Over the last few weeks, I've had a bunch of time to do some introspection, reading, walking, thinking and of course painting and drawing. I've made the decision to take down my pet portrait business entirely because it's a business based on digital photography. I am certainly thankful for my patrons and I hope they enjoy my portraits for many years, but I can no longer work from photographs. I realize I sound like a luddite when I say this: I believe digital photography bad for art.
This is a personal choice and a choice that I make for myself and my artistic journey. Now the question may be: well, what is my role as an artist in this age? And I know my role is to work entirely from life and have real adventures while creating those paintings. The only satisfaction I've ever received from creating art is from creating it straight from life, nature and the source of all things. Photographs are a very pale reflection of nature and to create painting from that reflection means I am creating a reflection of a reflection. And to take it one step further, a photograph of that vapid artwork is a reflection of a reflection of a reflection.
I want to be as close to the source as possible and to encourage others to do the same.
*Painting in a downpour, tarp set up by the one and only: Pino, click that link to see his super amazing Lego creations!
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.
Sharing some images from the INCREDIBLE Morgan Library Sargent exhibition which is on display until January 2020. If you can get over to NYC to see it, then I really encourage you to. The portraits were outstanding. In person, the charcoals are softer and somewhat more diffused than they appear in photos. I really learned a lot from observing them today. Awesome day.