About a year and a half ago, frustrated to hell with my lack of motivation, I decided to break up with painting. It really did feel like a romantic breakup. I cried a lot. I felt I had lost my love for the medium. It just didn’t feel the same anymore.
I spent the following year working in an office, commuting an hour there and back. I felt like I had to grow up, so I moved to an unfamiliar place sight unseen and took the first full time job I could find. I told people I was moving to LA to be closer to the art world, but I had no real intentions of pursuing art there. To my surprise, I kept making art, even painted here and there. It wasn’t much, but it was more than I expected.
Ever since I graduated, I’ve been mulling over my college experience, and the more I think about it the more I realize how insular and narrow that environment was. Although they never said it outright, it was pretty obvious that my painting professors considered observational oil painting to be the highest form of visual art. Illustration, graphic art, even watercolor painting was looked down upon – again, not explicitly, but subtly. I felt I could no longer justify doing these things that I had loved, because they didn’t mean enough. I ended up painting in a style that was really similar to my two main painting professors. I don’t regret my experience. I learned a lot, and I’m thankful. But maybe I had to stop painting for a while so I could find my unique voice again, and that’s what these past few years have been about.
During my last five months or so in LA, I worked on one small painting. It was the view of the Del Taco sign facing our apartment windows, which blared its neon red and yellow light into my bedroom as soon as the sun went down. I hated that view at first. Painting it was an act of scorn. But as I kept painting, I began to find it oddly beautiful. By the time I had quit my job and was packing up my belongings, I felt downright sentimental about that Del Taco sign, in a way I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t painted it.
Now I’m back in familiar surroundings, among friends again, and I finally have time and space to think about creating in new ways. I’m trying to indulge every creative impulse, even if it’s unoriginal or meaningless.
It’s been almost two years since I touched this space. Since my last post, I’ve moved from one state to another, started and left a few jobs, lived at home for a second, moved again…it’s been a little crazy.
An unfortunate truth: I have not painted in almost four months. I’m not in an ideal job situation (spend pretty much all of my day at work or commuting), so even if I had a studio space I can’t imagine when I would go.
I’m not sure how to describe where I am artistically. I’ve been disillusioned with the art world for a long time now. I very quickly fell into this new routine with my current job, which leaves little to no time for art-making. I know I can’t make art the way I used to; I need to use my creative thinking to figure out new ways that fit my current schedule.
Even if no one reads this it’s nice to put these little updates out into the ether. Keeps me accountable. Stay tuned. I haven’t lost all hope of nursing my artistic practice back into health.
For most of my life, I’ve overlooked a huge function of art: to record what we see. With the pervasiveness of photography these days, painting or drawing as a form of documentation has been largely lost. It’s not enough for art to simply document; it has to have a message or a meaning.
But an observational painting or drawing, be it photorealistic or abstract, is inherently an interpretation, whether it is intended to be or not. It cannot be neutral. I would argue that photography cannot be neutral either. No man-made image is neutral. But I digress. The pressure of making a statement, of creating something absolutely original, sometimes keeps me from creating art at all. And that’s never good.
I’ve been so fixated on making a “good” image. Focusing on the technical, the compositional, the conceptual. I’ve forgotten how powerful a drawing or painting can be as a snapshot of a moment or a place. I’ve almost never used art to record my own life. Maybe this stems from a feeling that my life isn’t exciting enough to record. But that’s the great thing about art–it draws beauty out of the mundane.
I’ve always looked to art to lift me up out of whatever situation I’m in. I don’t think that’s bad, but I’d rather use art to appreciate the world around me, not escape from it.
So I’m making it a goal to document the scenes, people, and things I encounter in my daily life. To record what makes me happy. To be more thankful. And to remind myself that art does not have to be vast or epic to be meaningful.
The last few days have been truly gorgeous. This weekend it rained for the first time all summer and the world seems fresher and cleaner.
I don’t want to speak too soon, but I think I’m seeing the light at the end of this art block. I’ve been painting more seriously than I have been in months, and although I’m rusty, I feel like myself again.
