May 25, 2017

How to Find Your Artistic Voice

Finding your artistic voice is like walking a tightrope. On one side of the tightrope is the Chasm of Static Rendering. On the other side is the Abyss of Unbridled Creativity.

If you traverse the tightrope chanting “Paint what you see, paint what you see,” you can enter “Gotta-Get-This-Right Mode" and topple into the Chasm of Static Rendering. However, if you forget to "paint what you see" altogether, you can enter “There-Are-No-Rules-So-I Can-Do-Whatever-My-Creative-Whims-Tell-Me Mode.” Accuracy is lost, and you plummet into the Abyss of Unbridled Creativity!


How to Keep Your Balance

You need a balancing pole. One end of this pole is weighted with your creative vision. The other end is weighted with accuracy.

By "accuracy," I mean painting your subject faithfully, according to the 5 Fundamentals (See "5 Reasons Your Painting Doesn't Look Like Your Subject"). I consider these 5 Fundamentals to be the foundation upon which good representational art is built. So accuracy is important! But it's not everything. It is also important to allow your work to be influenced by your creative vision.

By "creative vision," I mean having a relatively clear mental image of how you want your painting to look. Developing your creative vision takes time, and that's OK—if painting weren't a journey, it wouldn't be exciting! Fortunately, there are practices that can help you develop your creative vision. Here are two that have helped me the most:

1. Study the work of great artists
to learn how they solved problems

  • Observe their work at museums and galleries.
  • Paint copies of their work (Doing this gave me some of my best growth as an artist).
  • Don't try to copy another artist's style. Instead, study their work to get ideas for how you might solve similar problems in your own work.
     
2. Ask yourself questions like these:
  • What subject(s) inspire me the most?
  • How can I make the best picture?
  • How do I want this to look?
  • "Do not ask yourself, 'What do I see?' Rather ask, 'What do I see?' " (Richard Schmid, Alla Prima: Everything I Know About Painting)
     

The First Step Toward
Finding Your Artistic Voice

The first step toward finding your artistic voice is simply venturing out onto that tightrope. At first, you'll feel a bit wobbly. Sometimes you'll fall—I do frequently! But eventually, as you take one step at a time, you'll pick up speed and the balancing will become easier.

Again, always balance yourself with accuracy and creative vision. The more you make decisions based on both accuracy and creative vision, the more your unique voice will develop.

Walking a tightrope is a frightening illustration (sorry about that). However, finding your artistic voice is nothing to worry about. It will develop naturally over time. And when it does, it cannot help but be unique to you. After all, each of us is specially hand-crafted by the Master Artist. Your voice is merely an extension of who you are—a beautifully unique person!

So venture out onto that tightrope—I can't wait to see what you'll paint!


I adapted this lesson from an article I wrote for Oil Painters of America's blog. To read the original (longer) article, go here.

The next lesson (two weeks from now) will start a series of lessons on our materials. You may already know that Andrea and I love using Rosemary & Co. brushes. But next time, I'll share specifically which brushes we use and why.

See you then!
—Adam

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May 10, 2017

31 Paintings to Jumpstart the Year

31 Days of Paintings


At the beginning of this year, a challenge was issued to artists around the world—Create a new artwork from life every day for 31 days and post it on social media.

The challenge was created by StradaEasel, an easel design system, to help artists begin the new year with a creative jolt. This year I knew I wanted to join in! On the first day of January, I completed painting #1 and quickly realized how difficult it would be to accomplish the full challenge. Nevertheless, I was determined to see it through!

At the end of the challenge, I had created 31 paintings, a greater appreciation for the simple beauty of everyday objects around our home, and the lessons I learned from the intense and focused study.

Now I'll just have to see if I can talk Adam into joining me for next year's challenge!

Below are all 31 paintings from the challenge. Several pieces are still available! If you spot one that would be perfect on your wall, please email us at contact@adamclague.com. We'll let you know if the piece is still available and how to purchase. Prices below include framing.

