We artists have often heard art instructors/gurus tell us to “Paint outside of the box.” This suggestion is usually couched in the encouragement for us to stretch our current approach to painting or to further our growth as an artist.
Sounds good. Except there is a question that always pops up in my brain when I hear this. “Could you demonstrate what you mean by painting outside of the box? Or, could you give an example of what YOU did to paint outside of YOUR box?” Since I have not seen or heard an example, I thought I would share mine.
In my recent post entitled Moving My Art Studio Temporarily | Don’t Forget Chocolate!, I mentioned that I did not have a painting agenda for my month long stay at our remote mountain cabin. I had some ideas tickling my innards, but nothing was really grabbing me. Despite this rather indifferent feeling toward painting – which is unusual for me – I went ahead and started working on a 40×30 water lily painting, as seen below.
After a couple of days of looking at this painting at this early stage, I had to own up to the fact that my heart was not in it. A voice inside of me said, “I don’t want to paint this way right now.” I went to bed imagining myself scooping up large globs of paint (I don’t typically apply paint thickly) on my palette knife and covering up this image.
Then another little bird in my brain asked to me, “Carol, why not paint outside of your box?” So I dove in.
I squirted out larger than usual piles of paint onto my palette, mixed up a few more colors and went for it. First, with a large brush I painted around the water image as you see below. By the way, that is blue tape protecting the water area of the painting. For a brief moment, I considered stopping here and seeing what I might do with it, but, no, I wanted to push the envelope.
Stopping would have been safe and not really out of my comfort zone. I was up for some surprises OR something that didn’t work.
After mixing piles of complementary colors, I then removed the tape and picked up my larger palette knife . Using bright intense colors was another “outside of the box” moment. I applied the yellows, orange and greens over my previously painted ares in vertical strokes.
What have I learned so far about painting outside of my box?
- That I liked the thicker paint on the palette knife. I tried putting 2 or 3 different related (analogous) colors at once on the knife and applied the paint; this is a skill I need and want to further develop.
- I am glad that I started with a larger panel because, physically, I needed the larger area to apply paint.
- This wasn’t as scary or uncomfortable as I thought it would be.
- I liked the image coming out from under the thick paint and I am looking forward to seeing what I might do with this after this layer dries. (See the close-up photo below.) This was a fun surprise and I am rubbing my hands in anticipation.
What do you think of this first stage of this experiment? The panel was lightly textured originally with three layers of gesso, which you can see in the close-up photo.
Probably the most important aspect of painting outside of my box, is that my juices got moving again. The painting is occupying my brain when I go to sleep and I am looking forward to expanding upon what I have started. The flow is beginning to move again.
When was the last time you painted outside of your box? I know that the interpretation of this will be different for everyone. Some of us will go for a big hit trying a totally different style/medium/subject matter, and others of us will take smaller steps. It doesn’t matter and there is no right or wrong. It’s about making yourself a little or a lot uncomfortable, and seeing what might happen — making discoveries and seeing the unpredictable surprises.
Where will this take me? I have no clue. However, I have another unsuccessful painting that just might be my next guinea pig. 😛 Already, I am imagining streaks of think paint going over it.
Apparently I needed to rev up my painting engines and, for now, I seem to have done that. Hopefully the next time you feel a sense of indifference, you will find a way to paint outside of your comfortable box. Let me know if you have already done this and the lessons you learned or the changes you made.
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