“Midnight Powder” (9×12) Acrylic on Canvas
I don’t have to stretch much further than youthful memories and imagination to find inspiration. The Super Moon Winter Adventure Series is a first hand account of my own escapades in the high mountains of Colorado. It always amazed me how your could ski all night by the light of the moon. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even carry a flashlight. I count myself lucky that I have a way of living those experiences over and over again through painting.
My recent posts gave a few details about the painful autoimmune disease that I’m dealing with. The real story that I hope to share is that art is a powerful healing agent. When I’m painting I forget all about my issues. Has art helped you or someone you know overcome adversity? I’d love to hear about it.
As always I welcome comments and I hope you will join me on Facebook and Instagram.
Does this sound familiar? It’s the end of a long painting session and you’re thinking “I’m really pleased with this one”. You place it on the wall, throw some light on it and admire it. Even your dreams are filled with admiration for what you have created. Then the next morning or perhaps a week later a sinking feeling overcomes you. Maybe you see obvious mistakes or maybe you just know that something is not right. Even worse, You might begin to question whether You love it or hate it.
Beware the inner critic for it can land some pretty good punches. So much so that it might cause us to place a perfectly good painting in the reject pile. Or it may cause us to place layer upon layer of revisions to the canvas until all of the original magic is gone. In this post I’m featuring a painting that could have suffered the same fate. This painting was one of the first starts in my “Super Moon Winter Adventure Series” yet it was the last to be completed and signed. As it turns out, each revision to this piece was made with confidence thanks to a shiny new tool that has become central to my process, the iPad. I’d like to share with you three ways that I’m using the iPad in my workflow.
I use my iPad as a sketch book. I first learned how to use several painting applications on an early generation iPad. In particular, I learned to favor a program called ProCreate. Procreate is highly intuitive and it didn’t take long to learn how to select canvas shapes, brushes, colors, values, opacity, etc. I’m definitely having more fun sketching and therefor I’m sketching a lot more. I find myself grabbing a half-hour here and an hour there dreaming up compositions in ways that I never knew were possible. I so much enjoy the iPad that I bit the bullet and bought a new iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil. The iPad has allowed me to do my visionary exploration digitally and my painting has become more deliberate and efficient because of it. When the time comes that I want to translate a digital sketch onto the canvas with real paint, I’m much more prepared than I would have been with a simple pencil sketch.
I use the iPad to make revisions to my paintings in progress. It’s not unusual for me to digitally review my progress several times before finishing a piece. I often arrive at decision points in my workflow where I need to establish the size of a tree or person or the placement of a rock or a cabin. In the past I’ve made a lot of those decisions on the fly only to later spend hours making changes, often ending up with a disaster. We’ll call this exercise “Repeal and Replace” ;). Now when I get to that point, I snap a pic of the painting with my phone. That picture magically ascends up in to the cloud, then returns to earth and lands in my iPad where I can open it up in ProCreate. With the Apple pencil in hand I can begin making revisions that make sense. Once I’m done with the revisions I convert to jpeg and use the new image as reference material.
I use the iPad to view reference material. With whatever means possible, I hang the pad on my easel as close as possible to my canvas. Not only do I have access to my sketches and revisions, I have access to all of those photos I saved on purpose to use when the time is right. One of the coolest features of the iPad is being able to magnify the image easily using that pinching and spreading motion with two fingers. I’ll confess right here that I use that feature so often that I occasionally make the mistake of trying to magnify the actual canvas using the same technique…Embarrassing!
If you aren’t already using digital technology in your workflow, I hope this post encourages you to try it. It’s a lot less intimidating than you might think. If you are already using new technology to help you paint better I’d love to hear about it.
During the winter of 2011 I found myself out of work for the first time in my adult life. Cabin bound at our remote home in the high mountains of Colorado I spent endless hours teaching myself how to paint with oils. By Spring I had completed a dozen or so pieces that I referred to as a “Full Moon Winter Adventure Series” At first my palette was limited to Paynes Grey, Titanium White and Liquin with which I concocted compositions in shades of grey. Images of mountain settings, log cabins, skiers and skaters seemed to flow from life experience and imagination with absolutely no visual reference. As the series progressed I added Cerulean Blue to better represent the atmospheric colors of a full moon winter night as well as a primary reds and yellows to represent firelight. At the time I was quite pleased with the outcome. I had leveled up as a painter; made great improvements over my earlier attempts at painting.
“Finding Balance” 18″x24″ Oil on Canvas (2011)
I now find myself being forced to take time off from my business for health reasons. My battle with a painful autoimmune disease, Polymyalgia Rheumatica has once again left me house bound through an entire winter and once again I am striving to level up as a painter. Fifteen pieces later, I’ve completed a series that I call the “Super-moon Winter Adventure Series”. This time however, I’m using top shelf acrylics and lots of colors and I’m having a blast. I’m also experimenting with wood panels and painting board in addition to canvas. The verdict is still out on which support I prefer.
For reasons that I can’t describe, these compositions just seem incomplete without the inclusion of people. I guess I don’t really buy in to the idea that an image can be adventurous without an adventurer. My male figures often closely resemble me or at least the me of my minds eye, even if I set out to draw a human shape that is entirely different. Ooops..I did it again..that guy looks a lot like me.
Back in 2011, I painted a lonely ice skater gliding over a frozen pond and I titled it “Finding Balance”. Once again I’m compelled to compose adventurous ice skating scenes and I’ve included two of the new pieces for comparison. I’ve been so busy painting that as of yet I haven’t titled them. As always, I welcome critique and comment.