Enjoy!
––Andrea

Open Oven
Oil • 10"x8" • (NFS)
Adam's Brushes
Oil • 8"x5" • $400
Backyard Shed
Oil • 6"x8" • $320
Furnace
Oil • 8"x6" • (NFS)
French Press
Oil • 10"x8" • (NFS)
Red Onion
Oil • 5"x8" • $280
Cruet
Oil • 8"x5" • $280
 Snowy Drive
Oil • 5"x8" • $280
Stovetop
Oil • 8"x10" • $460
Window Seat
Oil • 8.5"x6.25" • $340
Apple
Oil • 5.5"x5.5" • (NFS)
Espresso Beans
Oil • 5.5"x5.5" • $250
Sargent Books
Oil • 9.5"x7.75" • $430
Spools
Oil • 10"x8" • $460
Copper Pitcher
Oil • 10"x8" • (Sold)
Copper Kettle
Oil • 5.5"x5.5" • (Sold)
Grapefruit
Oil • 4.5"x6" • (NFS)
Foggy Driveway
Oil • 8"x10" • $460
Roses
Oil • 10"x8" • (Sold)

Snake Plant
Oil • 9"x7" • $380
Rose Under Warm Light
Oil • 9"x6" • $340
Honey Jar
Oil • 7"x5" • $260
Carrots
Oil • 5"x8" • $280
Garlic
Oil • 5"x7" • $260
Lemons
Oil • 5"x8" • $280
Box of Paint
Oil • 8"x6" • $320
Loveseat
Oil • 6"x8" • $320
Lightbulb
Oil • 3.5"x4" • $200
Bread
Oil • 6"x9" • $340
French Press #2
Oil • 6.5"x3" • (Sold)
Horse
Oil • 10"x8" • $460


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May 4, 2017

How This Perfectionist Learned to Paint More Loosely

 

Left: An early student drawing of mine
Right: A more recent oil painting

I'll be transparent—I'm a perfectionist. I iron my jeans. I have a hard time focusing in a cluttered studio. I quintuple-check these lessons for typos (and kick myself when one gets past me). For years, my perfectionism was a huge hindrance to my painting—by the time I got everything just right, it was way too tight!

Now, please don't misunderstand me—there is nothing wrong with fully-rendered or "tight" paintings. Just look at the masterpieces of artists like William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Lord Frederic Leighton! Tight painting is only an issue if you want your paintings to look loose.

And man, did I want to paint loosely like Sargent and Schmid! My paintings may never be on a par with those masters, but my work finally developed the looseness I desired.

This perfectionist learned to paint more loosely by disciplining myself to adopt these 6 practices:


  • Stand up. Sitting will keep you from frequently backing away from your work—an essential habit, as problems are much more evident at a distance. If you're unable to stand while painting, sit in a chair with wheels.
     
  • (Following from the last point) Adopt the 10-Foot Rule: If it reads well from 10 feet away, it's good—don't touch it!
     

  • Envision your subject made up of shapes like mosaic tiles. As much as possible, try to paint these shapes with one stroke each. If you need to adjust a shape, do so with a separate, deliberate stroke instead of continuing to dab at it. Painting a shape with a single stroke often requires a generous amount of paint on your brush, which leads me to the next point…
     
  • Mix up large batches of paint on your palette with your palette knife. One of the biggest culprits of tight painting is not using enough paint—when your brush is hungry for paint, multiple strokes are needed to cover an area, and this can cause the surface to look overworked.  


  • Use a brush slightly too big for the job (I couldn't find what artist said this, but if you know, please remind me!).
     
  • Continuously ask yourself, "How do I want this to look?" Having at least a semi-clear vision for your brushwork can keep you from falling into the trap of slavishly copying your subject.

This last point is a key for beginning to find your personal style or "voice," and I'll talk more about that next time.

See you then!
—Adam

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