Tuesday, July 18, 2006

In and Out of the Zone

Blue Over The Water, 2006, Oil on Panel, 24x18

I can tell that I am winding down from all of the work I have been doing lately, because I find myself desperately yearning to paint a different subject matter. Anything will do right now, kittens, big eyed children, spaceships, anything but a landscape! I know the feeling will pass once I've had a bit of a break, and I may pursue some different things (but probably NOT what I just listed), which is what usually happens after I've finished up for a show. Last time I started working on cityscapes and street scenes.

To be honest, I can't even recall all of the pieces I have painted in the last few months. I have to look through the stacks in my studio to be reminded. I suppose this sounds like I just crank them out, factory style, and maybe I do a little when I am busy, but the real reason I can't remember everything is because I get into a zone when I paint. I don't really think about what I am doing, instead I am daydreaming, or planning the weekend or a social event etc. Anything but the painting is what is on my mind. However, I have noticed three distinct trends in how I work.

1. Trouble: Occasionally, I do focus on the work in front of me and those pieces are the ones that I have great struggles with. If I am focusing on the piece it is because it's something new, a new subject, new color, composition or scale. These are the pieces that generally do not end up working out, although I do manage to salvage them once in awhile. Usually by doing something really drastic, like punching a hole in the panel or less drastically, covering half the painting with a transparent coat of paint or something. Like this one, which was totally headed for the sand down pile, instead I covered the top with the red, liked it, and now our neighbors, who collect a lot of art, own it.

2. Typical: Most of the of the time I paint (in the zone) and then later on I look at it critically and often discuss the piece and what is or isn't working, with Doug, make a few decisions about it and then try to get back to the zone the next day with it. Those pieces make up most of my work.

3. The Very Best: Every so often the paintings seem to paint themselves, like Quiet Lake, or like Blue Over the Water, above, which is just the best feeling ever. Not all of these pieces are the very best of my work, but they do often have a special thing going and they definitely are MY favorites!

At first when Number 3 started happening I felt like I was cheating, like I should be having more drama about it all. Finally I realized the the struggles that I experienced with the other pieces was why the others could paint themselves, duh! and so I now have a truce with the troublesome work. We get along, I learn, and it usually gets sanded down. Perfect.


meno said...

I understand that there is a market for paintings of Elvis. :)

mom said...

In reply to the above comment.......on velvet,of course!

Tracy said...

hmmmm. Paintings of Elvis on velvet. Wouldn't that get me into a show in Vegas?! A chance to expand my market to the west. Ok, that's it, that's my plan, Evis on velvet.

amber said...

Tracy ,I love your subject to tell the truth I usually don't like landscape paintings, but you have a true gift of putting life and originality into an ordinary subject.That is why I keep coming back to look at your work
no matter what your process is, your inner colors are the important things surfacing on the canvas

Martha said...

You know, I almost never have a painting just come to me, although I often get into states where I am thinking about anything but what I'm working on. I like Blue Over the Water a lot, too-- it has the effortless quality you describe. If you were to move to another subject matter, do you know what it would be? How are the figure paintings (if you've had time to do any)?

Tracy said...

Thanks, Amber, I know what you mean, I have not always been a fan of landscapes paintings either, but thankfully, I often change my mind about things! Thanks for the observation about my colors.

Martha, I haven't had any time to work on the figures, unfortunately. I think figures, street scenes and objects, like still lifes things like that, would be imagery I would move on to. Someday, anyway.

Ed Terpening said...

I paint a lot of landscapes as well and have had problems with burnout. As you wisely suggested, giving yourself time to experiment and fail is an important lesson. It's easy to get into a rut where you deliver what your gallery(s) expect.

My other techniques for getting out of ruts are: 1) music--paint with music you've never heard before, something interesting; 2) have a dialog. This may sound weird, but sometimes--when I paint an area I've painted a million times--I think of the place as a person and extend a dialog. The place is calm one day, vibrant another, etc. Good luck!

Tracy said...

Hi Ed, Those sound like good techniques for getting out of a rut and back into the swing of things. I have to get right back to work when we get back from our family vacation in a few weeks so we'll see what kind of measures I may have to resort to!