I've recently been painting a lot of watercolors and one of the many things it has taught me is that it is very difficult to paint watercolors. I was long under the spell of how easy some artists make it look (particularly Sargent and Sorolla). But the truth that I'm discovering is that painting and drawing requires tremendous effort. By the end of a painting my palette (and mind) is usually a chaotic mess as I have pushed paint around to get everything juuuuuust right.
Now the problem is that I don't want my paintings to look overworked and tortured, but I've learned that I need to keep pushing and pushing until the painting looks as good as I expect it to. I was looking for something to paint today and decided to step up my game and see if I could paint two liquor bottles on this red table cloth that I've been liking recently. One of the bottles is a round glass with a golden sort of cage around it and the other is a bottle of Jack Daniels Honey Whiskey (my favorite drink on the rocks). I've been painting a lot of these liquor bottles recently because I find the play of color and reflections to be quite fascinating and challenging.
The painting required a lot of pushing until I finally got it to a level where it almost painted itself. I think of it like pushing a car up a hill until you reach an apex and then the hardest part is done and you can guide the car back down the other side of the hill. The downslope is usually enjoyable, but the pushing can be hellish at times.
Painting, to me, is like alchemy or magic because I'm trying to turn one substance (the paint) into other substances (bottles, whiskey, shadows, reflections) using only some brushes and medium. On a deeper level, I'm trying to tell a story and have some emotionality in my work. All of this is under my control based on my skill level. The thing that I also realized is that the difficulty is what fascinates me. I've always loved fixing things and solving problems and I see no greater challenge than creating an accurate visual chronicle of my reality on white paper with some paint and a brush.
Man, it is really easy to get distracted. Just looking at my phone can lead to a whole morning, afternoon or evening down the tubes. How many days am I willing to let sail by me without engaging and accomplishing what I want to accomplish? I've hit a wall with the constant checking on things, emails, apps, etc. I took a step forwards today by deleting my email app on my phone. Even after I deleted the app, I instinctively tapped the spot where it used to be! That seems like a borderline addiction or something to me. I'll check my email once a day on my computer, but that's all.
There's enough hours in the day, but how many of them do I fritter away? What excuses am I making that stop me? There's no one actively stopping me from doing any of the things I want to do. If I want to go paint en plein air tomorrow, I can, but what excuses will I make? As my 20's are slowly drawing to a close, I'm becoming frightfully aware of how precious time is. I don't want to let the beautiful moments of the day disappear into a smartphone, computer, tv, etc.
I need to be hard on myself. There's a lot of things I want to do and making lists of them doesn't help; it requires actually doing them with a level of focus and presence. Many of these lessons I learned on my bootcamp last weekend (or was that two weekends ago? 😳) I still need to write a review about that whole experience, but you can check out Infinite Man Summit to learn more about truly becoming your best self.
For me, the good stuff is the real stuff. Spending time with my mom, skateboarding, reading, writing in my journal, petting my dog, riding my motorcycle, having a beer with my friends, painting from life, etc. That's what makes me happy. Grrr, it's tough, but at least it's simple.
I took a trip to the MET this past weekend and was joined by a friend who hadn't been before. We got to see a lot and I took some photos of my favorites. One in particularly is a absolutely amazing full length figure by Sir Frederic Leighton titled, "Lachrymae" (1894). I first saw this painting years ago and hadn't seen it again since this weekend so it was really a joy to see. The first sculpture pictured below is by Bernini and was notable because Bernini was 16 when he made it! The other sculptured pictured at the end are just ones that I found entertaining.
One thing that I took note of is how thickly Sargent paints certain works. If you look at the photos below, you can see some details that really show this. He wasn't afraid to apply thick paint. This is something that I want to take onboard and use in my own works. I painted my most recent commission more thickly, but I want to go thicker in my paint application. Just something that I gotta remember..