There’s more to painting than assembling parts. A few weekends ago I had the chance to share my art and my process with students in my “Land Lines” workshop for Sitka Center for Art and Ecology. I also had the chance to discuss my work with a few viewers during the Invitational Exhibit. Often these conversations focus on the form of my work.
A common question all artists who exhibit will recognize is: “How long does it take to make a painting?” Most artists will share that paintings don’t always follow a predictable trajectory from idea to fruition. My answer this weekend was that painting is often like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. The catch is that you’re missing the photo on the box that lets you know how it is supposed to look when you’re finished. You are relying on your experience, judgement and aesthetics, especially when making abstract art.
But Wait, There’s More
My favorite moments were those when the conversations deepened to include what the work means to me, why I paint as I do. People usually pause in the conversation as they receive the technical information. They hesitate to delve into a more personal realm. I tried to include a discussion of content in my workshop instruction, too.
Dissecting my process is complicated, but it does a disservice to students to imply that all the choices I make when painting are technical choices. I do consider contrast, dominance, and all the design elements when I’m working, but above all, I am creating a narrative for myself. Again, there’s more to painting than assembling parts.
“The source of truly authentic work is within. Each time we ignore it, we diminish it. Each time we reject it, it goes silent. We need time alone, and openness to retrain our inner inspiration. It’s still there, mixed in with everything else we call our daily life. In sifting through it all, and finding our own creative source once more, we start to have a chance of expressing something real and moving.”
More Meaningful Connections
I spoke to one viewer about how painting my “Down on the Farm” series is a way to memorialize the place where I grew up, as well as a way to help me let it go. He moved me to tears as he asked, “Does it help? Because I am facing the same thing, and I am going to need some help.”
Finally, another viewer said something along the lines of “I felt like I knew you before I saw this work, but now I feel that I REALLY know you!” Although I joked that it felt like my ‘crazy’ was hanging on the wall, the comment really made me feel good. I pour a lot of feeling and personal meaning into each painting. Conversations like this are the validation that gets me back into the studio to try to assemble another puzzling painting, because this work is so much MORE.
“What could be more interesting, or in the end, more ecstatic, than in those rare moments when you see another person look at something you’ve made, and realize that they got it exactly, that your heart jumped to their heart with nothing in between.”
You are an important part of my reason for painting, too. Folks who read my newsletter & blog encourage me to continue to paint and to write about art. I am thankful for the dialogue here in this forum, and I’d like to give back by hosting a Thanksgiving drawing for one of my small plein air paintings from this summer. I wish I could give each of you a painting! Join me for one of my upcoming workshops. And have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
“Red Fox Trailhead” ©Ruth Armitage, Oil on Panel, 7″x5″