Started painting. It's going well, I'm going to add a naturalistic background tomorrow after this ebauche dries. The main structures are in place now, have to add detail.
For technique, I painted this one on a dry EAS Custom Canvas oil ground, as opposed to oiling out the canvas. This is the approach I'm going to use from now on. I also switched up my palette to reflect more of a 19th century vibe. I'm constantly going back and forth as to whether or not specific pigments matter. I'm of the opinion now that they definitely do.
Cleaned off my palette in preparation of a new study of a horse. I've been reading about Rosa Bonheur and I've never painted a horse so this is a good opportunity to learn something new. I've also been busy with EAS Custom Canvas testing out oil grounds. The more I refine the process, the more I realize how much the surface affects the final outcome. Painting on these canvases is something that I want every artist to experience.
Here's a great example of Rosa Bonheur's work: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/roadshow/season/20/charleston-sc/appraisals/rosa-bonheur-the-old-pensioner-painting-ca-1875--201506T17
A question that everyone asks themselves, 'How do I find my own style'. It's a tough question because everyone wants to be unique. The difficulty could be compared to looking at yourself in a mirror and asking 'how do I look'. You can't remove your mental image from your thoughts. The result is that you become blinded to yourself and your style. Take solace in the fact that you do have your own style, whether or not you like it. You have your own voice and you cannot change it. You can try to adjust it, but all you can be is the highest version of yourself. Your best work will come from your natural level of aptitude, which can be increased with practice. Here's some tips for your journey as an artist and person:
-Ask those close to you what they honestly think of your style. This could be positive or negative so brace yourself for an honest critique. They don't have to be an art expert to have good advice to give. Norman Rockwell was known to ask everyone for advice, even his postman. They can be your eyes when you become blind to your own work.
-Try out many different styles and figure out what works for you. Some things may work for others, but not satisfy you and vice versa. If you're an oil painter, you'll have to figure out what colors, brushes, canvas and media work for you. This is a long process, which never comes to an end. There's no shortcut for this, you'll have to try out everything on your own. Get used to having more questions than answers.
-Keep a diary and put dates on all of your work, sketches and finished work. This way you can track your progress. When you feel discouraged and lost, then look back at your old work or read your old diary. You may find that your old style is better than your current style; this is natural as you feel a sense of nostalgia. Also, progress is never steady and often times goes backwards and forwards randomly.
-Look at artists you admire and ask yourself 'why do I admire them'. This is a crucial point. As an artist and human, you are a sponge which absorbs. Because of this, you'll pick up style from artists and people whom you surround yourself with. This is natural, but you should always ask yourself what it is about that artist which you admire. Maybe you like their color usage, but you don't like their brushwork. You should begin learning from other artists. 'No man is an island'.
*As a side note, this also works negatively. If you surround yourself with people and artists you don't admire, you'll still absorb them.
-Lastly, Focus on your inner message. This is the toughest one. Every great artist, with a style you like, was simply trying to convey a message. They weren't contemplating their brushwork or signature technique. It sounds simple, but the greatest art is created through inspiration. Walk outside and be inspired by something, then paint it. Keep practicing and showing that you care.
I recently wrote a post about painting from life Vs. painting from photographs. I've had a sudden inspiration about this, which could help artists. I was up late last night reading a passage about Bouguereau which I'll paraphrase: "After imagining the scene for the painting in his mind, he would make a quick oil sketch. Then, he would draw all the elements from nature. He would surround himself with these highly detailed drawings to produce the final painting."
I feel like this is something that artists have lost in the past century. We don't take the time to draw from nature and then use that drawing to produce a finished painting. Instead, we (I included) rely on photographs to share some of the load. My process for a pet portrait was to photograph the animal, then sketch a composition and the dog's face, and then paint from the photographs. Now, I'm going to paint directly from the sketches and sketch from nature whenever possible.
The other part of this is the fact that drawing is necessary to train yourself for painting. You're not gaining any skill when you take a photograph, but you are gaining massive skill when you do a drawing; this skill is brilliant for painting.
This also makes sense in regards to color. Bouguereau's students would say how he created colors which never existed in nature. I always found this perplexing. I know he would be influence by his model and color memory, but his color had to be more from his imagination instead of copying color (not to mention that there were no color photos in those days). He was painting from drawings and oil studies which don't have colors set. He wasn't influenced by digital colors at all. The color scheme would come from nature + Bouguereau's imagination because there was no other way.
I'm going to try this out on a portrait and I'll report back with the results.