March 4th marks the anniversary of my 4th year of oil painting. I have learned so much in such a short time! You can see the progression in the diagram below. I finally find myself moving past the mindset of being a "Beginner". Conversely, I still don't feel like a Master, though my work has begun to receive such a designation from both the National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society and the prestigious Art Renewal Center.
Having had instruction under some of the best artists living today, I do, however, finally see my skills are beginning to catch up to my taste (to paraphrase Ira Glass). But, now that I can paint, what shall I paint and why?
If I quiet my mind the answer is clear. When it comes to what to paint, I need to paint what my heart is pulling me toward. I need to paint the ideas in my mind which make my stomach fill with butterflies! I have been doing this all along but with a tinge of worry about my works lack of continuity, fear it may not sell, as well as a fear that I don't paint enough work. I worried I may find it hard to sell my "product" if what is coming off the easel isn't in line with what was produced before. But I've decided I don't want to be a production artist.
The wise Dr. Vern Swanson once told me, "Don't be Mrs. Product! Be Mrs. Process and you will make masterpieces." Dr. Swanson was critiquing my work "City Blues" in the MEAM in Barcelona when he gave me this advice. Advice he intended to encourage me to find the courage to set aside worries about gallery expectations and financial reasons to "produce work" and instead do the work necessary to make truly great works.
The "work" Dr. Swanson spoke of is color studies, value studies, drawing studies, attention to mark making, and most importantly, having a clear mindset so when I approach the canvas, I do so with the right intention...the intention to make a masterpiece.
Intention, that is the "why". So now that I know how to paint, why am I making the work I make? Answer: Because, with every fiber of my being, I want to make masterpieces, and giving it my best try is true bliss.
Now I take Dr. Swanson's advice with me to the easel each time as a talisman against production and toward real growth, experimentation, discovery, and the best intentions.