Saturday, March 17, 2018

Next - What should I paint next? The problem of artistic overwhelm...

My biggest question right now is...HOW do I choose what to paint next??? I'm realizing that I don't have much of a system for how I choose next projects. Usually for me, it's just an emotional, deadline driven choice and I'd like to change that. Do you face artistic overwhelm - where you have so many unfinished paintings to do you don't know where to start? Or you have so many cool ideas but you can't decide what to work on next?? Or you get so inspired and spend too much time looking at Pinterest and Instagram photos that you are too tired to paint? Those are currently my problems.

I do have several projects that aren't quite done that I could be working on - I call them UFOs - Unfinished Objects! Every time I take a class the paintings aren't finished by the end of the class and they seem to hang around for a while before I get at them again. Lost mojo.

Two UFO's from classes I took that aren't finished yet :-/ One will take maybe an hour - the other will take probably another 20 hours to finish...

I do not like particularly like painting to a deadline for exhibits. It always seems that having that pressure means something about the painting not go well. This causes frustration and panic as you stress out about having to meet that deadline and have a painting that is your BEST work. If your painting needs to be framed, you have to leave time for that too! I do have some paintings that are started that are in that state didn't work out the way I expected...what do I do next on those paintings??

I do take a lot of my own photos for reference and usually do paint from photos. On recent trips out west and to the east coast in Canada, we went to zoos, and scenic sights. I love flowers so we spend time in gardens when we come across them. Both Paul and I enjoy happily clicking away together. Aren't digital cameras awesome!!! We also go over to Stratford regularly in the summer and I know I have quite a few really neat photos of the scenery and wildlife by the river that I'd love to paint sometime.

I go to a local Sketchclub  that has outings every Wednesday morning during the year. We either sketch on location or at the local art center. These outings to many of the local tourist sites, museums or gardens. provide me with many photo opportunities as well as enjoying the sketching time. So I have files and files of photos from the past 10+ years. I could spend some time going through those photos looking for possibilities that I was excited about at the time but I've forgotten about. Those photos are backed up to my ipad and I keep looking at them thinking...yes... I'd like to paint that one! Like most artists, I have a huge computer file system of reference photos built up.

I also have spent a LOT of time on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram following, and saving photos of paintings by artists whose work I really am attracted to. I've watched a ton of Youtube videos that inspire me to try new things. Then there are all my painting books and magazines I've collected over the years that have inspired me with new techniques I'd like to try on some of my own photos.

Then there are also the Decorative painting patterns and courses by wonderful painting teachers and designers that I'd love to do - but if I work on those, I won't get my own originals done.

Can you say artistic overwhelm...??? I definitely need some blinders or some kind of system to figure out what's next...and to cut back on the choices. Too many ideas is a real problem!

We were down to Niagara on the Lake recently and Edward Spera, a phenomenal wildlife artist who has a gallery there, has a system for choosing his next paintings. He chooses photos he is inspired to work on and he posts them in his gallery as his next dozen paintings. When someone likes the photos and purchases the painting BEFORE it's painted, then he will start it. I'm so not there yet! He's booked up years in advance. I DO like the idea of having a board in my studio with photos posted of the next in line painting possibilities.

There was another artist in Goderich this summer - Elizabeth Van den Broeck  who prints out the photos she has decided she'd like to paint. She designed a handout for her students that she uses to choose what size of canvas would be best for the parts of the photo she's going to paint.  She often pastes the photos on the work page and does thumbnail sketches on it to work out a value scale and composition study. Then she will post these photo pages up on the walls in her studio. The one that inspires her most is what she paints next. I thought that might work for me.

Sometimes I sit down with a notebook and make a list of all the photos that I do have printed off from trips and outings and think about what media I'd like to use to paint that photo. but its all in my head. I think I need to work some things out on paper first. There are a lot of choices to make before you actually start a painting. I usually make those decisions on the fly, but I think that is sometimes why I will get stuck part way through a painting project. I come to a spot where I don't know exactly what to do next...either that or there is some technical painting skill that I am missing and I'm just not ready to commit to the next step yet. In that case taking a step back and looking at the painting for a while will often help me get perspective so I go on to the next step.

In planning a painting to exhibit or to teach there are a lot of things to think about...

  • Since I use acrylic, watercolour, oils and some coloured pencil I often look at a photo reference and know what my first choice of medium would be for painting that subject.
  • Can I just paint exactly as it is in the photo? Or do I need to make colour and composition changes to make it an eye catching painting?
  • What skills would be great to teach while doing this subject?
  • What is the theme of the exhibit that is coming up? Which painting possibilities would fit that theme?
  • If it's a juried show, and the jurors love abstracts then pretty much I know that the realism that I lean toward may not make the cut. How can I paint so that my chances of my work being curated into this show will be better?
  • What do I have TIME to paint? Picking something that's going to take 40+ hours to paint over the Christmas season is just plain unrealistic! 
  • And finally, what am I most excited about painting?

    I think my next step in this process of deciding what's next is to print out smaller copies of some of the photos I'd like to paint from. Then I will make a template and tape the photos on it. I will figure out the size I'd like to paint, the surface I'd like to paint on, the media I'd like to use, the changes I'd like to make - like cropping and colour choices. I'll make all these notes on the page and then hang it up on the walls in my studio. Maybe then I'll be able to tell what painting is calling out my name the most.                         

    How do YOU choose what painting to do next? I'd love some tips for getting this process more simplified so I can cut out some of the overwhelm and get some sort of system going forward.

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