I’ve been making art for a long time but recently, it’s been harder and harder for me to talk about my work in an elegant and confident way. Isn’t that strange? I think it’s because I have so many different ideas, my focus isn’t always clear, and I’m always trying to improve. Anticipating some events where I will be showing my work in the months ahead, I decided I needed to sit down and truly unpack my work so that I could regain the confidence to articulate my process, my subject matter, and how they compliment my unique style.
I started by browsing the website of one of my favorite artists to follow. Emily Jeffords. If you aren’t already following her, you should go do that now. She’s a mom of three, a successful painter, and truly inspiring in so many ways. Her landscapes are soothing, her watercolors are simplistically gorgeous, and she centers her love for art around the process. I can totally resonate with her hashtag and message #doitfortheprocess because it’s actually the first piece of my WHY.
So, let’s talk about that first. My WHY. I have simplified my WHY to three main categories (I know, three main categories doesn’t seem simplified, but it is to me). :)
CREATE. CONNECT, and INSPIRE.
The process of creating is what I love. Connecting with others through my work (a sale, an experience, a conversation, etc.) is what establishes a lasting relationship with collectors, students, or followers. Finally, I have built a career around inspiring others through art. I’m an art teacher and I’ve said it many times, I don’t think I could be an fine artist without also being an educator. To me, they go hand in hand.
Now that my WHY is established, let’s start to unpack my work. I don’t think anyone would take me seriously if I were at my own solo show and said, “I like to paint because it makes me happy.” LAME.
Crickets… right? I mean, “I like to paint jellyfish because I think they’re cool?” Oh man…I need to step up my game because I’ve actually said something along those lines before. IN PERSON YOU GUYS. TO ANOTHER HUMAN BEING ASKING ABOUT MY WORK. I need something better and I need it to fly out of my mouth with zero hesitation and every bit of confidence. I’m able to write about my work, but talking about it is very different because writing gives you more time to process, revise, and think it through. Every day, I teach my students to dig deep into what they are creating, to talk about it, write about it, ask questions, and all I can come up with is “I like to paint?” LOL. I’m giggling to myself right now because it seems so ridiculous.
I started exactly where I would ask my students to start...with the elements and principles of art. The elements of art are line, shape, color, texture, space, form, and value. The principles of design are repetition, pattern, contrast, variety, rhythm, unity, emphasis, movement, and balance. Some say there are ten principles, some say there are seven, these are the ones I’m thinking of off the top of my “art teacher” head but that’s not the important part of this discussion. I went through and thought about each of the elements and principles and how they most often show up in my work. Here are a few of findings…
LINE. Line is my favorite because my lines dance. I LOVE dancing...but I don’t dance. Let me rephrase that...I love to WATCH people dance. I think it’s one of the most beautiful art forms and I wish I had even a quarter of the talent I see in dancers. Music is always on in my house, or in my classroom but It’s rare you will find me dancing...unless I’ve had a couple glasses of wine (obviously not alongside the classroom music)...and even then, I have no rhythm and look like I love Lucy here. I’ve unfortunately bestowed that talent on my son too. Ha! Wait til’ I find a video for you guys. In all seriousness, I blast some music and dance with the lines and marks in my artwork. Each mark is truly intentional...even when I’m getting loose. No dancing pun intended...I mean loose with my brush strokes. When you see my work in person, be sure to look close.
My color palettes often represent that of coastal subject matter, water, or nature but I have a serious love for lime green. Although not always present, I add it in whenever I can. I’ve never had a lot of patience so I don’t always plan or mix my colors ahead of time, I usually apply them to the paper and see what happens to each layer and then adjust accordingly. While my watercolor paintings are often vibrant, my acrylics tend to be slightly darker with pops of bright white. I study trending color palettes to explore in my work while I strive to keep my work current. I want to connect with my ideal audience; the everyday art collector. I’ll dig deeper into my ideal client in a future post.
Space. Nope, not talking about Jupiter here…artists need to consider how they are using the space in their composition. I’ve found that I’m not afraid of negative space. In fact, I try to make sure I’m just as aware of what’s happening throughout the negative space as I am in the positive. Artists should always consider what is happening in the negative space and how it effectively balances the composition. With that said, I’m working on a series exploring subtle pattern within the negative space and interested to see where it takes me.
Moving on, the principle of design I come back to again and again is movement. If my lines dance, and my marks are intentional, movement is clearly emphasized. I intend to move the viewer’s eye around my painting by adding the perfect balance of complimentary colors, emphasizing shapes in just the right location, and always drawing the eye in close with interesting and detailed line work.
Now that I’ve identified how some of the elements and principles are represented in my work on a surface level, I also need to be able to articulate the story behind each piece. I need to ask myself; what am I most passionate about and how do I express it visually? This was surprisingly easy when I really sat down to think about it. It’s not world-changing, jaw-dropping, or utterly brilliant, but it’s me. Here it goes...
In a world that can be over-complicated, I want my work to represent the joy in simplifying things. Whether it’s the subject matter, the process, or the color palette. Simply doing it for the process as Emily Jeffords would say, is exactly why I make art. I want my collectors and viewers to find joy in my work; a similar joy to what I feel when I’m painting. Whether it’s the colors they are attracted to, the way it relates to an experience they’ve had, or maybe it simply compliments that perfect piece of furniture. It doesn’t have to be complicated. If there is no underlying meaning, that’s okay. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I may not always have an awe-inspiring story while other artists do. I always thought my work was lacking in that respect, but it’s not. I redefine a simple subject through my own interpretation of line and color. It’s my art full of beauty in its simplest form.
On a more personal level, the movement of my brush is therapeutic, I get lost in mixing and layering colors, dancing with my lines, and losing myself in the process. I’m a busy mama of one, hopefully two one day with a supportive and encouraging husband and full-time job. I have a creative outlet that I love and am so thankful I was blessed with talent and ability to pursue this dream. I encourage all of you to sit down and unpack your work once in awhile...even if you’re just starting out. What elements do you find are showing up most often in your work? How does it make you feel? What do you want the viewer to see? What excites you? … Most of all, be excited about whatever it is you find.