Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Thought for Sunday, July 24, 2016

"You don't make a photograph with just a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved." -- Ansel Adams

Friday, July 22, 2016

Evaluating Your Work: the Pitfalls of Comparing Your Work to Other Artists

Do you ever fall into a slump where you think your work doesn't "measure up?" Are you dogged by fears that some Authority is going to declare that you couldn't paint your way out of a paper bag? Do you ever feel inadequate and "less than" while looking at other artists' work?

If the answer is no, skip this and go merrily on to your opening at MOMA. If you answered yes, stay with me. I'm going to tell you how to gag the nasty little critic living in your head who just loves to make you believe everybody's else's art is better than yours.

When you slide into this destructive, negative mindset, here's what to do: drag your very first painting out from under the bed or the back of the closet. (Didn't save your very first painting? No problem. Bring out the earliest piece you have on hand.) Ok, now lean it up against the wall.

Next, place a more recent piece you've done right next to it. Step back and look at the two pieces very carefully and with a critical eye. Unless you just started painting last week, you'll see quite a difference between the two. Let me humble myself by showing you my first painting, followed by a later piece, to illustrate my point:
My very first painting, done in 2003         

Pretty awful, right? The horizon line is dead center in the middle of the canvas. All the boats are the same glaring shade of pure white. Their reflections are much too large and much too dominant. The distant line where water meets land is anything but level. The land mass is a dead, flat black. The water itself looks more like dark blue corduroy than water. (It actually looks even worse in person than it does here.) I could go on, but you get the point. This painting is a poster child for every mistake in the book.

Now, here's a landscape painted just four years later, in 2007:

"The Pond in Autumn," acrylic on canvas              ©2016 Lynn Edwards
:
See the difference? I'm not claiming this painting is perfect, or that Christie's sold it at auction for a king's ransom, but without question it's a marked improvement over the sailboats. As you can see, by 2007 my abilities were more refined. The water looks like water, there's a suitable range of values, the grasses and trees are believable, and overall the painting reads well. It was accepted into several juried exhibitions and was sold shortly afterwards. I tell you this not to brag, but to encourage you to find positive benchmarks of a similar nature in assessing your own work.

My message here is this: comparing your work to that of others is of little use. Every artist is on his or her own unique journey. Their art is a reflection of their experiences, feelings, memories and beliefs, and where they are in their journey at any given time. They are not you.

Compare your work only to your own work. Remember, you are not in competition with other artists; your only competitor is yourself. Are you a better artist now than you were last year? Three years ago? Ten? Do you find techniques that formerly were difficult to accomplish second nature now? Have you expanded your subject matter, found new ways to present it, or widened your choice of media?

Take this exercise one step further. In chronological order, line up all the paintings you've done that are still in your possession, starting with your earliest piece. Again, step back and take a long, careful look. You'll see a clear progression of improvement in such things as composition, perspective, color mixing....all the elements that go into the creation of art.

If you've been painting for any length of time, this exercise can be a real eye-opener, providing a visual history of your artistic abilities. It can reveal your strengths, your unique style, recurring themes and personal symbols, and where improvements are needed. The discoveries you can make can be startling as well as helpful. (For instance, I noticed that birds seemed to appear in many of my pieces, even though I didn't consciously include them.)

Comparing your current work to earlier work has another benefit too. It allows you to see that you have something to say and something to offer. And that your contribution is being presented to the world in an ever-evolving way. We all have a gift to share that's unique to us alone. This simple exercise lets you see where you are on your own artistic journey -- where you've been, where you are now, and the exciting directions and places where your imagination might take you. 

Text and images ©2016 Lynn Edwards

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Thought for Sunday, July 17, 2016

"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." -- Edgar Degas

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Must-See Art Galleries in and Around Hilton Head, Part Two

Bluffton, South Carolina is a short -- 20 minutes or so -- drive from Hilton Head. If, like me, you love wandering through small galleries featuring local artists' work, don't miss a trip to this charming art enclave. Head for Calhoun Street, where you'll find several delightful galleries offering everything from fine art to jewelry, pottery, sculpture and more. A stroll down this tree-lined street with forays on to side streets offers the art enthusiast plenty to look at!