I’ve also realized that as an artist, I need to go out into the world and gather experiences. This has lead into a small foray into photography–whatever my iPhone can allow, anyway.
I’ve developed a liking for shadows and the shapes they cast. Often they seem very abstract, and almost painterly.
Life is pretty swell right now. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m making progress, however unsteady it is. Happy Tuesday.
Today, while checking emails, I idly picked up my pen and started drawing the edge of a face. Before I knew it, I’d been sitting in Starbucks for over an hour, just doodling. It’s been a really, really long time since I managed to lose myself in something creative. Even during my last year at CCS, it was rare. And I came to a realization–I never doodle anymore. So, here are some snippets of doodles I did today while I was supposed to be doing more important things. (the best time to doodle, right?)
(click to enlarge)
During highschool, I would make little doodles like this all the time. Every day. I would make little caricatures of teachers, sketch my classmates, make up fantasy characters. But sometime during college, I stopped. I had to pay more attention in courses that were harder than highschool classes. And since art was my major rather than something I did purely for fun, every time I picked up a pencil I was analyzing the concepts and meanings behind what I was doing. Everything had to have a reason. Learning to think about art that way was really useful, but somehow I stopped letting myself doodle.
Yes, challenging yourself is important. Yes, it’s good to explore the motivations behind what you’re doing. But I have to remind myself why I decided to major in art in the first place, which is I just plain enjoy doing it.
Also–my computer lives!!!!!!! I’m so happy to have Photoshop back–maybe I’ll even do some digital stuff soon.
And here’s a jam for your Wednesday. I’ve listened to Monsters of Folk before and been underwhelmed, but I came across this track today and I really dig it.
I’m so lucky to live close to a place like Ellwood. These clouds were such brilliant shades of pink–the picture doesn’t come close to matching it. I also met a cat with three legs and no ears whose tag read Cosmo. Very friendly.
The ocean is one of the most cliché things to paint. It also happens to be one of the most difficult things to paint. All those horizontal lines make for a pretty static composition. But around sunset yesterday, the waves were catching the sunset and turning this gorgeous glassy green–I had to at least try to capture it.
Attempt #1 is on top, and attempt #2 is below it. Both are gouache. The one on top was done there at the beach, and the second one I did at home, looking at the first one. Honestly I don’t like either of them, but I think the second turned out better. Things are always easier the second time, when you have a more concrete idea of what you’re going for. I might be riffing on this little scene for a while.
I make no secret of my undying love for Drake. His most recent album is, of course, a masterpiece, but this track off of Nothing Was The Same remains one of my favorites.
I’m trying to look at my lack of studio as an opportunity to work outside more. Life has been stressful lately, but it’s so gorgeous out today I can’t feel bad about it.
So today I went down to the beach at Devereaux and tried to channel David Hockney in this little sketch. I am such a massive, massive David Hockney fan. He’s a master at paring subjects down to the essentials. I think the biggest mistake people make in observational drawing is getting caught up in details. Gotta look at the big picture, ya know? So many metaphors for life in art, you guys.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Mac Demarco lately. He’s this goofball dude who wears flannels and trucker hats, but also writes the dreamiest songs.
Whenever I feel shitty about my art, I can always come back to landscape painting. I get to be out in nature, and I get to do something I’m very comfortable and experienced doing. Landscape painting isn’t always conceptually electrifying, but I love it.
So I guess what I’m saying is I feel shitty about my art right now. I don’t have a studio, I haven’t painted regularly for nearly two months, and I’m just not excited about any of my ideas.
But! Our new place is super close to this really pretty nature preserve, so there’s that. And I was super duper inspired by all the art we saw in Europe. I’m in a funk, but I have faith I’ll get out of it soon.
On a lighter note, have you listened to Tame Impala’s new album yet? Everyone seems to have a different opinion about it. I could go into a long, emotional discussion here if I didn’t want to bore you. I love this track, though. I’ve needed upbeat stuff like this to keep me going lately.