Robin Luciano Beaty, we were talking about artist organizations, workshops, and working in isolation in home studios versus larger studios spaces. She mentioned a quote that made me think about how I usually worked and my need for "alone time".
"Artists never thrive in colonies. Ants do. What budding artists need is the privilege of wrestling with his problems in solitude...and now and then a piece of red meat." ~Henry Miller
I thought about this quote for awhile and decided that I had to agree with Henry Miller...most of the time.
I have always been a loner when it comes to creating art and who doesn't love a piece of red meat now and then? But with my new series, I have found that every once in awhile, wrestling with my problems just wasn't going to be enough.
Having never been to art school (I got my master's degree in math education), I don't have the "technical" background that many artists have. The things I've learned have usually been by trial and error or from the occassional workshop I managed to attend. This wasn't much of a problem when I was painting still-lifes or working more abstract but now that I am painting people, it became pretty obvious that I was going to need some help and advice from my fellow artists.
Just the other day I was painting a picture of a little girl, and like many artist who don't have much experience painting people, she was looking more like an old lady than an innocent little girl. This wasn't the first time that I had encountered this problem. After working and reworking the face a few times, I finally asked fellow studio artist, Scott Inguito, what he thought of it. He looked at it for awhile and then shared some advice that his former painting instructor gave to him. He said that when painting women and children, delete any lines in the forehead, under the eyes, and all smile lines in the cheek EVEN IF YOU SEE THEM IN THE PHOTOGRAPH. These lines/wrinkles won't translate well when painted and will cause your subject to look older than what they actually are.
I was hesistant to erase these lines. Afterall, they are in the photograph. This girl has smile lines and lines under her eyes. Shouldn't I paint what's in the photograph? ISN'T THAT WHAT YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO DO???? But what I was doing was obviously not working so I decided to trust Scott and delete these lines from my painting. Once I painted over these areas and smoothed out the lines in her skin, my subject immediately transformed into a little girl. No longer was this a painting of a middle-aged lady holding a teddy bear. My painting looked a thousand times better!
This is not the first time I have had this encounter. While I still like being a loner and keeping to myself, and I will never join an artist/support group, or at least attend any meetings, I have come to appreciate how another artist's opinion can help my work. Though I have found that I do have to be picky about who's advice I solicit since everyone has an opinion but not all of it is usefull. I have my trusted artist friends whose advice I value and whose work I respect. My favorite "go-to" person has always been my dear friend Hylla. I send her images of most of my finished painting to get her feedback on a regular basis and while I am sure it can probably get annoying for her, I sure do appreciate the critique. It's not always what I want to hear but it has always been constructive and I have always learned from her. So what's the lesson here? Being an island has it's advantages, but everyone once in awhile it's good to let someone on for a visit.
Image: "Girl with Bear", 12" x 12", oil, graphite and encaustic wax on panel.