In my next post I’ll show more from the Super-moon Series and I’ll talk about a surprising way that I’m using photography to paint better. Until then take care and remember that Art Is Therapy.
“This is no place for wimps” declared my Father as he coped with the final stages of Parkinson’s Disease. It was a mantra that would be repeated often between us, a go-to phrase that seemed to take the edge off. It was an attitude that had enabled him to adjust to a new normal as the physical casualties mounted. Up until the day he died, he managed to focus on the things that he could do rather than the things that he could not.
Just last summer I was celebrating a major life accomplishment. My photography/video production business had finally become self sustaining and I was ecstatic to be doing what I loved. The long daylight hours meant more time to squeeze in more images and I loved every minute of it but I also began to notice that my energy level was dropping and I began to feel body pains that I hadn’t felt before. By Fall, around the time of my last blog post the pain and stiffness in my muscles was so severe that I could barely walk much less lift a camera to eye level. Soon thereafter I was diagnosed with a debilitating auto immune disease known as Polymyalgia Rheumatica.
I’m not going to be the old me again anytime soon. Best case scenario is that the disease will go into remission within a year or two. In the meantime I’ve being forced to recon with a new normal that I didn’t anticipate. This is no place for wimps! Healthy daily doses of a corticosteroid are now keeping me mobile but not without continued physical challenges associated with systemic inflammation and side effects from the drugs. I’ll spare you greater details of my struggles and get straight to the point of this post.
Just like my Dad did, I’m being forced to focus on the things that I can do. At first the creative void seemed bottomless and I moped about drinking cocktails of self pity mixed with overdoses of political television, a deadly combination. After about a month of that nonsense I forced myself to pick up a paint brush and I haven’t set it aside since. I’ve learned that healing is a powerful byproduct of the act of creating art. My depression has been replaced with a calm knowing that my journey as an artist is continuing just as it was meant to. While painting I’ve learned that I can reach a meditative state that pushes physical and emotional pain to the background.
I’m very excited to begin sharing my new artwork on a regular basis and it is my hope that someone out there might be inspired by me to embrace the healing aspects of creating art just as I have. As always, I welcome your comments and I hope that you might share your own stories about how art has helped you heal.
I stood barefoot in the cool sand of Canon Beach, Oregon in late August and witnessed the most incredible sunset, two nights in a row. Not all days end so perfectly but all days are complete enough to be included in the portfolio of life. Have a great week!
Yes, the rumors of my demise are grossly exaggerated. Two months have passed since my last post and I have a lot to share. A three week, 4000 mile road trip to the Great Northwest consumed my August and September was spent getting back to work in Colorado. Then without warning I’ve been temporarily sidelined by a condition known as Polymyalgia Rheumatica that brought on so much pain that I couldn’t even lift a camera. I’m hopefully on the mend now. A hefty daily dose of Prednisone relieving the symptoms while I await further evaluation and testing.
The thing is, in what seems like the blink of an eye I find myself re-examining my immediate ambitions and goals. The Mantra above is really a get well card to myself complete with one of my favorite images from the Oregon coast (“Low Tide Long Walk” ~ Cannon Beach). Little did I know when I shot it that it would become a symbolic reminder that every now and then you have to re-boot.
Well I blew it! For 42 consecutive weeks I managed to post a Mantra each Monday without fail. This week, I find myself trying to cover my tracks late on a Tuesday evening. This is the season of travel and photography for me and I have come to realize that this will not be the last time that I’ll miss the deadline. The good news is I’m going to have some really good work to share in the coming weeks and months.
I’m about to embark on what is becoming an annual sojourn to the great Northwest. Images of Waterfalls, rainforests, beaches and mountains will soon fill my memory cards. September and October will likely lead me into the mountains of Colorado to capture fall foliage and when all the leaves have fallen in Colorado I’ll head to the desert in Utah to catch the season’s last gasp.
Have a great week!
A little positive thinking elixir to start the week off right. Make it great! If you read my mid-week post you will know that I just returned from a week of camping in the Crested Butte, Colorado neighborhood. I hope you will stop by my Facebook Page and see more of what I’ve been up to. Have a great week!
I consider myself pretty lucky these days. The line between work and play has diminished to the point where I find myself doing pretty much the same thing on vacation that I do when I’m on assignment. I’m a photographer through and through. Every getaway is planned just enough to set me on a path that is likely to intersect with inspirational subject matter, but I never know ahead of time exactly what will be on the other side of the lens when I begin releasing the shutter.
My Wife and I made our annual journey to Crested Butte, Colorado last week to see the high alpine wildflowers at their peak. After finding a place to call home for six nights, a powerful thunderstorm descended on the valley and dropped an inch or two of rain. About an hour before sunset, the skies began to clear and I set out into the woods to see what I could capture. At first I found myself struggling find anything but by the end of the outing I had filled the better part of a 16GB data card. The golden hour did not disappoint. I returned to camp after dark. My jeans, sneakers and socks were just as soaked as they would have been if i’d jumped into the river.
Several days after returning to Denver, I found myself immersed in the business of processing seven SDHC cards. As is my routine I began working on the images that I was most excited about, the ones that I anticipated to be the best and I made sure I saved all of the images with potential to the hard drive. As is also my routine, I took one last tour through each of the cards to clear them for formatting (erasing) only to realize that I had hastily written off the images from that cold, wet first night. I had forgotten that in that moment I was inspired by the mood of the evening and I was shooting with a purpose. I very nearly tossed these moments into the trash can. Once again I’m reminded not to judge an image unworthy without first considering why I captured it in the first place.