I set up my easel outside my house today to capture some of this beautiful day. Every single time I paint outside, from nature, I have a lot of clarity and thoughts.
I keep reminding myself that the way I do something will come out naturally. This relates to style and it's very tricky to put into words. It's like the adage about how muddy water is best cleared by letting it settle. My mind is pretty over active so it's not easy for me, but I'm trying to not try so hard, if that makes sense..
I was sketching a small portrait of my brother two days ago and I had some realizations. I first realized that I never have to pretend to do my art in a certain way. I used to have this feeling like the work I was making wasn't my own and that I was trying really hard, but not in a good way. I still have my artistic inspirations whom I look to (Sargent, Sorolla, Bouguereau, etc.) but I feel much more myself lately.
I keep thinking about a friend of mine who I used to play ping pong with in college. He was a really good player and I'd ask him about if he put any spin on the ball or any special techniques. He said that he just tries to return each shot and didn't think about anything else. That hit me profoundly. I feel that way about my paintings now; I have one goal: I just want to make a good painting. There's obviously a lot more to it than that beneath the surface, but as I get more advanced, then the more simple it becomes. Everything returns to simplicity. I just feel like I keep letting go of things that I deem unnecessary. I want to shed everything away.
I've also been pushing really hard recently while setting up my atelier. I'm even in the deep stages of purchasing small business insurance because I'm about to choose a space. It's very surreal and it's a dream that I've had for a while now. I feel very at peace.
I got back recently from a life changing trip to see my best friend, Pino. He lives in Chicago and the last time I visited him was the summer of 2017. This time around, we jam packed the trip from start to finish with rock climbing, camping, painting and even skydiving. I mostly wanted to talk about how life changing the skydiving experience was at a place in Wisconsin called, Skydive Midwest, but I also wanted to briefly talk about two paintings that I did while in camping.
The first painting was a plein air landscape that I did near a stream in Illinois. I was using Pino's acrylic paints and some cheap canvas that we picked up from Blick the day before. I had about five colors that I used and I didn't have a palette so Pino found a heavy flat rock for me to use. So everything was very against me for making a "great" painting, but I didn't care about that, I just wanted to have fun and paint.
The painting turned out really well and the reason is because I didn't care about it being "perfect", I just wanted to have some fun. The other painting I did while Pino and I were staying in a super cool small cabin in a place called White Pines Resort. Again, I was using simple acrylic supplies and a luncheables box as a palette. The portrait came out beautifully and I learned that it's nice to have good quality supplies, but you can also do a great painting with cheap canvas and a rock palette.
For the skydiving, I first want to say how awesome the people at Skydive Midwest are. They're so cool and made us feel super excited to jump. Pino had jumped 3 times prior and this was my first time. We ended up having to go back to the place 3 times because of weather conditions and got to jump on the day that I flew back to NJ. The whole process from boarding the small plane to jumping to landing on the ground took about 25 minutes. On the plane ride up, everyone was high-fiving and cracking jokes. So then you're up 14,000 ft. and everyone is sitting with their tandem partner, then a big door opens on the side of the plane which was very surreal. My tandem partner (super cool Brazilian dude) and I edged close to the bay door. We sat with our legs hanging over the side of the plane and you could see the curvature of the earth, which was beautiful and very strange.
The next things is that my partner said "1...2...3..." and then we fell forwards straight down in a minute long free fall. I wish I could describe the feeling of that but it's honestly impossible. It's like the world is hurtling at you so fast and your brain sort of shuts off. It felt like a really long time and yet short. Then my partner pulled the chute and we drifted down in a spiral towards the runway. The parachute ride itself was really beautiful and you could see the whole world beneath your feet. My partner even let me steer the parachute for a while which was really awesome.
After having done the skydiving and the entire trip, I basically feel fearless and that everything "ain't no thang". I really needed this trip to help me find myself again. Thank you Pino <3
I'm announcing some big news for this summer, 2019. I will be setting up an atelier where students can come study, develop their portfolios for college and learn traditional art techniques. I'm looking to launch the venture in June/July and am currently choosing a final location in Northern NJ. My long-time friend and brilliant artist, Asem Ahmed, will be joining me in teaching along with some very talented guest artists.
This is an idea that I've been considering for a number of years and will be reminiscent of 19th century ateliers where students could work from the live model and learn traditional techniques such as framing and canvas making. My years of teaching have been preparing me for this and I know now's the right time with the resurgence of academic art across the world. Stay tuned for more news as the summer draws nearer.