Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My Process

And so begins a new painting. In starting this latest work, I thought I'd post a little about my process. As I mentioned in an earlier entry, I typically begin with rough, thumbnail sketches. Sometimes these sketches are extremely loose — massing out only the most basic shapes and value structure — and sometimes they are more finished. In the case of this latest painting (which I am tentatively titling "Rolling Thunder"), the thumbnail sketch I've decided on would qualify as just a notch above rough (at least for me).

If this sketch is a little too rough for you to make out what is going on, well you're not alone. So to help clear it up a bit; it's a painting of several American Bison standing on a hill, big thunderhead above, sage, grass and rock below. (That's the best I can do, you're just going to have to wait for the 'in progress' painting images I'll be uploading.)

From this point, I collect the reference I will need to begin work on the painting. Here are a few of the images I'll be working from. They were shot in Custer State Park, South Dakota — one of the best places I've ever been to gather reference of bison and pronghorn antelope.

Just in case you're wondering, I use Holbein Artists' Oil Colors, Windsor & Newton Lexington II Flats and Rounds (for this painting, the largest sizes they make), and I'll be painting on 48"x36" stretched linen. Because I’m starting with unprimed linen, I’ll be coating it with four layers of gesso (two coats brushed on vertically, and two coats brushed on horizontally). I coat the linen once in the morning, then again in the evening, and then repeat that process the next day. Once I've finished coating the canvas with gesso (if it needs to be coated at all), I'll let it dry for at least 24 hours before toning it.

I tone my canvas using a rust color mixed from equal parts Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Yellow Light, and a dab of Ultramarine Blue (I've already completed toning this substraight). This mixture was thinned using Liquin and applied to the entire surface of the linen. I then rub the entire surface with a paper towel to remove excess paint. I typically let the canvas dry for one day before I begin painting. In this case, it's been drying...for a while.

Please return frequently as I’ll be posting lots of ‘in progress’ shots and I’ll discuss the whys-and-hows of what I’m doing.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Inferiority Complex: Smash It With A Blunt, Heavy Mental Object

Have you ever looked at another artist's work and felt utterly incompetent? Ever compared your work to another's and wondered why you even bother to draw, paint or engage in any creative endeavor? I have. Especially early on in my career.

I keep a long mental list of artists whose work I find so astounding, so completely disarming, so moving in every aspect that I've often wondered why I feel remotely qualified to pick up a brush, a pencil or any other tool that might tempt me to create. I won't name those artists here for fear you may look them up and realize, yes, Dustin is a hack. Instead, I mention this only to remind you (and myself) that at some point, most artists do feel inadequate in their artistic endeavors (at least nearly all of the artists I've spoken with on the subject), and this is especially true if we wrongly measure the merits of our work against others who's work we admire.

Having now been a full-time artist for 8 years (really not that long, I know), I understand that success comes in many, many forms, and sometimes we as artists are unable to see success in our own work — especially if we are constantly comparing our work to others. I realized that if I can look back on the body of work I've created and see tangible improvement — improvement in draftsmanship, improvement in fundamental artistic principles, and most importantly, improvement in defining my own personal artistic style — then that is success.

Comparing one’s own work to the work of other artists can certainly play an important role in learning and growing as an artist. I’ve often found there is no better teacher than in studying the work of other artists. But remember, don’t measure your success as an artist against theirs. It’s a dangerous place to be mentally and will do nothing but stifle your artistic growth.

Smash those feelings of inadequacy with a big mental hammer and get back to enjoying what ever it is you’re creating!