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Old 09-10-2019, 08:52 AM
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Kaylen Kaylen is online now
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Striving

This morning I wondered if anyone could actually be satisfied with their current level of achievement or as I assume we are all striving to improve our skills and the outcomes of our work. I am hoping that some of you will share your approach to identifying your own weak points and what you are currently doing to overcome them , or what you plan to do?
I'll start,,, I painted a scene and I tried to invent the background,the trees came out pretty weak, so I spent the last few weeks painting trees, alternating between trees that others have painted,and photos, and imagination ,trying to figure out the order they applied the color etc, then trying it again. I am still not where I want to be with trees but I am practicing several a day and carefully observing them, I am making some improvement.
What are you striving for? Are you doing anything specific to get there that you would be willing to share. Taking a class? reading books? personal experiments?

I guess I have enough questions to do a poll. I believe I know enough about people that I could guess a lot of your answers, but I hope someone will surprise me and a new path will open up before me that I may follow.
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Old 09-10-2019, 09:12 AM
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Yorky Yorky is online now
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Re: Striving

It's a good idea to practice the various elements of the landscape. I used to paint trees in my lunch hour at my desk.

Doug
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Old 09-10-2019, 09:34 AM
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Re: Striving

satisfied sounds big.
best receipt: surprise. positive one.
i'm not a fine art artist but i've talent. when starting painting (oil) i was happy with what was there, but it always needed more. learning techniques i lost the happy, being constantly aware of the flaws, first and foremost, and the more i learn the worse they become. the same happened when picking up watercolor late last year. things just "happened" till i started teaching myself.

just now, like a week back, i decided to stop learning and begin re-revelling. not thinking before but after. letting the work teach me, one at a time. my ideas began to flow immediately. it's like removing the thinking cap let air into the brain. i'm loving it! i feel like an artist when painting now. it's only been one halfway done wc and a couple of sketches but it's all recognisable as my inner landscape. for laughs i'll divulge that i have themes for my first three shows 😁😁😁, the images lining up effortlessly.

i'm pretty sure at the moment that a sense of freedom, joy and pleasure are essential in passion flowing - at all, or through the hilt. and a quick add, there's already more of that "more" mentioned earlier. for now, decided not to care whether it's enough. i'll just paint and maybe judge in a year.
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Last edited by ronsu18 : 09-10-2019 at 09:52 AM.
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Old 09-10-2019, 09:34 AM
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calvin_0 calvin_0 is online now
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Re: Striving

well my goal is to have foliage like in this video... I'm still trying to figure out why it look like plants when he does it but when i do it, it just look like green blob..

Two Simple Water Reflection Approaches in Watercolor
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Old 09-10-2019, 10:55 AM
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CharM CharM is offline
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Re: Striving

Hi Kaylen... good question! There are many, many times when I feel like the more I know, the less I know. It can sometimes be stifling to my own creativity.

There are many styles that I admire and I tried to emulate them from Artists that inspired me. My results were rarely what these Artists were painting. And that frustrated me to no end. It was sucking the joy from my time spent at the easel.

It took several years... yes... years! to come to the realization that my style was my style. I needed to be true to myself. It was those times, when painting in my very controlled manner that I was happiest. And that work was also award winning in the few juried exhibitions I submitted them to.

I recognize that there are things, elements that I simply cannot paint. I love them and I practice them, but I cannot seem to create my vision. And that's now ok with me. I can admire others' work and appreciate their personal styles while painting in my own way.

There is one landscape in particular that I have painted 4 times. It's a beautiful sunset on the edge of town with the horizon in silhouette. I never got it right. As my skills mature, I'll try it again. But, I'm not ever going to fuss over it again.

I constantly study the tenets of my craft... yes, I typed craft. Tenets is the principle, doctrine, or belief held as a truth and craft is the skill in planning, making, or executing. I study colour theory ad nauseum and values and composition, etc. I have filled a dozen sketchbooks with all this stuff. And I encourage my Students to do the same.

