Mystery of Painting. Do We Want to Know?

As a group it seems that artists obsess about little things that most of the world doesn’t know exist, and probably doesn’t even care about. Maybe it’s the nature of artists in general, or maybe it’s simply the natural state of any group of professionals who get together. Perhaps there’s a professional plumbers blog out there where they discuss using one version of plumber’s putty over another, who knows?

We painters like to weigh the benefits or drawbacks of using highly chromatic colors like cadmium red, or yellow, versus using colors that have more in common with clay, or dirt such as yellow ocher, or green earth. Then we will debate whether a famous artist from the past used those colors or not, and how he mixed them if he did use them.

After that the conversation might turn to grounds and supports. Is hardboard or canvas a better choice to paint on? Will the ground help the paint to last, or will it lead to cracking? Is the ground oil or water based?

What about varnish? Do you varnish your painting, and if you do, do you prefer the finish to be shiny or matte?

And of course the list goes on.

I wonder sometimes if the art buying public know about these conversations?

If a painting takes one hour or forty of actual painting time, do collectors know that the artist might have spent ten times that amount of time researching to get the best information they can find to create the best artwork they can?

Do they understand that a painting is not just some spots of paint placed on a support, but a highly complex object that has been obsessed about for hours before the idea of what to paint even entered the artist’s mind?

Maybe it’s the mystery of painting that keeps people from asking.

And if it is I’m fine with that.

Get Serious

“Have you ever worked can see to can’t see?”

These are the words my oldest brother asked me one day as we only had four days to complete a cable railing system on a large parking structure that he had won the bid for. Him, my next oldest brother, and I were the complete crew. We had to bore holes for posts in concrete, set metal posts, drill anchor points in columns, weld whatever needed to be welded, string and tension thousands of feet of steel cable, and since we had never done it before, learn how to do all of it at the same time. I believe that I lost about 20 pounds in those four days.

We had to get serious to get the job done.

I thought of this as I read Stapleton Kearns’s blog describing his working day that starts when it’s light and doesn’t end until it’s dark.

It also made me think of a conversation I had last year with another artist. She asked me to rate how serious she was about art on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best. I told her that I thought she was around an eight. She then asked me to rate myself. I gave myself a nine.

But after reading Stapleton’s post, I think I need to be downgraded.

He forgoes many of the activities that normal people do like movies, reading, tv, video games, etc. to paint everyday.

I have to admit that there are some days that I don’t paint, and I spend way too much time reading blogs, or facebook, or whatever.

A few years ago I made the commitment to excel at this art thing, to push myself beyond what I had done before. But I need to face the facts, it’s time to get serious.

Stapleton Kearns’s blog

It Starts With Passion

I wouldn’t say I’m obsessed with Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, but anytime I catch it I always make time to watch it. For those who don’t know the premise of the show, super chef Gordon Ramsay visits failing restaurants and attempts to turn them around in just a few days.

I recently caught an old episode about the Hot Potato Cafe in Philadelphia owned by three women who had more or less given up on their restaurant. The first night he was there Gordon Ramsay walked out on them because he couldn’t find any signs that the women wanted to even try to improve their situation. As he was telling them they lacked passion for the place I could almost feel him begging for someone to speak up and prove him wrong. It wasn’t until he started down the street that they followed after him to beg him to come back.

Every time I watch it I learn things from someone who knows what they are talking about. It’s like having a personal coaching session from a top professional.

Art and food are closely related in that those who are successful are very passionate about what they do. But the passion came first. No one gets to the top of their field and then all of a sudden wakes up and says, “Before I hated it, but now I love it!”

Everything starts with desire.

Without passion for what you do, it’s all drudgery.