Archive for February, 2015

Writing Artist’s Statements

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

At first thought, the idea of having to write a statement for every piece of art I created seemed ludicrous. It felt like a waste of time to tell people about what I was already showing them through my art.

140915w Ruffles and Lace

But that is by no means the case! I’ve come to realize that if I can’t verbalize for myself what my intention was in developing a painting, nor tell others some kind of story about what led me to paint it, then there probably wasn’t much of a concept behind the painting at all, and it would have little impact on the viewer, with or without a written statement about its development.

What attracted me to this specific subject? How did I find it? What inspired me to paint this image as opposed to some other? What overall concept was I trying to express? How did I go about planning and preparing it? Did I have to take into consideration any special circumstances or circumvent problems to achieve my goal? What decisions did I have to make during the painting’s development? What discoveries did I make or what surprises did I encounter as I worked?

All of these are valid questions that are important to me as an artist, and that viewers are often interested in when considering a piece of artwork. Though not all the questions necessarily apply to every piece, all of them provide fodder, in certain circumstances, for writing an artist’s statement, thereby giving viewers an opportunity to gain greater insight into my work.

If you have acquired one of my paintings and want to know more about its origin and development, or if you have a specific question about it, let me know. You can email me at: Put the title or inventory number (or better yet, both) in the subject line. This information is usually found on the back of the painting. And in the body of the message, let me know what you are interested in hearing more about. I’ll be happy to send you an artist’s statement specifically about your painting.

Teaching an Old Artist New Tricks

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

Have you ever struggled to overcome a bad habit or to establish a new one? If you have, you’re not alone!

When I continue to study a subject over a long period of time, I have a tendency to rely on my older, erroneous habits. Even though I’ve learned that there are better ways. Sometimes this is due to laziness, and sometimes to simply wanting to stick with old, familiar methods. (Or maybe those two reasons are essentially the same thing.)

Although I may have recently learned a more effective approach, I have to consciously abstain from continuing old methods, which would only serve to reinforce the bad habits. It takes a long time and considerable effort to embrace new habits as trusted friends, even when I know, intellectually, that they are superior to the old ones. And that is one reason that learning, while exhilarating and stimulating, can also be so stressful.

150110p Cousins

But sometimes, when it comes to relearning a skill (or applying a new approach) in art, I find that my hands don’t want to obey the theory that has entered my head. I know the evidence is apparent in the resulting work. But how can I overcome that tendency to fall back into old ways?

I’ve found that the key is in changing the theoretical knowledge into practical understanding. And sometimes that requires giving myself permission to do it the “wrong” way one more time.

Why? When a drawing or painting is finished, including all its imperfections, I find it helps me to set it up on an easel where I can study it from a distance and consider it as I go about my other business. That way, the shortcomings begin to jump out at me. I can see the faults, and my mind goes to work, both consciously and unconsciously, solving the problems that had gotten me to that result.

As I live with it for a while, the more I allow my mind to evaluate the shortcomings, the deeper my understanding grows and the better ingrained the solutions become. Not only have I acquired the theoretical knowledge of what I should have done, now I have gained a measure of intellectual understanding of why and have begun to develop a stratagem for how to approach the change.

The next step is to go back to the drawing board…quite literally. I draw or paint the same subject again, or a different one that poses similar problems, this time addressing the problems with my new understanding. Besides having merely learned (theoretically) that there is a difference in result between the two approaches, I have identified the differences the two approaches make, I have recognized the importance of achieving the improvement, and I have absorbed the understanding of how to achieve it. At this point, my hands are much more likely to cooperate with the new approach.

Even then, the change doesn’t occur instantaneously. Ingrained understanding helps make the transition easier. But regular and consistent practice over several weeks, or even months, is needed to completely instill a new habit to displace the old one.

If you’ve found a more effective approach to establishing new habits, I’d love to hear from you.