The answer to your question, then, is simple for me. Accept who you are as an Artist, strengthen those skills and allow yourself to grow. Never stop learning.
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Old 09-10-2019, 11:18 AM
RedcarUK RedcarUK is offline
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Re: Striving

I have paintings dated 2017, but I still place myself in the beginner's category.

I think that I will always be in that category, always learning, always a long way from considering myself intermediate.

Always sweeping the floor.
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Old 09-10-2019, 12:09 PM
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Re: Striving

I had not fully formed my question in my head when I posted, but there are a lot of good answers already, I know there are some people who are sorta just killing time and find spreading color is not a bad way to do it,but most of us have accepted the challenge and either are very good or hope to be so.I guess I was just curious what steps people are taking to get to the next level.I feel I have a good eye for the micro and I am working on the macro, I am working on observation and simplification , but my translations are using too many words still,,,thank you all who share
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Old 09-10-2019, 01:01 PM
My Beloved Muse My Beloved Muse is offline
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Re: Striving

Quote:
Originally Posted by CharM
Hi Kaylen... good question! There are many, many times when I feel like the more I know, the less I know. It can sometimes be stifling to my own creativity.

There are many styles that I admire and I tried to emulate them from Artists that inspired me. My results were rarely what these Artists were painting. And that frustrated me to no end. It was sucking the joy from my time spent at the easel.

It took several years... yes... years! to come to the realization that my style was my style. I needed to be true to myself. It was those times, when painting in my very controlled manner that I was happiest. And that work was also award winning in the few juried exhibitions I submitted them to.

I recognize that there are things, elements that I simply cannot paint. I love them and I practice them, but I cannot seem to create my vision. And that's now ok with me. I can admire others' work and appreciate their personal styles while painting in my own way.

There is one landscape in particular that I have painted 4 times. It's a beautiful sunset on the edge of town with the horizon in silhouette. I never got it right. As my skills mature, I'll try it again. But, I'm not ever going to fuss over it again.

I constantly study the tenets of my craft... yes, I typed craft. Tenets is the principle, doctrine, or belief held as a truth and craft is the skill in planning, making, or executing. I study colour theory ad nauseum and values and composition, etc. I have filled a dozen sketchbooks with all this stuff. And I encourage my Students to do the same.

The answer to your question, then, is simple for me. Accept who you are as an Artist, strengthen those skills and allow yourself to grow. Never stop learning.

Thank you for this, Char. With your permission, I'd like read parts of this to my students when they're feeling frustrated.

John
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Old 09-10-2019, 03:13 PM
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Lavender Grey Lavender Grey is offline
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Re: Striving

Great question!


One of the biggest revelations I've had is that even the artists at the very top of their professional game have periods of time where they feel inadequate or not "leveling up" like they should. It's totally normal I think; to not be satisfied means I won't just sit back and say, "yeah, that's good enough." Striving for me means I'll keep moving, that I won't stagnate. Like any skill, painting is an infinite continuum, and the more you know, the more you realize that you can ALWAYS do something better.

As for myself, I find that physically writing things down in a journal seems to help immensely. I ask myself,

1) "What are my areas that I currently consider my strongest? My weakest?"

2) "What are my x-number of goals for improvement this week/month/year?" and most importantly,

3) "What concrete actions do I need to achieve those goals?"

At first, a lot of my problems revolved around not understanding how many variables are involved with watercolor painting. I tried to follow many different books and instructors ... and they all had different approaches so it was extremely confusing. Some used big wet washes and hoghair bristles while others worked more controlled and insisted on Kolinsky sables. Some used hot press, some rough. Some used staining pigments, or opaque pigments, while others tended more towards transparent. Almost none of them discussed how much these variables could dramatically affect the outcome of one's work.

