Posts Tagged ‘Spiral Stair’

Winnowing the Yield

Friday, December 1st, 2017

One of the plights an artist faces is what to do with the vast amount of “product” that accumulates in the studio.  If we are skilled and in demand, much of what we create sells promptly and clears the way for further work.  Although I’m not quite at that point yet, I intend to keep working at it.

As we climb the stairway toward greater success, years’ worth of practice, studies, and still-immature work tends to accumulate, gradually encroaching on the working environment, consuming shelf, drawer, wall, floor, and other storage space until there’s scarcely room to move.  So sometimes we need to glance back down that stairwell to see that though what we achieved at each step succeeded in teaching us something to carry us a step further, that we had not yet reached our destination.  Just as I did in this depiction from several years ago of an unusual natural-wood stairwell configuration.

"Spiral Stair" 11"x15" watercolor (#130702w)

“Spiral Stair”
11″x15″ watercolor (#130702w)

Even knowing that my own work has not always lived up to my hopes or expectations, I often find it difficult to discard what amounts to ideas.  (Surely they could be useful to me sometime in the unforeseen future.)  The problem is that the material accumulation of unsuccessful or unfulfilled “ideas” can interfere with my continuing work in the present and even deter fresher ideas from coming to fruition!

So as we approach the end of another year, it’s time for me to winnow out the chaff—those earlier efforts that reaped no rewards beyond experience (a good enough reason in itself to have painted those pieces) to make room for more mature work.  Three stacks soon accumulated:  discards, salvageables, and keepers.

“Salvageables” fell into several categories—those that require only minor work to bring them up to acceptable standards; those from which I would like to make another attempt of the same subject, usually in a different medium (Oh dear, there are those ideas again!); and those from which I can reuse the canvas or framing materials, if nothing more.

The decisions aren’t easy.  (I can be ridiculously sentimental about some of my work.)  But as a professional, why would I want to waste space on pieces of much lower quality than I can currently produce?  I mustn’t!

Certainly, selling it might bring in a bit of immediate revenue, but it wouldn’t help reinforce the brand quality that I want to project.  So some “tough love” has had to come into play.  And some forthright frankness with myself about what lives up to, or at least approaches, my current level … and what simply doesn’t.

The job of culling the crop isn’t finished yet, and may not be before the end of the year … but hey, … I can already see a little open rack space again!

A Matter of Perspective

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

What draws me to a given subject? It varies. Sometimes it’s an iconic scene, as with “Brugge Bridge,” which I wrote about last time. Other times I’m attracted by interesting lighting effects or an intriguing abstract quality of a design, as in “Spiral Stair” (shown below), viewed over the bannister of a narrow, multiple flight staircase in the B&B where we stayed in Brugge. Sometimes it’s recognizing an easily overlooked point of beauty within the shadow of a more iconic scene that draws my attention.

130702 Spiral Stair

One of my traveling companions recently said, “Your paintings always make things look so much better than they do in real life.”

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then as an artist, I have the opportunity and privilege to show to others certain beauties that my eye recognizes. If I paint only the beauties that others already recognize, my hackneyed “insights” can be of little worth. The less recognizable those points are to others, the more valuable my artistic comments become.

So I try to keep a fresh outlook. Yes, there is certain nostalgic, historic, or commercial value in recording recognizable, often-painted icons. But artistically, I find it more satisfying to depict familiar subjects from an unfamiliar perspective. It’s all a matter of how you look at it. But more importantly, it’s largely a matter of how I, as an artist, can get other people to look at it.

What do you think? As a viewer, what attracts you to a painting? Is it the subject itself, or the artist’s treatment of it? Is it color, or design, patterns of light and dark? Or is it something else entirely? I’d love to hear your comments.