Thursday, April 27, 2017

"Great Starts! Painting from the Inside-Out" (Working Notes)

Great Starts!
Painting from the Inside-Out
(Working Notes)

Good morning! Thank you for coming! My topic today is Great Starts, Painting from the Inside Out. Those of you who know me know I'm a big believer that learning to orchestrate great starts is a skill that leads to more compelling, powerful, and personally expressive paintings!

I guess first and foremost I should explain what painting from the inside out means to me... I think, more than anything, it means painting with your heart and mind in alignment. SO!... I'd like to spend a bit of time up front explaining what I mean by that.... 

There are three parts to this, as you see on your handout: know yourself, know the tools, and know a method.

Know Yourself            Pay attention to what moves you!
Knowing yourself deals with matters of the heart: what do you love? What are you passionate about? What are YOU impressed by when you look at a scene or subject? What do you want to say?

Know Your Tools        Understand the expressive properties of each of the 6 tools
Knowing the tools deals with how to say it: technique, the intellect, and understanding the expressive properties of each of the tools at our disposal: The tools I use in my teaching are line, shape, value, colors, edges and texture.

Know a Method           I’ll show you one!
Then there is the method. There are many great methods, but the one I am demonstrating today is really fun once you get the hang of it...developing the emotion and the design at once.

Today's focus is on this method, and I'll get to that in 8 or 10 minutes...but I don't want to gloss over the first 2 parts because they are so critical to creating great starts and good work. So, here we go:


Knowing yourself requires some ongoing inner work, but it can be boiled down to this: pay attention to what moves you! If you are an artist, especially, there are things that move you in life and probably in nature that cause you to gasp...that literally take your breath away! When that happens, figure out why!

The same might be true when you visit a museum or a gallery and stand in front of a great work of art. If your heart goes pitapat, Pay attention to this! Notice that some paintings speak to you more than others, and ask yourself why ..."Why am I moved by these artists who have the same tools at their disposal that I do?" How are they using the tools to make me feel something beyond the subject matter?...

Go also to your books and art magazines, to the artists you admire, and ask the same thing. Then take what you have learned and go to your own work, line up your paintings and study them...separate out the ones you love, where you really captured the feeling you were after, and ask, "How did I get that? What am I consistently drawn to?" This will give you direction!

Isn't it interesting that we use the word 'voice', as in "How do I find my voice?" Voices communicate something! Your voice is in there, trying to get your attention!...hmmm I think that means we should LISTEN!

I have tremendous respect for artists... how is it that we can identify one master from another? Because each is unique and…….

You are each unique. No one has lived your life, shed your tears, or knows as well as you the joys or sacrifices you have made on your journey, caring for kids or elderly parents, or pushing brooms. All this has made you who you are. You bring it all to the easel. It all counts! So listen to what's inside of you trying to get are an artist and people want to know how you see the world! SO!!!!

Pay attention to your visceral reactions...when your heart skips a beat or your breath is taken away or something in life or art grabs you by the gut and gives it a squeeze. That's your spark, it's Emerson's "gleam of light "! Those are signposts to knowing yourself and the direction you are called to go, knowing the things you love, and the concepts and stories you want to tell!


NOW! At the same time, work on learning the expressive qualities of the tools, so you can pair them specifically with your artistic intent. For those of you who are interested in the tools in more depth, because I can't cover it all here, I want to share that this has been a passion of mine for over 25 years, and through this time I have been compiling what I've learned in my handbook which is finally done.....

To purchase, click here

As years go by, we grow in our inner dialogues and understanding ... this happens both in how we look at nature or life and how we look at art around us, and how we perceive our own art. As we come of age artistically, we look deeper at the start of a painting. For those of you are are at this stage, ready to move beyond the tools, because they are now second nature, I have included in the back my .......balance, rhythm and harmony chart!


Now - Depending on how you are wired and what your goals are, this may give you a concrete way to access ever deeper levels! That's why I LOVE this chart!! (I don't know...maybe I've spent too much time reading Emerson or Ruskin's Modern Painters!)'s how I use the list: Just to give you an idea ... I think about the meaning of each of these words and how they relate to what I am looking at...or contemplatingUse this list to critique your own work..

So, anyway, there are so many layers to this but Emerson said: "The power in a work of art lies in the depth of the artist's insight of that object he contemplates!"

Okay. Enough about knowing yourself and knowing your tools, lets paint!

Autumn Dance                                                                         27x36" oil on linen

“The power in a work of art depends on the depth of the artist’s insight of that object he contemplates.”   ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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