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The Time Factor

July 19, 2010

This post is for artists.

I sometimes complain that there are not enough hours in the day.  That’s not entirely true.  There are plenty of hours.  I just don’t seem to be using them well.  I hate to admit it, but I think I’m reaching that point where “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”.  When I started painting, I was still working a fulltime day job.  I would put in 40 to 50 hours a week on the job, and then spend another 20 to 30, sometimes 40, hours per week painting – or studying about painting.  When I commented on this the other day, Nell reminded me that I still spend 50 or more hours a week on art-related pursuits.  I spend my “retirement” days upstairs in the studio or in the office on the computer.  It doesn’t seem to stop, and I don’t seem to be able to just do nothing for very long.

I think what’s eating at me these days is that I don’t feel that I’m spending enough time actually painting – or drawing and sketching.  I’m trying to maintain two blogs (not doing real well on that), keep in touch with at least two forums on (doing even worse with that), stay on top of potential art festivals, study (painting), maintain a Facebook fan page, and stay in touch with family and friends on a personal Facebook page.  Why do I rarely paint outdoors?  When I factor in the time to get to a location and set up, and return home, that’s a couple of hours gone, hours I could have spent at the easel in the studio.  I’m already taking too much time from actually painting.  I think it’s more a case of just trying to make better use of my time during the day.

I periodically visit Candace X. Moore’s blog, Drawing and Painting the Atelier Way.  I think it’s a way of vicariously experiencing something I didn’t get: true art school training and education.  Candace is three years into a five year program of study that started with drawing and now includes painting.  Her progress has been wonderful.  She has already gotten more valuable art training than I ever did in a university fine arts program.  I mention Candace because she has built a goldmine of references in her blog roll.  I used to be included, but I suspect that as she has progressed, she has outgrown me.  That’s very understandable.  I just enjoy browsing her blog roll to see what wonderful artists she has zeroed in on.  One of them is painter Ben Bauer.

Ben Bauer turns very simple broad views into tonal works of art that I could easily live with on my walls every day.  As I was browsing his blog, I found this statement:

“I have been working on slowing the pace of my art, I have always been too impatient, materials are expensive and the time I have is limited and want to use it resourcefully, that means never rushing to paint to for paintings sake. I am always ready to paint! I just want to think more of images and what to do with them, I want to work large and simple but powerful and how to do that is tricky.”

I often tell Nell that I need to slow down.  Not my life… but my painting.  I, too, am impatient.  I have to paint.  I want to paint.  But, like Ben Bauer, I want to do more than just paint pretty pictures.  I want my work to touch people, to speak to their memories and their emotions, and I can’t do that if I just find a scene, throw a board on the easel, and start smearing paint around.  More thought up front is required.  More planning, even for a small 8×10.  I paint a lot of little 5x7s, but rarely use them for larger paintings.  I don’t know why.  Maybe because they’re done and gone, and I’m moving on.  I don’t do preliminary sketches anywhere near as often as I should.  That may be why I sometimes find myself stuck at a certain point in a painting.  Not enough thought ahead of time.

So… I need to get back to the advice a couple of artists gave me when I decided to paint fulltime:  make a schedule and stick to it.  I need to limit my computer time to the essentials.  Help and encourage others where and when I can, but never lose sight that without continuing my own work and experience, I may eventually have nothing worthwhile to share.  Spend more time sketching and planning my paintings.

And when I’m painting… don’t get in a hurry.  Think more between brush strokes.  There is no clock ticking.  No one is waiting breathlessly for the painting to be finished.  Take time.  Enjoy the experience.

Sounds easy.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 19, 2010 3:07 pm

    Sounds like there are too many “I shoulds”. I do this to myself also. I’m just the opposite though. I am actually learning to speed up to my natural pace rather than painstakingly work at a pace that bores me to tears. I have started doing abstracts and I am surprised at how much more meaning they hold for me than just copying what you see. I think I may end up in the middle somewhere but for now I am enjoying the freedom of painting from the inside out. Or painting an interpretation of what I see and feel. Your paintings are wonderful and beautiful just as they are but if you are getting bored maybe just try a different style for awhile. Indulge yourself in what you love……….paint. Let everybody wait for when YOU feel like blogging or facebooking. We’ll still be here! I’m beginning to think that visual artists need management just as much as musical artists or actors. We should be focusing on our art! Maybe your wife or a friend could help you to post news updates once in awhile to take some of the pressure off.
    I’m so new at this that I don’t know enough to not believe in my own ideas!……!! I closed my blog because it was taking too much time. I will open another one when I figure out how to keep it extremely simple or have someone help me with it. I love reading your posts but it’s your life to live the way that suites you.

  2. November 23, 2010 1:53 pm

    I stumbled upon your blog through wetcanvas and my curiosity about gouache and have been
    fascinated by your art and observations. I am mainly a watercolorist but I am also a very big
    fan of the impressionists hence I adore your paintings and your explanations. I understand
    your need to spend more time painting and devoting yourself to sketching or doing something
    that leads to a new idea or creation. I also understand and have a need for more structure to
    my time so that I can be more focused and productive. However, selfishly, I hope you will never
    give up on this website because you offer so much to the rest of us who are striving to do what we
    love to do best – paint! Thank you so much for being here for us! Pam

    • November 23, 2010 5:36 pm

      Pamela, you have made my day. I started this blog because I got a lot of questions about the way I paint. I’ve been truly humbled (and surprised) by the number of positive comments I’ve received. It’s nice to know there are people who actually read this and gain something from it. I’ll continue to post and write things here, partly because of people like you, and partly because I really do enjoy it. Thank you so much for some very nice comments. ~Ralph

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