Welcome to the first episode of Palette talk. Thank you for joining me!
As an artist from British Columbia, Canada, I feel extremely lucky to be doing what I do.
I’ve been at this seriously for about ten years. Over that time, I’ve always enjoyed writing about my art-making, perhaps because writing uses a different part of the brain to create.
Besides the artistic genius and creative wisdom of Rick Bond, who I consider to be an inspiration and a great mentor, I am also greatly inspired by the artwork and newsletters of the late great Robert Genn, to whom Rick suggested I subscribe to, back in 2009.
His daughter Sara Genn, a phenomenal artist herself, continues to publish both her articles and her fathers wee under the Painters Keys newsletter website. Check it out!
I’m forever grateful to Robert Genn for showing me a way to write about and share my journey in the arts with fellow artists and art appreciators.
One of my intentions is for this to be reader-driven. If something I discuss strikes a chord with you, I welcome your feedback. By all means email me and join the discussion!
If there’s going to be a recurring theme to Palette Talk, discussing five-year plans and transitioning from working a full-time job to becoming a full-time artist will pop up now and again.
Besides this, I will cover anything and everything to do with art-making, as well as upcoming new work available on my website.
Like creating artwork, the process of writing is constantly evolving and subject to change. As someone once said, it’s the journey, not the destination that counts. I’m excited to see where this will go.
And so, without further ado…here is the first topic: creative repeat.
Have you found in your art practice, that you enjoy painting the same subject matter over and over again?
It could be a series you’ve been painting for a few months, or it might be a subject matter you’ve been painting for years.
I find myself casting around for validation or reassurance, wondering if I’m going in the right direction. Am I stuck on creative repeat, or is it an obsession? And who else is doing this, and is it okay?
Twelve years ago I stumbled onto the idea of painting scenes distorted by rain while sitting in my car, field sketching for ideas.
From that day I remember the tink tink of the rain on the car roof, and whining to myself, if only I could clearly see that distant pine tree down the road, I’d have an easier time painting it.
It was playing on my mind for some time what Rick Bond always said about creating forms: first build them, then deconstruct them. While I was pondering this, through the windshield I watched a clear silver rivulet slide down my field of vision and divide the pine tree into gorgeous abstract slices of greens and oranges, and I suddenly realized I didn’t have to paint anything clearly.
So began my obsession with rainy windshields.
When I see other artists working at one subject and one subject only, it reassures and inspires me.
It also compels me to seek out a cross-section of their body of work because I like to see the evolution of their repeated attempts at their subjects.
One should always consider the expressive feelings that each subject matter carries intrinsically. Paintings of musicians in ambient bars might carry upbeat feelings, misty landscapes convey melancholy.
Maybe it’s the pursuit of the feeling that keeps artists coming back for more.
Whatever the subject matter might be, artists who stick to one subject consistently, are honing self-expression in their art, and I think there’s something to be said for that.
When I’m doubtful about my creative direction, it’s good to stop and ask these questions:
Does the subject continue to challenge me in different and unexpected ways when I paint it?
Do I feel like there’s something new to be learned each time?
If I go away from the subject matter I’m obsessing over and try something else, do I feel a desire to return to my obsession after awhile?
If the answer keeps coming back as yes, then I know I’m not spinning my wheels.
Being in a monogamous relationship with one subject takes work and some soul-searching from time to time, but I believe it is possible to find ways of keeping it fresh and alive. The great thing about art is that you can always take a side trip and eventually come back to the beaten path.
I hope you find inspiration in whatever you do, no matter how many times you do it.
An example of a one-subject artist is Georgio Morandi. An artist known widely for painting exclusively still-life in largely muted, grayed-out tones, Morandi’s work portrays mundane jars and bottles, and is distinctive in its moodiness of colors and forms.
"One can travel this world and see nothing. To achieve understanding it is necessary not to see many things, but to look hard at what you do see."
I am essentially a painter of the kind of still life composition that communicates a sense of tranquillity and privacy, moods which I have always valued above all else."