So I set out the ambitious goal of understanding my tools and materials. It was only after I doggedly stuck with ONE kind of paper from ONE company, and the SAME set of pigments and SAME brushes for several years that I began to get an intuitive feel for the ebb and flow of the medium. Only then did I begin to branch out. I think this initial period of keeping with the same tools/materials is important and isn't stressed enough. I also don't think basic drawing skills are stressed enough, either. I drew in sketchbooks for many years before taking up painting on a regular basis, and it truly helps to not have to struggle with two-point perspective AND getting a wash laid correctly at the same time!

Now that I've (mostly) ironed that all out, I'm more focused on getting better at brushwork and composition -- and I'm attempting to learn some actual botany, as well. Trees and flowers are like people. The more I study them, the more I see that not only each species but each individual is exciting and unique. As I'm interested in certain elements of the traditional "19th century/English school" naturalist/landscape style, I spend a lot of time going to museum exhibitions and taking notes. Barring that, I try to find extra-large photos online from those whose work I wish to learn from and see if I can copy a particular element: a tree branch here, a section of a river there. I make lots of "notan" or value sketches of the works, to see the underlying structure. I also seek out museum conservation videos and artist biographies that might give me insights into certain materials or techniques.

Plein air painting. If you don't do it, I heartily recommend it. Painting out-of-doors at least once a week for severals years has helped soooo much, as it forces me to work far more quickly and under more difficult conditions. If I can paint when there's rain or mosquitoes or inquisitive onlookers, I can do just about anything!

Above all, I try to draw and paint as much as humanly possible -- even if it's not a finished, showable piece. The artists I admire the most have one thing in common: they started young due to having an apprenticeship or artistic parent, and/or they had a previous profession (illustrator, architect, ad designer) which required them to paint a LOT. The handful of pros who got a late start just worked that much harder -- and were still able to pull off impressive results.

I've only made perhaps six hundred finished watercolors (not counting disasters, innumerable small experiments and sketches) and it's only been recently that I feel like I've been getting more of a grip on what I'm doing. It sounds cliche', but it really is true: The more one does something, the better one becomes. But! I think that comes with the caveat that it's when I take the time to analyze each piece for what I can do better next time...that's what really brings things up to the "next level."

Finally, it's been great to seek IRL advice from painters who are both skilled at painting AND generous enough to share how they achieved certain things to help me in areas when I feel ultimately stuck. Such guidance doesn't always have to come from famous, expensive workshop teachers, either. I've learned more from experienced artists in my local plein air group than from some of the "big names".

Anyhow, I hope this was a useful ramble. I'm sure not much of it is new, but it's what I've found to be most helpful in my own development.



Best wishes,


Lavender

Last edited by Lavender Grey : 09-10-2019 at 03:24 PM.
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Old 09-10-2019, 03:15 PM
ColorEnthusiast ColorEnthusiast is offline
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Re: Striving

Good question.

Yes I read books, look painting videos, take sometimes a class if I find one with an interesting topic and like the paintings of the teacher.

But,... I found out that whenever I try to achieve a style of someone else whose paintings I admire, I fail and get unhappy.
That is nearly the same as Char experienced.
The only thing that I can learn from stuff like that is a useful color combination, a new tool I could try or a sheer technique. Then I experiment with this little novelty and slowly integrate it into my paintings and style.

Besides that the only way for me to improve is paint, paint and paint and always do the actual painting as good as possible.
So I do not try to figure out how someone else did something, I try and experiment what I can do to achieve a special look I want to get.

Maybe it's a bit like mountain climbing, you must not think about the long way laying in front of you, only how far you got till now and where to put your foot at the next step.

Esther
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Old 09-10-2019, 05:23 PM
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CharM CharM is offline
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Re: Striving

Quote:
Originally Posted by My Beloved Muse
Thank you for this, Char. With your permission, I'd like read parts of this to my students when they're feeling frustrated.

John

Of course you can use my comments! As a Teacher, I try to give back all that I've learned here on WC. This place is a wonderful resource.

Something I tell my Groups, is that the very best Teacher is right at the end of their arms. Practice. Practice. And then... practice.

