The Lazy Artist’s Guide to Subject Matter

I do believe that a good amount of the reason I love plein air painting is that it helps me avoid having to choose a subject to paint. You arrive outside in the wild (or semi-wild as the case of Victoria BC), and all you have to do is isolate a part of the landscape, weather, atmosphere and lighting which is of most interest to you. Then and there. Whereas in the studio, I tend to get bogged down in the theoretical WHY of painting, which can lead to conceptual angst and even worse… An existential “Why bother!?”. (Oh the conceptualists I have seen in this state! It is not pretty.)

So much art is in the process of being created or has been created that ifimage I stop to think about it… and consider what my fellow graduates would think…, what could I possibly add to art history!? (This is the scar of having attended art school – twice – too much contemplation). After all, I simply will not be a Tintoretto, let alone a Kandinsky!

Therefore, letting go and allowing myself to be en plein air, with all the tools at the ready, what else is there to do BUT paint!?

Just paint; The Buddhist’s solution to painting… Breathing in, I paint. Breathing out, I smile.

And smile.

Rejections in New Directions

Atop Holland Point  Plein air oil, 10" x 12"
Atop Holland Point
Plein air oil, 10″ x 12″

The other day I opened my email inbox to find one of those R-word letters; the dreaded rejection letter. All artists deal with rejection more or less if they choose to open the studio door and let the little beasts they’ve been nurturing out into the scary art world all on their own. I haven’t seen one of these R-word letters for a while so to receive one was a bit of a surprise. Especially since my husband received an acceptance letter for the same show. (I’m not competitive, no, not at all)

However, I say it was only a bit of a surprise because I am actually my own best R-word letter writer; Every 2nd or 3rd painting gets recycled or put in the bin. Having started a new direction with plein air oil painting, to a certain extent I am like a young, new artist just experiencing their first bouts of self-doubt and gallery rejections.

I haven’t really found my own true voice yet in plein air painting. It’s taking longer than I thought it would and so to receive an R-word letter did hurt more than usual. Well, it didn’t hurt per se, it just made me question my direction. You see, I’m starting to get nervous. I can see in my work part of the direction I want to go and then it slips away. I taste it and then it dissolves. I set out on a certain path with a painting and end up at a different destination.

I read an anonymous truism the other day: “I thought painting was easy, until I tried it.” Well, I am going add something to that (kids, cover your ears);

Painting is fucking hard!

That said, in yesterday’s plein air painting session I felt good. What good felt like was noticing that I was tight in my brushwork and intentionally loosening up, seeing some marks that needed working into the background and working them in, checking my values against reality and seeing them match. Then again, I still sometimes feel like I am painting pretty little pictures, which is not what I want to do.

So just as I and every artist will receive the occasional R-word letter, I will stumble along my path towards a destination which may always seem barely within reach. That’s art, and that’s the path of the artist.

So R-word me, see if I care! (I will, I’m human).

In the field at Holland Point Park
In the field at Holland Point Park