We should have allowed more time than we did to explore Bluffton's art district. And we should have arrived earlier than we did to make the rounds before afternoon temperatures soared. Still, we were able to get a sense of Bluffton's vibrant art scene before the heat finally got to us. Here are some of the places we visited along Calhoun Street:

SOBA Gallery is an artists' co-op gallery. This is a view of its side entrance on Calhoun St. ©2016 Lynn Edwards
SOBA Gallery was our first stop since we were able to snag a parking spot just steps from their side entrance. (There's free parking all along Calhoun Street, but it's a popular place. Sometimes getting a spot can be a matter of luck.) SOBA stands for the Society of Bluffton Artists, and it displays the work of over 100 of them. Inside the gallery we found many extraordinarily beautiful pieces of art, including skillfully executed in coastal scenes in every medium and style.

Next door to SOBA is Pluff Mud, a gallery with a definite eclectic vibe. The large moose on the front lawn was an indicator of the diverse offerings we found here: everything from works on canvas to colorful yard art.

You can't miss Pluff Mud Gallery. Just look for the big moose on the front lawn! ©2016 Lynn Edwards
On Pluff Mud's front porch was a colorful hand painted piano and assorted pieces of art on display. Inside we found works by many talented artists sharing their experiences and stories through their work. Perusing a range of pieces from folk art to fine art, I couldn't help but be inspired by the works I saw at Pluff Mud. Feeling creatively recharged, I came away from there eager to get back to projects awaiting me in my studio at home.

By this time the temperature had risen from "hot" to "sweltering." But there was still time to see one more gallery, so we popped into Maye River, just steps from SOBA and Pluff Mud, at 37 Calhoun St. This gallery's exterior trim is painted a sprightly pink; inside we discovered exquisite pottery, jewelry, paintings, wearable art and more. I especially enjoyed the abstract works here, including some mixed media collages which were notable for their intriguing designs and the artist's innovative use of materials.

There were several other galleries in Bluffton's historic district beckoning us, but it was getting late and the afternoon heat had just about done us in. So we decided we'd need to wait until our next trip to Hilton Head to visit them. Bluffton's arts district is a definite must-see for anyone who enjoys art; we're looking forward to checking out the rest of these galleries very soon!

Text and images ©2016 Lynn Edwards



Saturday, July 9, 2016

A Thought for Sunday, July 10, 2016

"We all live under the same sky, but we don't all have the same horizon." -- Konrad Adenauer

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Thought for Sunday, July 3, 2016

"Freedom is the last, best hope of earth." -- Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Artist's Tip: Save Money When Learning New Techniques

Dear readers, I know I promised to post information about the galleries in Bluffton, SC but I've been snowed under the past few weeks preparing for some upcoming shows. So today I offer you this little tip instead, with the promise that I will feature those Bluffton galleries very soon!

If you paint with professional artist's fluid acrylics as I do, you know how very expensive they can be. These paints often cost between $20 and $30 for a 4 oz. bottle. When trying out new techniques it's easy to run up a small fortune in paint costs if you're using professional artist's acrylics. Unless you have exceptionally deep pockets and cost doesn't matter to you, you can save a bundle by using inexpensive acrylic craft paints instead.

At just $1 to $1.50 per 4 oz. bottle, you can splash, pour, drip and splatter these paints with wild abandon, while investing less than the cost of a cup of joe at Starbuck's.

Sure, cheap craft paints contain only a tiny fraction of the pigments their pricier counterparts have, but for purposes of experimentation it doesn't matter. Once you've made a few initial attempts with the craft paints to see whether a new technique is something you'd like to adopt, then break out the "good stuff" and have a go at it using those paints.

Besides the savings, you'll be more inclined to approach things in a more relaxed state of mind knowing your investment is so small!

©2016 Lynn Edwards