When a new painting challenge comes along, how do you react? What do you do?
Last fall I contracted with a new gallery in Lake City, CO, an old silver mining and bubbling tourist town deep in the Rocky Mountains. In that contract I agreed to be an artist-in-residence for a week. This entails painting in the gallery for 4 hours every afternoon for 5 days.
I didn’t really think about this challenge until a couple of months ago as the start date got closer and closer (which is this weekend). The thought of standing for 4 hours in a gallery painting started to intimidate me …not only artistically but physically. How am I going to do this and can I do it? Do I want to do this? Painting for four hours in a gallery for five days? Yikes!
For my physical concerns, I asked the gallery owner about the easel, a table for paints, a stool and a fatigue mat. Check. I got that straightened away. Next question…
What am I going to paint? This rolled around in my head for weeks. I decided that the bottom line question was: How do I make this painting experience enjoyable for myself as well as the gallery visitors?
I thought about having one of my “Windows for Your Imagination” paintings 30% completed and working on it in the gallery. These are the paintings that are featured in the gallery. Then I realized that these paintings are complex and take a lot of time of reflection to execute. For example, I spend time standing back and figuring out what I want to do next — frequently I move back and forth contemplating my next move. This artistic process is not conducive to interruptions from innocent bystanders.
Cross that idea off the list.
So what do I paint? Lake City is a small old mining town that explodes as a tourist destination in the summer. It is located in a beautiful area of the Rocky Mountains. In the process of deciding what to paint, I learned from the gallery owner that summer residents and tourists prefer more realistic/representational paintings. In other words, there is not a market for abstract paintings.
Side note: My “Windows” paintings are a fusion of realism and abstraction. The gallery owner is taking a risk as she loves my work and is interested in hearing and seeing how people react to them. I am grateful for this opportunity and her faith in my work.
Hence, pure abstract paintings are out for this painting challenge and adventure. What else could I do?
I have painted many landscape paintings in the past as well as pet portraits. Since I am an avid photographer no matter where I go, I have many photos of the Lake City and Rocky Mountain region. I pulled these out and arranged them on a large table to see what might inspire me. Here is an example of one of them.Then I thought that I would paint a portrait of my dear sweet dog Kyla. People love their pets and will enjoy watching the painting process.
With these decisions made, I started to become more comfortable with this painting challenge.
Next, I decided on two other paintings – another landscape and a garden of poppies – but the list of decisions to be made continued. This became a more difficult painting challenge than I thought it would be when I agreed to do it. LOL!
I then needed to decide on the canvas sizes, color schemes, etc. for each painting. Because I texture all of my canvases with gesso (I do not like the mechanical texture of canvas), it was important for me to decide on the sizes so that I could prep them before I departed for Lake City. I debated as to how large a canvas I wanted to use painting in the gallery. Too small would be too confining and too large is, well, just cumbersome in that setting. I decided upon a 16×20, two 11×14’s and a 24×12.
To give myself a little bit of a head start, I also drew in my dog Kyla leaving the grid lines so that people can see how I transfer a photo of her onto canvas. You can see the white grid lines below. I used a purple pastel to sketch in her portrait. Wow, there was more prepping than I could have predicted to this painting challenge.Challenges like this one get my juices running. Sure there is the ambiguity that cause some internal anxiety, but then I reflect upon all of the numerous adventures that I have taken on in my life.
We are not hard wired for uncertainty. Learning to relish these opportunities does require me to do some self reflection as well as internal cheerleading. Soliciting encouragement from friends is also part of the process.
The last question: What will it be like to paint in front of people strolling through the gallery for several hours? I have NOT a clue!! I have not painted in front of the public in several years. Wish me luck!!
If you enjoyed this information, please share this blog post with anyone who has an interest in the magic and logic of color. Use the buttons below.