Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Boldy Take Your Art into New Territory

Art is about creativity, and creativity means doing things in a new way. An artist should never be afraid to try something new, and I got to do a lot of new things at a recent national group show “WAOWing the Golden State. Not only did I get to meet and interact with a lot of fun, helpful, and wonderful artists, I got to stretch my artistic envelope.
Normally, I am a studio artist, painting western subjects from my photos on a laptop screen, but when given the opportunity to participate in a Quick-draw contest, and do a Plein-air paint-out, I was quick to say, “Yes!” I am really glad I did, because I learned a lot from doing things I’d never done before.

I learned how to pack and fly from Texas to California with oil painting supplies, thanks to advice from more experienced members. During the prep timefor my first-ever Quick Draw, I scoped out the museum grounds and shot photos of the subjects that interested me most. Just looking at my little camera screen, I was able to select a composition I thought would work, and set up there. It was fascinating to see all the different subjects that spoke to artists. When the starting gun went off, I was nervous, but excited. I learned that a 12x16 representational canvas is a LOT to tackle in an hour, but that under pressure, it can be done (even though my cell phone started ringing incessantly at the five minute warning, with what seemed like an acre of canvas still naked. Note: Turn off phone!) That last bit of territory got covered really fast--its the part that looks most "fresh". Most artists did pieces in the 5x7- 8x10" range, which would be wiser. I remembered to bring a frame and hardware, so it was ready for the silent auction.  Although it may not be as successful in my mind as my more polished works, it still received a lot of positive comments. I was reminded that we are usually our own worst critics, while others are surprisingly supportive, and that the quality of results is sometimes less important than the quality of effort.

The Plein Air painting was another fun trip in itself. I never do landscapes, and usually even minimize it in backgrounds, but the La Jolla coast scenery was magnificent. I love color, and I found it there. While I was enjoying painting, passers-by were having fun watching, asking questions, even taking my picture. One couple asked if I had painted the shirt I had on. I laughed and said, “No, Van Gogh did, but thanks!” After a passing photographer, Emil Ihrig, emailed me this picture, I could see where they got that impression! I handed out several cards, and a woman offered to buy the painting before it was even finished. We had a little trouble reaching each other, but she drove all the way to my hotel to pick it up. We really connected during our brief talk, and I found out she was visiting from Colorado, and had never bought an original painting before, but felt it would help her with a hard time she was going through. I later got a thank-you email from her saying she hung it near the bed where it makes her smile at the beginning and end of each day.

Now, isn’t that what it’s really all about?

Here’s to boldly going where we’ve never gone before! What have you done lately to get out of your comfort zone so you can grow? I'd like to hear about it. If the answer is nothing, change that. Hold your breath, pinch your nose, and jump in there with both feet!

Sharon Markwardt

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