Read a post today that echoed some of the things I have been thinking about – critiquing, challenging and believing in your art. Linda Blondheim is a talented painter, and one of those serious artists whose advice and process I respect and heed. I’ve quoted excerpts from her post below, and added my own comments in italics.
Sometimes painting is so very difficult. You never know when you will get into a difficult painting that just doesn’t want to work at all. Some may not know that it takes real courage to continue working on a painting that seems doomed to failure. I believe that good painters at whatever level will run into these stumbling blocks in their own work.
(I’ve talked about “the fear” – the block I inevitably encounter in each new painting, and that painting despite feeling frozen is the way I conquer it.)
…I decided to use the system I give all of my students and that is to systematically go through the possible flaws in the painting and come up with solutions. Of course it is so easy to critique other’s work, because we don’t have an investment in theirs.
(I’m always striving to view my work with an unbiased eye – knowing some of the “rules” of composition helps, as well as knowing your goal for the painting. I recently restarted my large moss painting because I had lost sight of my goal for rich color and fascinating edges.)
…my basic rule is that I must make my paintings as good as I am capable of making them at any given stage of my development as a painter.
(I am infuriated by artists who rest on their laurels and don’t give their best selves to their work every time – even if your name is well-known and your work highly sought, you should be continuing to challenge yourself and grow as an artist.)
It’s always good to look at work you haven’t seen in a few years and gratifying to see that sometimes it can stand up to your current work.
(I have a few pieces like this – though I do continue improving as an artist, there are a few pieces that I consider classics – like my “Alaska Highway Wildflowers” – my very first artist-quality painting.)
What is important, is that I stay in front of my easel, working out process and improving so that I can sell paintings and make a living for myself. Selling my work allows me to do my life’s work. It is vital to me to continue as a painter. I have to trust in myself that I will continue to work hard and improve, thus generating the kind of sales that will allow me to be a painter, something I am the most proud of.
The worse thing we can do is start doubting our own worth as a painter. The best thing we can do is to get back to the easel and start again, or go back to a painting and redo it, improving it. This keeps our self confidence up and renews our love for the quest of the next masterpiece. I believe the key to it all, is just renewing our resolve to paint well, and getting to that easel, even when the painting is not going well. Things will turn around if we believe in our work.