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Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Joy of Unpredictability

"Passing Through Queens" - 12x24" - Oil on linen
Juried into the 2012 OPA Regional Exhibition and awarded Best Landscape in the 2013 AIRS Annual International Representational Show.

Do you ever find that in your painting world, and in life - when things start to go sideways your response is to get constricted and anxious? And that this is usually followed by focusing on what you don't like about what's unfolding, and how you need to fix it, change it or stop it?

In my coaching practice I often work with my clients around developing the skill of flowing versus resisting when the wheels start falling off. This is a tool that serves us in every aspect of our lives, and I recently had a great chance to work with it myself.

The Curve Ball

I was in New York city with a few friends and we set out one evening to go to a Broadway show. We decided that taking the subway would be infinitely faster than trying to get a cab at rush hour, and headed down to the nearest station to jump on a train.

During the ride some lovely New Yorkers (don't let them tell you they're not friendly - and they will try to) engaged with us in a conversation that led to the fact that we were on the wrong train, going in the opposite direction of Broadway. Yep, we were headed for Queens, speeding farther away by the second from our $200 seats for a show that started in 30 minutes.

The Choice

This was certainly a situation that warranted panic, and one of my companions slowly, quietly took charge of that department, while also managing to join forces with the other who had taken on the necessary role of recalculating the steps needed to get us to the show on time, with a grace and composure that was admirable I might add.

Since these two roles were covered, I opted for embracing the experience of being lost in New York City, hurtling entirely away from the intended direction of travel, and blissfully uncertain if we would make it to the show or have some other wonderful adventure in its place. Into the land of wild curiosity, wide open to possibility - exactly where the really great stuff happens.

The Magic

As we leapt off the train at Queens and were racing down the platform to catch our next train, we were gifted with the sight of the gorgeous evening sun shining through the city and bouncing off the tracks, wrapped up in a moment of perfect composition that we were running at top speed away from in order to get somewhere else.

I was fortunate enough to have my camera with me and managed to capture the critical details on the fly. I LOVED painting this piece, my first of New York, and one that wouldn't be if we hadn't gotten lost. In the end we made the show, and I got one of my favourite pieces of reference from the trip. And now to top it off, it's been juried into a really great show.

Always good to roll with the magic.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

3 Tips for Stronger Paintings

"The Kootenays"
Oil on linen - 4x10"
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How often do you ask yourself: "What should I be focused on daily in my quest to improve as a painter?"

I just got back from teaching a 3 day plein air workshop in Kimberley, BC. On the last morning, I did the above demo to set the students up for an exercise that I have found to be enormously valuable in my own learning, and one that almost always creates a breakthrough for students.

The challenge was to begin by drawing out a composition that was no more than 10 shapes, and then to paint the painting in 50 strokes or less. (Not many takers on the "less" in either department.)

As I was explaining the ground rules, I had a terrific conversation with one of the students that went something like this:

Her: "What is the point of this exercise?"

Me: "What do you imagine it is?"

Her: "Well, let's see, the 10 shapes is probably about learning to simplify my composition."

Me: "Uh huh."

Her: "And the 50 strokes or less is about..... ummmm - mixing up lots of paint so that I have enough when I need it, and I guess I'm going to have to be very focused on getting the value and color as accurate as I can before I put each stroke on the canvas."

Me: "Yep, that about sums it up."

She thought about all of this for a moment or two, and then asked, "Soooo, why don't we always do that?"

Fabulous question.