Shed your thin skin at the door and pay attention to good quality criticism. Not everyone is going to like everything you do and they all fancy themselves as art critics.

Anyway... as Lavender mentioned, recognizing what's wrong and then working to improve it is really an important step in growing your art.

Kaylen, no matter your intent for this thread, it's been really interesting!
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Old 09-10-2019, 05:28 PM
briantmeyer briantmeyer is offline
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Re: Striving

All the time... things i am doing

1. Carrying around a sketchbook at all times, and working at increasing how much time i spend using it, making it a habit. Right now its at about 1 and a 1/2 books per week, I get them at walmart, mixed media with about 60 pages each.

2. For figures, studying anatomy, specifically watching a Udemy class called "Anatomy for Figure Drawing: Mastering the Human Figure" by Neil Fontaine. This involves watching him draw the portion of anatomy, then redrawing it 10 times, 5 of which from complete memory. That is kind of how you memorize for a Quiz in school. Been going thru this for a year now. Also have a complete library of just about every book on the subject, but the video course is probably the most useful in changing how I draw.

3. Studying Sumi - E in a class on thursdays under sensei Tatsuko Sandin. This is about using less strokes, making deliberate marks, and why is a simple mark beautiful. In our watercolors, this boils down to less is more, and how good are you at calligraphy. It also means practicing the basic marks over and over again.

4. Weekly jazz jam - learning art the way musicians learn jazz, but just jamming while they jam, by improvising based on their inspiration. We are doing this with about 3-10 artists each week, just painting with other artists is helpful. This is really my main artistic practice, and going to base my understanding of what art is based on jazz terminology and approaches. Very hard to put across in words but I am working on documenting what is going on with this in a book.

You could say the attitude at the jam is practice practice practice all week long. Then show up for the jam, where there are lots of other artists better than you, who push you in directions you didn't think of. Don't judge yourself or your work, it is what it is, but you can see who is practicing and who isn't. Just by engaging in the practice of art, you will get better, but its requires a lot of work, a lot of bravery in being will to do things even if you do them badly, or which seem like they might make you look foolish, do bad art long enough and it becomes not only great, but original.

5. Monthly paintout - this month led by Keiko Tanabe, demo from 9-10, painting from 10-noonish, and a critique at about 1pm. 2nd Saturday of each month, at a site chosen by the demoing artist. ( no idea where we are going each month )

Note that the winners of the del mar fair plein air competition, were all SDWS members, with Keiko getting first place, I got second, Luis got third ( who started about the same time i did ), and an honorable mention to Jami Wright. It was a complete sweep. All of those awarded go to the same paintout, and I had to note that both me and Luis were using approaches which Keiko showed us. Like the leader of the paintout says, "if you don't go, you don't grow."

Just like the jam, find peers who are better than you, and just make art with them, they will rub off on you. This forum is kind of like that, but if you can do it with local artists too, all the better.

Last edited by briantmeyer : 09-10-2019 at 05:40 PM.
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Old 09-10-2019, 07:11 PM
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virgil carter virgil carter is offline
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Re: Striving

Well...there are many good responses above.

My thought is that while it may help to paint trees, or rocks, or any other individual element which is a component of a painting, a painting is a painting which contains many various components, organized through design and composition, and applied in highly personal ways. It's the finished painting which counts, not the wonderful trees, or rocks or some other individual component.

What to do?

Paint. Paint. Paint. Make paintings. Make more paintings. Make still more paintings. Complete full paintings...not individual components.

Study, learn and apply the knowledge gained from each painting to the next painting.

Look for opportunities to paint with others, as Brian suggests. It's a fun, learning opportunity.

And of course, there are workshops and lessons.

There's no shortcut for experience. And remember that after 100 paintings or so, your painting style and preferences will have found you. You don't need to worry about finding them.

Just my suggestion. Your mileage may vary.

Sling paint,
Virgil
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Old 09-10-2019, 07:51 PM
briantmeyer briantmeyer is offline
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Re: Striving

To reinforce what Virgil is saying about doing completed paintings, I think this is spot on.

