Posts Tagged ‘bravery’

Paintingblind header

June 9, 2014

CONTENTS


• BACK IN THE STUDIO
• INSPIRED BY FITZ HERRERA
• THE PERFECT STUDIO SETUP
• PAINTING BLIND
• LETTING THE PAINTINGS SPEAK
• FLYING STARTS WITH JUMPING OFF THE EDGE

(Note: the above titles are clickable)


BACK IN THE STUDIO


I got back to Nebraska from Puerto Vallarta in late March, and after having been gone for almost the whole winter, I was really happy to get back into my studio for some extended painting time. With painting, it takes a couple of weeks to get back into the groove when you’ve been away. And if I want to really grow and develop and make some breakthroughs, I need a period of not just weeks, but months where I’m painting almost every day. That’s when the magic really starts to happen.

I got back from Mexico on March 19th, and by the beginning of April I was getting back into full swing. With, of all things, ABSTRACTS!


INSPIRED BY FITZ HERRERA


Fitzherrera greengreengreen

Green Green by Fitz Herrera.

In the past I often painted abstracts as a way to get warmed up before I dive into “the real stuff”—the male figure. But over the past few years abstracts and landscapes have begun to assume greater importance for me. Now abstracts and landscapes are “the real stuff” for me, too. When I got back from Mexico, I found myself getting captivated all over again by the abstract paintings of a guy from the Philippines named Fitz Herrera. I discovered his art online a couple of years ago and went crazy for it. For some reason the shapes he uses, the colors he chooses, his compositions, and especially the way he uses paint, all really speak to me. He’s one of those painters whose work I look at and go, “I want to be able to do that!” That’s what I call inspiration. And that’s the kind of excitement that has always pushed me to new breakthroughs in my abilities as an artist.


Fitzherrera brownnation

Brown Nation by Fitz Herrera.

So I printed out some Fitz Herrera paintings I’d found online and tacked them up next to my easel and started painting.


Fitzherrera yellow

Brown Nation by Fitz Herrera.

I didn’t quite know what I was doing at first, but of course that was perfect…I was going to have to explore and find new ways of doing things, which is always the challenge with painting, or anything where you want to stay excited and exciting.

So I spent several days in the studio, painting abstracts that didn’t work out. I kept trying to find my way into his style. I noticed I really liked the shapes he used, and I sat down and drew a bunch of them with pencil to familiarize myself with them. These were ovals, U shapes, and long skinny triangles, among other things.

1678hiddentreasures

Hidden Treasures, the first successful abstract I did after getting back from Mexico. I was starting to use some of Fitz Herrera's shapes, and I like the painting a lot, but it was still kind of contained and 'safe'----I wanted more sloppy, drippy, explosive things happening.

I also worked at using sloppier, wetter paint mixtures so I could get more spatters and drips, because that’s one of the things I love about his paintings, too. It’s like he’s showing us the process of the painting as part of the painting. Plus it’s wet and luscious and sensual, and I find it sexy and exciting.

I noticed, too, that there are layers and layers going on in his work. I realized I would have to change my approach somewhat. I usually like to work fast and finish a painting as quickly as I can, before I lose momentum. I saw that in order to get these layered effects, I would have to allow time for one layer to dry completely before I could go in and paint another layer on top of that.


THE PERFECT STUDIO SETUP


But I had a perfect solution for that issue: I would keep several paintings going simultaneously, so that there would always be a painting that was dry enough to move on to when the others were still wet.

And my studio setup (which you can read about here) was perfect for that. Some part of me sensed, as much as a year previously, that I would be working more and more in this way, and would be needing a space with several easels so that I could move from painting to painting as I worked.

So I had the perfect setup, and I continued working to see if I could find the magic I saw in Fitz Herrera’s paintings.

Then, after a few days of this, I started to break through. One of the hardest things for me was to get in the habit of using really wet, sloppy paint, and just letting it drip and run. I’ve done this occasionally in previous work but never stuck with it. This time I did. I started to get used to it—and I loved it. I loved the freedom of it, and the fact that I was letting go of control and still getting what I wanted.

The other thing, and the really big breakthrough here, also had to do with letting go of control: I started PAINTING BLIND.


PAINTING BLIND


1679 eightyfootdrop

My first 'Painting Blind' abstract, and the first time I really started to feel I was getting the magic I saw in Fitz Herrera's paintings. It's called 80-Foot Drop because making it happen really was like jumping off a cliff.

I was painting in the way I always paint, which is: I stand back from the painting, look for an area that doesn’t work yet, and ask myself, what does this area need? Lighter, darker, warmer, cooler—a big broad stroke, a long narrow stroke, a little spot of color—what? When I think I know, I load the brush with paint, move in and lay down a stroke, or two or three or more, where I think it’s needed. This is pretty much my approach whether I’m painting an abstract or a realistic figure. It’s always about asking myself what the painting needs next.

1680martialart

My second successful experience 'painting blind': Martial Art.

