Where Am I Going?

“Mending Fences,” mixed media on board, 11″ x 20″
Journal entry “Mending Fences”


Sometimes I just put paint on paper, moving it here or there, adding a bit of this or that. Sometimes it works out. Most of the time, not so much.

Of course, that’s not true for everyone. Plein air painters produce their best work onsite. And I’ve seen some other wonderful painters who seem to start with one element and just take those twists and turns in the road one at a time until bang—they are in New York or Los Angeles.

If I do that I’m in the middle of no where in Iowa (and yes, Iowa can be lovely), but it’s probably the middle of winter. And while it may be beautiful, it has no focus. I’m one of those artists who needs to have some idea of where they are going, just a bit of a road map. Otherwise, I wander off tract. I see that nice tree over there or perhaps a lovely lake and take a hike. I know that many artists do studies, and I’ve done a few. But the best method for me seems to be a middle ground.

I’ve found that working on ideas in my journal helps me solidify placement of elements, color, markings. With a few little things worked out, I can concentrate on the idea behind the painting and on the emotions and feelings. Hopefully, this produces better strokes, more complicated markings. Doing this also helps when I am in a period that I feel stuck. “I am working,” but because it is in a journal, “I am not exactly working.” Somehow this frees me.

This method has its drawbacks. I can’t be as spontaneous. And don’t think it doesn’t mean I won’t have to redo a painting—but it is a place to start and a way to keep on track.

So what’s your successful method?



Let Your Paintings Lead Another Life

On the left, a detail of my 4-sided painting “Seeing In A Different Light III,” in early 2016. On the right the same painting with a bit of “collage” paper created by an archival copy of another small painting.

What I’m doing today: using materials I already have to make an earlier painting better. I was cleaning up today, getting ready to work on another large piece when I spotted a color copy (archival) of a painting I had just completed. Looking at the colors, I realized I could use it to make another painting or when I looked across the room, another painting better. You know the feeling, that painting was one that was “finished,” but I wasn’t quite happy with it. Well, now I am because it has the perfect detail.

By using pieces of this “collage” paper, an image I had already created, I changed a painting. Of course, I added a couple other bits and pieces when I got going, but I’m finally happy with the painting months after “completing it.” The other alternative would have been to use that color copy as the “jumping off point” for a new piece.

So if you have paintings you love or portions of paintings you love, let them “dress up” and lead another life!

My Road Is Bumpy

Still working hard.

Wish I could tell you that the painting I was sanding in the last blog worked out the way I had planned, that it was finished and hanging. But it is still not complete. I feel like I’ve had a blow …well not to the stomach but to the heart. So I sand again. I start again.

I often think I’m the only one that can’t get it right the first time, or the second time, or sometimes even the third time. I know they (who is “they”?) tell you not to post anything that is not finished, but here it is anyway, just a germ of an idea.

If art is about the journey, then right now my road is bumpy.

Another Do-Over

"In the Beginning," 36"  x  36"
“In the Beginning,” 36″ x 36″

I was recently reminded by a nonfiction book called DO-OVER! by Robin Hemley, of how lucky we are to be able in most cases to paint over wood and canvas—to change things even after it has been in a show. Hemley apparently tried to do-over kindergarten and a few other life events, but it didn’t work out so well.

Of course, when we do-over a painting we always run the risk that we won’t improve it, but more and more it is important that I am happy about my work and confident that I have done my best. “In the Beginning” has been changed a little  before, so this is the “third times a charm” version.

Let’s hope so.  But it’s on wood, so there is always sandpaper.