Another thing I am doing is working smaller. This is because I noticed if I work normal sized or larger, I paint forever. I just keep going and going.

If I work small, I will finish a painting in a half hour. For me this is 10x14 and smaller, for you it might be art card sized. So smaller equals more, and more finished paintings, even loose and quick looking, will over time give me better results. After a year what used to look hurried and rushed, is looking as detailed and careful as a painting which took much longer to do, but its not lost its vitality.

Why do I do this, simply put, if I go to a paintout and do 3 paintings instead of 1, that is 3 compositions, 2 extra overall designs which can fail. How much time painting is important, but the amount of compositions, especially ones worked up into finished paintings is also key. If I were doing 100 a year, comparing to if I were doing 100 a month, even if that per month total is done much much faster/looser, I am going to get better at composition, at choosing values, just because I have done more overall pictures. You probably will be horrible at details in comparison, but just by sheer amount of work even this neglect will be superseded by amount of work, and its composition which really makes your work good.

Every page in my sketchbook, I ask is this composed? What does not work, what does work? For every figure I ask, why does this figure have energy, is it composed? If I moved this arm up or down, would it be more energetic, even the poses chosen are part of composition.

Shuang Li says to ask, "What did I do good?" Then she asks "What can I do better?" This is being real, every one of your pieces is good some way, but at the same time there is ALWAYS room to improve. Being better just means its more former than the latter, but its always a bit of both.

If you do thumbnails, that is 4 extra compositions ahead of your actual painting.

How do you work faster, well get big brushes, bigger than is comfortable on your page size, the niggling we are tempted to do is a bad habit, much harder with large brushes. If you have to classify what you are doing as thumbnails, that is just fine, I see this as an excercise, as practice, it does not have to be your primary approach, rather its extra time spent painting in addition to however you enjoy painting.

Think about how to paint economically, can you express a mark that says figure in one single swipe of your brush? Or Two. ( Here is where studying sumi, even if all you do is watch how japanese/chinese artists approach it, can give you a different way of thinking ) Again not trying to say this is how you should paint, but ask, can I say the same thing with half as many marks, or a single wash?

The faster you paint, the less marks, that leads to doing multiple paintings, the person doing more finished paintings in a year, is going to improve faster than a person doing just one very in depth painting. Sure the more in depth painting is developing other skills, but composition skills are developed by how many compositions you do, but also by how many you work up into complete paintings.

I have found that my work when working fast, has eclipsed the level of detail and accuracy of what I was doing a year ago working methodically.

And in a 3-4 hour span of time, I am doing 15 paintings, this week was 17, some of which look rushed, but some look like I spent hours on them. I am getting looser, but at the same time tighter with the level of energy increasing.

This deals with how many you do in a session, the other question is, in a year, how many sessions are you doing? Once a week, once a month, or just a couple of times a year.

I suggest as an excercise, do a postcard every day, that is in addition to every thing else. Don't spend more than 10 minutes on it, do it from life or a photo but don't worry about drawing well. It means you are doing something each day which is quick, but it also means at the end of the year, you have 365 compositions.

The ideal from what I understand is at least a half hour of practice each day, more does not do that much good, but each night your practice must have time to be processed by the brain. This is based on hidden brain, ted talks and radio labs podcasts on how we learn, and they describe how our sleeping actually is when we grow new neurons to help us deal with whatever it is we are practicing that day.

Some of this is just habits, replacing habits which are not art related, with art based habits.

Last edited by briantmeyer : 09-10-2019 at 08:10 PM.
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Old 09-10-2019, 07:51 PM
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Kaylen Kaylen is online now
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Re: Striving

Thanks everyone for responding, this is an interesting topic, I appreciate all your input, I guess though we are all diff we have a lot of overlap in our journeys, My own seems to mirror many of the thoughts of each of you.
and welcome Lavender grey , I am glad you are not just lurking anymore , you seem to have a lot to offer
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