Mar 12

Failure is the first step

No one will ever accuse me of being a focused painter. Case in point: I was given homework in mid-July 2017 and I’m just now getting around to doing it.

When Ruth Buchanan came to give a workshop last summer, she left me with homework.

“You told me on the first day that you get distracted by color. I want you do do a week of painting in two colors, and then add three colors. Send me a timeline of your work and we’ll go over it.”

I’ve been thinking about this ever since, but have not committed.

Almost immediately, I had an idea for the topic of this potential body of work. A couple of years ago, I did this painting, which has remained one of my favorites.

Shoes & Shadows -$200

I loved the rhythm and the contrast of the white shoes and black shadows. I’ve been making noises ever since about doing more.

When I did the Francesco Fontana workshop in the fall of 2016, I several small hooves paintings, culminating in this piece which I was very happy with.

First Turn

I think it’s a good topic. Edward Degas (and many others, obviously) did a series of racehorses and the lines of the horses legs have always intrigued me (though Degas, who was a misognist jerk, is not among my favorite artistic characters in history.)

Race Horses c. 1893, Edward Degas

Last fall there was a Winsor & Newton demo at the WSO Fall Convention; they put Brown Madder and Cobalt Blue together and had people play with them. The colors wash and granulate beautifully, creating a lot of great effects.

I didn’t want to do a bunch of big paintings, so the largest painting I determined would be 1/4 sheet (15″x11″). I wanted to push myself and say I would only draw the base layer, but with time being a crunch, I have cheated on that part.

To be frank, I’m really not very excited about showing off these paintings. They just…. aren’t what I was hoping for.


#1 (color arrangement based on FF workshop)

#2 (same reference, trying different color arrangements)

#3 (have lost the simplicity and just given up)

#4 (messed up the drawing, lost the leg placement… and just… ugg)

#5 (before changed background)

#5 (changed background)

$6 (trying hard to loose edges)

#7 (drawn, not traced)

Other subjects

Gretchen’s cat Simon (still need to fix tail line)

“Focus” (love ducks, dog needs more work)

I feel like I am onto something. This is a great exercise, and when I sit down and paint, I am enjoying it. But when I walk away I start picking it to pieces.

  • “I need to draw more.”
  • “I’m using too many brushstrokes.”
  • “Everything looks purple. I’m not using the full range of colors.””
  • “I’m not loosing enough edges.”

This project is not destined for a show. The point is to strengthen my value and color understanding.

I also think however, this is turning into an experiment with style change. I’ve been painting since 2006 (about 12 years) and I’ve had a couple of very good years, getting into shows and even winning some awards. But like all artists, I want to get better, and that means trying new things.

One of my favorite artists, Lynda Hoffman-Snodgrass, is an abstract artist of some note. I heard her say she started out as a botanical illustrator (it might have been just “very detailed” so don’t quote me.) Think of all the changes she must have gone through to become the award-winning abstract artist she is today.

It makes my current struggles look very paltry indeed.

1 comment

    • Patty Stelz on March 12, 2018 at 2:53 pm
    • Reply

    Very interesting. I can’t wait to try mixing Brown Madder and Cobalt. BTW Yes was a misogynist, Picasso was a womanizing misogynist and Renoir was an Antisemite.I suppose we have to separate the work from the person.

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