Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Problem with My Art - A Realization

I've come to realize something about my art, something important. However, I am not at all sure that it will make much or any difference.

I've come to realize that I am never fully satisfied with my own art. And I am not sure that I will ever be completely satisfied.

One day recently I was standing at the desk in the art room, staring at the the pen and ink portrait that I made of Ethan recently. I had planned to add color to it. I had planned to do a better job. Ellie walked by and said casually, "That is a nice drawing, but it does not look like Ethan. I wish I could draw like that." I realized that she was could see it differently than I was seeing it. Ellie could quickly and easily identify what was off (it turns out that it was his eyebrow, mostly). Also, she does not have the image in her head that I have in mind. There is no ruler to measure it against. I've had that same exchange with her in a few different ways. I am still working on a landscape painting. It is such a struggle for me. I trust Ellie's artistic eye, so I called her in and asked her about it. She declares that she likes it and that she would consider it done. I took the little sketches of buildings and trees that I drew on post-it notes. I placed them on the painting as a means of auditioning my idea. This helped her get a better idea of what I had in my mind. We talked about it for a few minutes and I charted a course of action to finish the painting. I added them in and then called her in again. She declared it good, but I still feel like it is unfinished. I am going to add in birds next.

The thing is, I realize that I have this same reaction, this same response to everything I create. Take the painting above of the church and the sheep. I am still not sure that it is done, but I stopped because I also know that I often go too far, add too much and then I cannot take any of it back. This means that I tend to gather piles of things in my art room that I don't put up or give away. The pieces that are hung up are only on the wall because Ellie put them there. It made me feel good. It made me feel like she approved of what I had created.

I think part of the problem comes from the fact that I am trying to challenge or shift my natural style. I gather images from from some of the artists I admire and consider them closely. What is it that I am so drawn to? Is it the colors, the texture, the composition? I start out with a plan to follow them closely, but I always veer from the plan. It is like I cannot help it. Sometimes, when I do art around other people, I tend to not have this problem as much. Perhaps I am simply distracted.

I was recently at the Denver Art Museum. As I walked through the Western Art wing, I was captivated, as I always am, by many of the paintings. I love most of them, but it always make me wonder how the painters knew when to quit. I walk by some that are lovely from afar, but if they had been my paintings, I would have kept going, adding more detail.

In the end, I find that I am both frustrated and content, at the same time. I am frustrated that I don't know when to quit and that I feel so stuck in my own style, my own vision. On the other hand, I am content because I think this might be how it is for many other artistic people. It might be the very thing that keeps pushing us forward, causing us to continue creating.

I also have a tendency to forget what a therapeutic response I have to doing art. It helps recenter me when I feel off. I am feeling very off center, very frustrated and ineffectual right now so I have decided to work on pages for our 2012 family photo album. While I do not consider these pages in the same way that I consider my paintings or drawings, I do have similar struggles. I have at least come to be more at peace with my current style. In my earlier books you can see a tug of war going on between the photos and the embellishments. It is possible that the pages below are perhaps too basic, but at least the photos are what's on center stage.

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