Except this time it wasn’t working so well. I would look the painting over, see a problem area, decide what it needed, and add a stroke or two or three. And it kind of worked, but there was too much calculation going on. The strokes looked planned and boring. I thought, what can I do to introduce a bit less predictability here? And I thought, I’ll close my eyes.

Believe me when I tell you that was not easy to do. I’m a control freak, and I was going to paint with my eyes closed?? But I did it anyway…

I looked at the painting, decided it needed a bit of white in a certain area, then I loaded up my brush with white, and looked at the painting again, poised for action. When I had everything in mind and knew my intention, I CLOSED MY EYES AND ATTACKED.

After the first time I did that, I opened my eyes and went, WOW. It totally worked. I had just put down a series of brushstrokes that were exactly what the painting needed…and they had not come from conscious control, but from setting an intention, then letting go.

I didn’t do this all the time, just when the painting seemed to need it. But it worked almost every time.

Abstracts 4up

Four paintings that happened as I was starting to get into the swing of this new approach: Clockwise from upper left, Rolling the big Wheel, Lazy Susan, Surprise Garden, Little Lulu at the Circus.

I was not getting Fitz Herrera abstracts, but I didn’t really want to replicate his work anyway—I just wanted to see if I could get a bit of his magic. And I was finding my way into it.


LETTING THE PAINTINGS SPEAK


This continued for a couple of weeks and I experienced a whole new way of painting. Having several paintings going at once and letting some of them “rest” while I moved on to others is very different for me. But I found I’m able to see what each painting needs more easily that way than the usual way for me, which is where I focus totally on a single painting for the whole time I’m working on it. This new approach lets the paintings breathe a bit, and I end up allowing each painting to speak to me, rather than forcing it to tell me what it wants—if you know what I mean.

Horizabstracts 2up

A couple of horizontal abstracts from this period: top, Where the Flowers Were; bottom, Summer in My Mind.

The abstract paintings that resulted have gotten an enthusiastic response from my local audience here in Lincoln. The First Friday Art Walk which happens on the first Friday of each month, sends throngs of art appreciators into the hallways of Parrish Studios where my studio is located. This is a new experience for me, since I’ve been selling my art online for all these years and seldom interacting with collectors in person. The May 2, 2014 First Friday was the first time I’d ever done a showing of just abstract works, and it was a big success. People loved the new work and especially enjoyed finding out more about how it was painted.

The abstract paintings themselves have been a great reward, but an even bigger one is seeing how what I’ve learned with them has translated into my other work.


FLYING STARTS WITH JUMPING OFF THE EDGE

Monochromenudes 3up

Three monochrome nudes greatly influenced by what I learned doing abstracts: left, Asian Male Nude in Greyscale (model: Khanh); middle, Hiking with Manuel; right, Joyful Black Male Nude (model: Victor).

After about 10 days of painting abstracts in this new way, I decided to try some male nudes. I chose to paint monochrome (single-color) works so I could focus on the form and the way the paint is applied without having to concern myself with color. I produced 3 striking pieces, all of which benefited greatly from what I’d been learning with abstracts.

Landscapes 2up

Landscapes influenced by my latest breakthroughs: top, Windward Stormclouds; bottom, Ho'omaluhia Path.

Then I went back to abstracts for another three weeks before trying something else: landscapes. I did two landscapes in mid-May where I used the Painting Blind approach much of the time, and I was more than pleased with the results. With everything I’m painting these days, the abstracts, the male figures, the landscapes, I’m finding the same thing always applies: to grow and change and keep the work exciting, you’ve got to push the boundaries and take chances. You can’t fly without jumping off the edge.

I think it’s fitting to end this blog entry entitled PAINTING BLIND with a quote from Helen Keller:

“Life is a daring adventure or it is nothing at all.”

Ds instudio w subtitle2

Click here to access all entries in Douglas Simonson’s “On the Road” Series


• FRUSTRATION
• REAWAKENING
• NEVER WHAT YOU EXPECTED, BUT ALWAYS PERFECT
• PAINTING WITHOUT FEAR


July 7, 2012

As I write this from my Lincoln, Nebraska studio, after spending 3 full months in Honolulu and now another three-plus months in Nebraska, I’m thinking: Hey! This is supposed to be the “On the Road” Blog!

My full-time travel lifestyle seems to have gotten bogged down!

Well…once again we find out, THINGS OFTEN DON’T GO AS PLANNED.

Then again–the magic usually doesn’t happen inside the plan.



FRUSTRATION!

SHORT RE-CAP: My goal was to (a) sell my Waikiki apartment and get out from under an onerous mortgage, and (b) pack up my entire studio and office and ship it to Nebraska, where a more affordable cost of living and a more central location would facilitate my new full-time travel lifestyle.

On April 4, I sank into my seat on the plane in Honolulu with a huge sigh of relief. My entire life and career had been packed into boxes and was on its way to Lincoln, Nebraska. And now, finally, so was I! Best of all, my apartment had been sold and was already in escrow. Everything was falling into place.

