Friday, February 24, 2017

Lessons and Insights from Painting Landscapes

One of the practices I started during my Creative Retreat was painting quick little watercolor landscapes. I am not a landscape painter (and don't aspire to be one) and although I've played around painting little landscapes in the past (here, here and here), I have never been truly happy with how they turned out.

There's something freeing, though, about painting them. Joyful. So I tried again in January. The first few I painted still did not look right. At the same time I'd been playing around with gouache in my sketchbook and wasn't happy with those pages, either.

I was frustrated and down on myself but a realization began to crystalize.

My landscapes weren't looking right because I wasn't painting real landscapes. I was painting what I thought a landscape would look like. The flowery pages in my sketchbook didn't look right because they were imaginary flowers (I later sketched some imaginary flowers that I did like, but my intention with them was different).

Despite the fact that I'm working as a visual artist, I am not, naturally, a visual person. I'm terrible at those memory games/tests where you look at an image for a certain amount of time and then have to list everything you saw. I would not be a good witness of a crime (even after all the training I've gotten from reading and watching mysteries).

I went through my photo library and printed out a bunch of landscape shots. When I sat down to paint another landscape, this time with a photo for reference, everything changed.

watercolor, landscapes, sketches, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I studied shapes and their relationships. I enjoyed the colors and their variations. Enjoyed the way the paint and paper reacted to create textures, sometimes in unexpected ways.

watercolor, landscapes, sketches, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Each day I worked on a quick little landscape sketch. None were larger than 5" x 7".

watercolor, landscapes, sketches, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Although I was painting images, recreating what I was seeing, while painting these little landscapes, I let go. I was loose. Messy. I didn't worry about "messing up". I didn't overthink them. If I didn't like one, I'd simply paint another.

Something else I let go of while working on these paintings was an assumption I'd been holding onto. I'm not sure where it came from, but in the back of my mind I had the idea that a real artist creates from her head. A true artist doesn't need any reference to sketch or paint or draw.

That is simply not true. And if I were to think about it logically, I would have known it to be false. Why use a model for life drawing? Why set up a table with fruits and bowls and flowers for a still life?

Perhaps, eventually, I will rid myself of all these assumptions and misconceptions that have been holding me back (apparently there have been quite a few and I'm still working on them).

Do you hold on to assumptions like this? How do you work to battle them?


p.s.  here's a peek of what's been keeping me busy (distracted) this week:

cats, rescue cats, adopt don't shop, black and white cats, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Waiting to hear about them was what I was so impatient for last weekend. I'll share more about them on Monday with my Joy List.

Until then, wishing you a wonderful weekend. I hope it's filled with joy.

13 comments:

  1. I hope the beautiful cats will become yours Anne! I like your landscape work and the fact that you are not afraid to challenge yourself with 'difficult' subjects. I had many misconceptions about being an artist and was shocked to see that many talented artists actually mark a grid on their paper and paint from pixelated images from digital cameras. Other trace a design and paint over it. I am not saying that any of these techniques are right or wrong - I guess the end result is all the matters to the observer? I hope you have a great weekend. :)

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    1. These boys are here to stay! :) That's them in my studio. Right now one of them is snoring beneath my table.

      I know, everyone has a different way of working and I was recently surprised when I saw a tutorial on someone's blog for a sketchbook page that was so precise (using a lightbox to align text!). For a sketchbook. No wonder so many of us are intimidated!

      Enjoy your weekend!

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  2. Love these so much!! The really makes me want to go paint some myself and take a road trip.

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    1. Thank you, Dana! I hope you do paint some! And that you get to take a road trip, too. The taste of spring sure makes the thought of setting out on an adventure seem so sweet.

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  3. These are so lovely in their simplicity and softness. Will you paint more?
    (And those kitties...well, you know...I am just delighted for both you and them.)
    xo

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    1. Thank you, Karen. I do want to paint some more!

      (And, yes, I'm delighted, too!!).

      xo

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  4. I love your landscapes, Anne. They can be whatever you want them to be! I think they're very dreamy! Xo

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    1. Thank you, Judy. I guess that's true of all art. It can be whatever we want it to be. And SHOULD be whatever we want it to be. No one's choice but our own.

      xo

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  5. Oh, and love your kitties of course!! So sweet!

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    1. :) They are the sweetest and I am head over heels. :)

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  6. Anne, I smiled when I read "a real artist creates from her head. A true artist doesn't need any reference to sketch or paint or draw." This is something I always imagined to be true until I married an accomplished visual artist and met many others who didn't live up to my imaginations (chuckle). All of them paint from real life. Some may paint plein air (which my husband loves to do in the summer), capturing a landscape scene that appeals to him, but often he paints in his studio from photos he's taken. And, of course, he does commission work which often means painting a pet or a home, etc. from a client's photo. He may take attributes from several photos to create a "new" scene, but I've never known him to just make something up in his head and paint it. Now, maybe some artists do, but I personally don't know any. Whatever is the case, it doesn't really matter what someone else does. It's what you do that matters. It's what brings you joy and moves your spirit that matters. An artist's work is merely their interpretation of what they experience when they encounter something. They have a desire to capture it and if it is done joyfully, then others will catch that joy when they see the work. They can't help it because the work speaks for itself. You are growing in your art, my friend. It's a joy to behold. God bless you. Hugs, Nancy

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    1. Yes, I don't know where we get these ideas. We can be so critical and so hard on ourselves, trying to hold ourselves up to some imaginary ideal (no matter what that ideal might be and no matter how unrealistic). In many instances I think it helps to stop and wonder, where did I get this idea from? Why do I think I need to be ________?

      Thanks so much for your kind words and your encouragement. Life is always a learning experience (though sometimes it takes longer to learn than we might like!).

      Hugs to you, my friend!

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