Sometimes as an artist, for inexplicable reasons I see something that appeals to me, a cloud (don’t worry, not that again), a landscape, a face, a scene, that calls to me. Something that leaves me with the overwhelming urge to paint. There are times when even I am puzzled at the what and whys of my choices. The painting I did today falls under the mysterious inspiration category. I wrote a couple of days ago about being back in Chicago, in the heart of the city. The diversity of the people and places. As we sat at a red light I glanced out the window and saw a man sitting waiting for the bus. It was one of those moments that I felt the urge to capture. Maybe it’s the body position, or the way the light and shadow bounce off the figure. Or it could just be human curiosity. I’ve mentioned in a previous blog my sister, Colleen. I’ve also written about how funny she is. My Mom never learned how to drive. As kids we walked, rode in cabs, or most of the time, we took the bus. As we would sit on the bus, Colleen would look around the bus and choose someone to talk about. She would say things like, “See that lady, she had a fight with her husband this morning, and now she has to take the bus.” Or it might be, “That guy doesn’t like his family, he moved out of their house.” Or possibly, “That lady dyes her hair.” My poor Mother would be diving on her to try to get her to stop talking, sometimes really loud. I think what it inspired in me was a curiosity about who those people really were, and where they were going. I love Hopper’s Nighthawks, and I think it inspires that curiosity as well. I look at that painting and wonder about the patrons of that diner, who they were, and why they seem so lonely. I’ve also mentioned that I am a solitary figure myself, and maybe that’s the draw. My subject was the man at the bus stop, sitting in the rain with an empty shopping cart. I wondered about who he is, and where he was going, and what would eventually be in that cart. And as always, when I see someone who is alone, I worry for them and hope that it is only a temporary state.
Our usual Saturday here in Temecula is a visit to our wonderful local Farmer’s market. It is one of my favorite things to do, especially because I love cooking so much, I look forward to it all week. We often talk as we stroll along about what we might want to cook for that night’s dinner, and Dan buys me flowers. There are food stalls in addition to the beautiful fresh produce, a French creperie, Italian sausage that is made locally, African food, Middle Eastern food, and so much more. The colors and aromas of the market are rich with vibrancy and flavor. There are the same vendors week after week, who come to know us and greet us with smiles. Our city is small, but a city none the less, however the market gives it the kind of small town intimacy that is missing in so much of the world today. Last year I took my camera along for the day and snapped some photos of the beautiful displays. I may do that again next week, but this time I think I’d like to take some pictures of the shoppers and vendors. An interesting mix of people, definitely some colorful characters. One of my favorite paintings is Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. It’s funny how often that painting comes to mind when I’m in an area where people are gathered. I have an orphaned painting up in my studio that I will have to dig out. A photograph I took at a Starbucks of a woman sitting on a stool with her back to me. Again, a “Hopper” moment. Something about how lost in thought she seemed and the position of her body appealed to me. I need to finish that piece. I think I’d also like to attempt a scene, a painting with more than a singular figure in it. It would definitely be a challenge for me, but these days I am feeling a little fearless and inspired in my work.
Tonight a few of last year’s photos, and a pen and ink of an item from the Farmer’s market, an onion.
Tonight’s project is a small oil painting, but before I get into that I want to be really honest here about my struggle today. I’m actually working on several projects, most of them have to do with refurbishing flea market finds. I’ve been putting those projects ahead of this one, thus the late night art work and posting. I’m fine with that because it isn’t about avoiding my art, it’s about earning a living. My struggle today was with the very same issues I addressed last night. I almost did it today, I almost walked away from this painting. Oil painting is my biggest obstacle. It is the art I am most drawn to, and the one I have the biggest issues with. To begin with I really am an “instant gratification” artist, when I want something done, I want it yesterday. I’m also a bit of a control freak, (A bit? I don’t like to fly, I hate it actually, but as I have told Dan repeatedly, if I could fly the plane there would be no issue) anyway, oil is not a medium for control freaks. It directs the time line. Things were not coming out the way I wanted and the canvas only had paint on half of it. I put it down and went in search of my watercolors. I decided what to paint, but then I stopped. I made myself go back to the oils. The struggle continued right on to the end. I won’t give in to it. I have to keep pushing. No Surrender!
Whew! Got that out. The painting…
Struggle Part Deux
My other problem, I have no style. Not personally of course, that is if you consider jeans and a shirt of some form roughly three hundred fifty days a year a style, but a painting style. Again the lack of lessons has left me clueless in the use of materials. Just before I started writing I told Dan that my paintings are flat. My Dad was a house painter by trade, it’s sort of how I used to paint. No dimension, like painting with a brush on a wall. When I go to art museums I am as close as legally allowed to paintings, always studying the strokes and texture of the paint. My paintings looked for the most part lifeless. The other issue (there’s more?), is that I can’t decide how I want to paint. Realism? Yes and no, too much precision. Impressionism? More yes than no, love Impressionism, first place we went to in Paris was the Musee d’Orsay, the Impressionist museum. It’s a difficult style for me because I’m still a little hung up on the “it has to look like it’s supposed to look” issue. I love Grant Wood, Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth. Particularly Hopper. I’m just not sure who I am as a painter. I just decided to post two pictures tonight. The one I did earlier this evening, and another older one. In my efforts to get over myself I figured out a little trick. I had put a soft focus filter on a photograph to blur the lines. It helped me get past the “has to” nonsense. I only needed to do it one or twice, but it really helped. Once I realized that my “not exactly as it really looks” paintings were something I liked, I was able to move past some of the crap in my head. (The older painting was actually in part a photo from Gourmet magazine. Just want to make sure I give credit.)
So tonight I was playing with style and texture. I didn’t work from my actual photograph, which was from a sunrise I photographed in Virginia Beach, but from what I saw in my mind from looking at it earlier in the day. Not entirely pleased with the results, but happy I didn’t give up.