paint the sky behind the tree (known as sky holes) first and then paint the tree over the sky. Painting sky holes isn’t hard to do, but I reasoned—wrongly—that painting them first would save me time. A good teacher or mentor could have helped me understand why my experiment failed, but studying how other painters work and what they have to say about things like sky holes is a good alternative.

I’m reading Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting by John F. Carlson. In the chapter on Light, Carlson explains that light loses brilliance when it’s filtered through a dark mass (thick leaves). But that isn’t the “whole” story. Carlson goes on to explain that the sky color varies in value according to the size and consequent amount of light that’s admitted through them. The lightest holes are the biggest holes. The small holes are darker. I’ll apply Carlson’s suggestions on my my next painting.

What do you want to do better? How can you accomplish your goal?