Who Do You Paint For Anyway?

2018 Third on Canvas Fundraiser

Painting is my passion and my muse! If you are like me, then you paint because you feel like you might die of a broken heart if you could not! I love painting and feel very blessed to be able to do what I enjoy. I paint to learn but also to convey my own experiences, those ethereal moments that keep me inspired. In this blog, I am only writing about some aspects of painting, omitting other facets of being an artist. 

Since I paint for myself, it seems like I spend nearly every waking moment considering the practice of art. Beautiful paintings in galleries, museums, books and online inspire me.  Great work begs the question: “What is it about this painting that makes it special?” So exactly what grabs my attention in a painting and holds it for study… yes study? It usually begins with a strong composition, beautiful light, great color harmony and masterful manipulation of edges and brushwork. My appetite for good works has evolved over time, which in turn has influenced my own painting.

“Incoming Tide” by Dianna Anderson
12″ x 16″

I read about art regularly, examining paintings and engaging in self-critique, hoping to find something to add to my toolbox. Some questions I might ask myself include the following: How was this work painted? Why do I think the artist did it this way? How might I apply this idea or technique to my work? Am I analyzing this painting correctly? Is there another way to look at it? Even though a piece I have worked on did not please me, what did I learn? If I painted it again, how might I do it differently? What tips can I add to my knowledge and skills for future paintings? I use the answers to these questions to help me better understand my own work.

“The Gathering” by Dianna Anderson
6″ x 6″

Masterful paintings are found everywhere. It is easy to become discouraged if your paintings do not measure up to other artists. Don’t compare your work to them because you can always find someone who paints better, faster and smarter with more skill. Study paintings to try to figure out answers to your own questions.

This makes me a student for life. I am happy about that because it means I will never become bored with painting, doing the same ole thing, the same way. I study paintings I admire to learn important lessons, hoping to advance my practice in plein air and studio work.

“Rush of the Tide” by Dianna Anderson
6″ x 8″

Paint from life and your skills will develop more quickly. Observational practice using intuitive intention over time yields personal growth. It seems to me that if you set goals for your art, you can’t help but excel. Using your inspiration, determine what you are hoping to convey with your work. If you can’t get outside, set up a still life. Flood it with light. Then paint it. Paint a section of a room or look out a window and paint what you see. There are endless ways to work from life.

The value range seen in nature and works with great color harmony can be many lessons all by themselves. Try out unfamiliar techniques and applications of paint. Experiment with brushwork and use thicker paint. Focus on color, its emotive properties, temperature and values. Instead of painting using observational local color, paint using wild colors expressively. Remember that depicting form is always about the light.

Paint what excites you and what you are passionate about. Take risks and you will be rewarded. Your style will develop overtime. Read, read, read and practice, practice, practice. Therein lies the key to achieving good works. 

“Courtyard Rendezvous” by Dianna Anderson
16″ x 20″

Keep in mind that even the best cameras alter what the human eye sees. Photographs flatten depth perception, change colors, darken darks and often eliminate subtle light values. Sunlight produces colors and atmospheric conditions that are often lost in photos. They depict everything with equally sharp detail. On the other hand, our vision sees in focus only the spot to which we are looking. Everything else in our peripheral vision we see with soft edges. However, photographs are useful to me as a supplement to my outside work and for studio reference. So I encourage artists to get outside to paint. Along the way, I have discovered that plein air painting has helped my studio work more than the other way around.

“Tidal Pool” by Dianna Anderson
6″ x 8″

My advice is to seek out great artists and look to them to learn. But whatever you do or however you do it, the good news is that you are painting. Truthfully, it does not matter why you make paintings. Anything that gets a brush in your hand is a gift.

I heard somewhere if you paint that which gives you joy, you contribute to your own happiness. What’s not to like about that? Do you paint for a commercial market? Do you paint to experiment? Are you painting for recreation and relaxation? It feels good to paint, so when you paint have fun and keep an open mind.

Earlier in my career, a friend who was also a collector of my work would always say to me: “Just keep painting.” So as I continue my journey as a painter, I will continue hearing those words echoing in my head: “Just Keep Painting” and I hope you do too!

Upcoming OPA Events

OPA Fall 2019 Online Showcase OPA Fall 2019 Online Showcase
The Fall 2019 Online Showcase is from October 1 - December 15, 2019 and will be open to both Associate and Signature members. Learn More!
OPA 2019 Western Regional Exhibition OPA 2019 Western Regional Exhibition
OPA's 2019 Western Regional Exhibition is being hosted by Sorrel Sky Gallery, located in picturesque Santa Fe, New Mexico, November 1 through November 30, 2019. Learn More!