Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Three Stages of Painting

In progress: part of the Nooks & Crannies series. I'm guessing I'm about half way done with this painting. It's from outside the Tucson International Airport looking in.

I think this one is about half way complete, too. It's from outside the administrative offices at the Phoenix Art Museum, just south of the sculpture garden.

I usually work on a 2 or 3 (sometimes more) paintings at a time. I like it when they are each in a different stage of development. The beginning of a painting takes a different mind set than the middle and the ending is a different thing altogether. So, if I have paintings in different stages, I can try to match the stage with my frame of mind.

In this case, these two are in the (to my mind) awful stage, where you work and work and seem to get nowhere, or if anything, feel like you're going backwards. This can and usually does go on for hours and hours and days and days. Even weeks. It's a slog. It's frustrating. It's boring. It's just plain hard work.

Beginnings are magic. Endings are like fitting the last pieces into a puzzle. Fun, quick and easy. Middles can be pure torture. Although sometimes magic happens during the middle, too. The trick is, you have to be working in order to make anything happen at all.

So I like to be able to intersperse the middles with beginnings and endings. Since I have 2 in the middle, I need to stretch a new canvas, prepare a new panel, and think about what I want to paint next.

Middles are so tough for me, my secret for getting into the studio and applying myself is: licorice and music. It's especially nice if I've just downloaded a new album and have something fresh to listen to. NPR helps, too. Anything to keep me going.

Does this sound romantic to you? Occasionally in this blog, I like to address the misconceptions that many people have about artists. It bothers me when people tell me that being an artist must just be so much fun. Well, it is. But it's also very hard work.

Joanne Mattera's blog is one of my favorites. Her posts include gallery visits in New York and beyond, studio visits, and lots of insights into what's going on in the art world. Of particular interest to me are her Marketing Mondays posts. The post this Monday was about how to define success as an artist. Very interesting, with great comments from her readers, too. Not only do artists need to be making their work, there's a whole art world out there to maneuver through, too. A must read!

While I was photographing my paintings this morning, I glanced to my right and noticed this. Reminds me of the all-white still life set ups many of us who teach art put together for our students. I love how the light is hitting the surfaces. Notice the really cool shadow on the lid of the box on the left side. By the way, this is really random. Has nothing to do with the rest of this post.


patricia sahertian said...


I love your randomness. Thanks for expressing the sometimes frustrating aspects of the artist's work process. I can certainly relate.

The Nooks & Crannies series really draws me in. Thanks for sharing it.

The Joanne Mattera blog was great. I will bookmark her blog for future information.

The clay heads I bought from you did not make their way into the hands of anyone else. I fell so in love with both of them and they are in my garden together. I would love to see more of them, too. I'll send you a picture.

Happy working.

Barbara Cowlin said...

Thanks, Pat. I'm kind of glad the clay heads (Gargoyle Guys) are staying with you. Then I can come and visit them!