Friday, January 7, 2011

Creative fears

I'm hoping to finish this goat painting soon, and offer prints of it in my Etsy shop. I'm pleased overall with the way it's coming along, although the minute I look at it I see things that require fixing, features misplaced, collar too high, etc. Oh, well—in time. I'll let you know when it's done.

The last painting I completed was a Christmas cactus (it's already in the shop), and the final product turned out better than I'd expected. That sounds like it would be a good thing, but actually it can be rather intimidating.

Whenever I finish something that I like, I'm afraid to start the next thing. I want to rest on my own self-appointed laurels. I don't want to risk a potential failure with the next subject. I've read some art blogs, mostly done by more professional artists who spend time creating every day, and they all seem to be of the "paint through it" mentality. I know they're right, but I still find it challenging to make myself get down to business after a success. I suppose that's why there are so many "daily painter" and general artist support groups, so all those artsy people can talk amongst themselves and get each other motivated.

(I guess an online community will have to do, because it's snowy and slushy outside, and I am rather enjoying this period of my life in which I am permitted to rediscover the loner within.)

One cool thing about this sweet goat is that I got to meet him? her? when we visited the miniature goat farm near my sister's; it's always nice to meet your subject. Another cool thing is that an artist of any medium can take liberties and remove unsightly objects from his interpretation—say, for example, wire fences. That just doesn't belong in the painting.

Earlier this week, I made myself get a frightfully white canvas from the basement, and I arranged the easel in my "studio" (our bedroom, the only room in the house that features unhindered morning light). And I began.

I guess everyone has his own method. I sketch the whole thing out a bit per my favorite college art prof's style, and then I start to fill in the major features. Nothing permanent, just scruffy colors and general placement of picture components. It's a mess at first, like a little child's crazy brush strokes, and then it begins to take form. A nose here, an eye there, no horns yet...

In most of my animal paintings, there comes a moment when I know the painting is starting to arrive. It's a moment of recognition, and I had it right before I stopped working on this one. I was putting together this little goat's face, and I mixed a color on the palette and then glanced up—and the goat was looking at me! At that point, I knew he/she was going to be fine. I had a similar moment with the little pig painting I posted a few months ago. I caught the pig smiling at me while I rinsed a brush; after that, I didn't have to make myself work on him, because I wanted to.

I'm hoping this goat keeps urging me on; that makes the process so much easier. Either way, though, I hope you won't be afraid to start the next project in your life; that clean, new canvas is much too white.


chris h. said...

This is such an interesting look at the artistic process, Mel! Very neat for a non-artist like me to read about. I love when you talk about the little guy looking at you!

Mel said...

Thanks, Chris! I guess everyone has their own process, no matter what creative pursuit. He really was looking at me. What I want to know is, why is it so much easier to recreate animal faces than human ones?

Someday we should compare writing processes among all the writer folks we know. I'll bet we'd find out everyone has their very own system. ; )