Or so I thought.

Within 24 hours the apartment sale had fallen through and that began a long chain of similar disappointments. Now, over 2 months later, the apartment is still unsold.

And here I am in Nebraska working my butt off to keep the mortgage paid on my Hawaii apartment.

You can imagine the frustration I’ve been feeling.

But WAIT.

Something unexpected has begun to happen.



REAWAKENING

I’m now living in a 1-bedroom brick duplex on Dakota Street, in a quiet neighborhood just a few blocks from my sister Kelly’s house. The duplex has a full basement, and that’s where I’ve set up my studio. Now that everything is in place and I’ve begun actually painting, I’ve found this may be the best studio I’ve ever created for myself. It’s set up exactly as I like it and there’s plenty of space.

So I’ve got a great studio.

Unfortunately, I’m in Lincoln, Nebraska, and I have NO LIFE.

Wait, did I say “unfortunately”?

It turns out NO LIFE is exactly what the doctor ordered. Here in Lincoln, I don’t have the distractions I had in Honolulu. No social life to speak of, no ocean singing its siren song, no Hula’s just around the corner.

So here I am with a great studio, no social life, and bills to pay…I guess there’s only one thing to do.

PAINT!

Wherethemagichappens



NEVER WHAT YOU EXPECTED,
BUT ALWAYS PERFECT

It’s taken me a while to get it, but now I know: This is why I’m in Nebraska.

Let me give you a little history. I’ve been painting professionally for over 30 years. I’ve created a lot of art in that time, but not nearly as much as I could have. I keep records of these things, and recently I looked at my art-production numbers over my career. Turns out my most productive year ever happened back in 1990. I did over 120 original works that year (not counting rough sketches). That’s about 10 a month! The early 1990s as a whole were an incredibly productive period for me.

Not a coincidence that I produced some of my most memorable works during that time.

DS 1986 studio small

This is me in the late 1980's. I didn't know it, but my most productive period as a painter was about to begin.

Fast-forward to 2011, last year. I produced 24 originals. For the whole year. Quite a difference. Yes, I’d been traveling, but that’s not the heart of it. Mostly I just hadn’t made painting a priority.

If you’ve never painted, you won’t know about the love-hate relationship. When a painting is working it’s a magic time. It makes everything worthwhile. But when a painting is not working, it’s a nightmare! And when you don’t have a painting going, and it’s time to start one, it’s terrifying. You’ll do almost anything to avoid going into the studio. This is how it is for me and many other painters I know. What it really comes down to is fear. It’s just too easy to give in to the fear of failure or screwing up.

So for years and years, it was incredibly easy to avoid painting and do just about anything else. And that worked, for a while. But one basic fact turns out to be unavoidable…

I AM A PAINTER.

Whether I like it or not!

Turns out I needed the combination of factors that are now in place–a great studio space, no distractions, and financial pressures–to rediscover myself as a painter.



PAINTING WITHOUT FEAR

Once I got the studio set up and started painting, things really started to bubble and then boil over. I’m talking about a creative fever. I didn’t know until now how hungry I was to paint and try out all those visual ideas that had been popping into my brain all these years but which I had managed to avoid because of fear.

So it turns out I didn’t move to Nebraska just to create a more practical jumping-off point for my new traveling lifestyle–I moved here so I could become a BETTER PAINTER.

It took the combination of factors I just mentioned to get me out of my comfort zone and back into Painter Mode.

SERIOUS Painter Mode.

In the month of June I completed FOURTEEN PAINTINGS.

And I had an amazing time doing it.


Recent art comp

These are just some of the paintings I've completed in the past few weeks. Click on the image to see these and more on my website.

I’m learning, growing, changing, breaking through my fears over and over again. I thought I wasn’t on the road, but guess what: like Jamiroquai said, I’m TRAVELING WITHOUT MOVING.

You can’t go from years of painting in a haphazard, lackadaisical way to painting full-time with great enthusiasm and energy, without experiencing some major shifts.

One of the great developments has been that my painting has gotten looser. I recently wrote to an artist I greatly admired and told her how much I loved how loose her paintings were and that’s what I’m always going for. She pointed out that looseness wasn’t really an end in itself, and I said yes, thank you, you’re absolutely right. I realized what I’m really saying is, I keep going for PAINTING WITHOUT FEAR.

That’s what I’ve been doing here in Lincoln.

I’ve been painting with more courage than ever before, spending a lot of time out on the tightrope where it’s dangerous and exciting and where the magic lives.

I thought I was stuck in Lincoln. No, I’m FLYING in Lincoln. When the time comes and I’m out on the road again, I will bring more of ME along. I’ll be bigger, stronger, more present, BRAVER. I would say “I can hardly wait,” except that there is no WAITING involved.

I’m too busy PAINTING!




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Click here to access all entries in Douglas Simonson’s “On the Road” Series