Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Subject Matters

Deep Cloudy Day, 2006, Oil on Panel, 16x20

Martha asked me about other subject matter in response to yesterday's post about painting in the zone. So I thought I'd talk a bit about that today, probably a very long and involved answer to a quick question!

When I was an illustration major in college, I painted and drew a variety of subject matter, figures mostly, but also other things like buildings, still life objects and that sort of thing. Interestingly, I never did anything involving a landscape. I went to a school right in the middle of Philadelphia and nature seemed pretty far away! I think I also had disdain for landscapes, thinking that they were way too hokey for me (like I was so cool! NOT) to take seriously. Later on, after college I did figure drawings and a variety of still life type images (I have a post in the works about the series of pastel still lifes that I did a few years ago), and I still had no interest in landscapes.

After moving out here in the country, I started to paint the landscape. The first ones were awkward, but there was definitely something going on. I felt an affinity to the land around us but also there were other reasons I took to it, I think. Moving here was difficult in a lot of ways, and in addition to adjusting to the isolation, Doug and I were going through the first rocky point in our marriage and had even separated* for a few months. After we patched things up (don't worry, we are totally solid again), I started painting every day. Painting helped me heal after what we had gone through and because of that, I think that often the landscapes come more easily to me because I have a lot more emotion invested in the imagery.

As I have mentioned previously here, I still yearn to paint the figure. I really want to incorporate the figure into my work, but I haven't been particularly successful with it thus far. I think that I really need to spend a few months at least, totally focusing on it (and maybe going through some other life altering event, God forbid), in the same way that I did with the landscapes. I occasionally do a painting of an object, which I would like to do more of, in fact yesterday I put color on an under painting of a glass bottle, but the same goes here, I need to spend more time on them.

Which is one of the drawbacks to what has been happening for me lately. I have "marketed" my landscapes and all the representation that I have obtained and the shows that I have scheduled are based upon showing those works. So I am busy with the landscapes, and I am NOT complaining here, I love doing them (despite getting a bit fed up, when I am in the midst of preparing for a show as I mentioned yesterday) and am pleased that the shows that I have coming up are because of these images. However, this leaves me little time to work on different things. I feel lucky though. I am still doing what I want and I know that at some point, when I really need to, I will find a way to work on different imagery. The gallery directors that I work with are also very receptive to seeing new work from me, and I am pleased to have that kind of support from my galleries.

So nothing is easy, the occasional painting that paints itself is a gift to my psyche and the rest is a struggle. As it should be I think, how else would I fully appreciate the gifts?

*Moving here for couples can be tough. Offhand, I can think of at least 4 couples who moved here and then separated or divorced within a few years. There is something about the long winters and isolation that really feeds on any problems that already exist in the relationship. We feel lucky that we made it through.


Shan said...

I find it interesting that we (artists) often end up painting things we never expected to when we were in art school.

I love that you found painting to be healing. Your painting, which has a bit of a mystical quality, goes nicely with this post.

Ed Maskevich said...

Anything or anyone that is living and growing eventually has to struggle. My wife and I have had our marital struggles and emerged on the other side the better for them. Go ahead and just paint the figure. Think of it as a well deserved vacation from landscapes.

Tracy said...

Hi Shan, I think it has to do with maturity:-)

Hi Ed, You're right I do need to just jump in. But when i get back from our vacation in a few weeks, I have to get right back to landscapes for a few things I have coming up this fall. I'll get to it though.

amber said...

Isolation can be really hard. The winters here are bad too
There is something about art that is liberating, a freedom to do whatever you choose

S.L. Peterson said...

I think your landscapes are beautiful, and I can't what to see what you're going to do with the figure!

It's tough to find the time to paint what you want once you've marketed yourself as a painter of a certain subject matter. My gallery keeps saying things like, "Your paintings with water seem to be selling well," in an attempt to nudge me in the direction of certain subject matter, but I resist. I need to paint what I want - if I'm not passionate about it, I think it shows in the final result.

Chris Rywalt said...

Talking about changing subject matter: A curator I know was telling me how she went to this museum in the Hague where they have a lot of paintings by Piet Mondrian. Mondrian, of course, is known for his totally abstract rectilinear paintings. Apparently he did a lot of other things, too, including realistic landscapes. But you wouldn't know it unless you went to this one particular museum where they have his "other" works.

So it's very common for artists to have more than one branch of work. Even if you're known for your landscapes, that doesn't mean you can't do something entirely different and be successful with that, too.

If you've been to my Web page you know I'm mostly a figurative painter -- female figures in particular -- but I do all kinds of things. In my case it's probably a problem because I don't have a "body of work" I can show to someone -- nothing where someone can see it and say, "Yes, that's a Rywalt." I'm working on that.

Tracy said...

Stacers, I get that comment about painting water too! I don't paint many of them because I just don't feel as strongly about water scenes most of the time. The reflection thing makes me think too much about Bob Ross on PBS. But they always sell, when I do paint them.

Good points, Chris, about Mondrian and other artists doing different kinds of work. I like your figurative work and I would like to see more and see how they progress and develop within a series.

I can also do other things, and plan to, right now though I just don't have enough time in the day.

painterdog said...

This is a very nice work.
Different than the others.
New direction?

Tracy said...

Hey Painterdog, It is a bit different isn't it? I'd say it's a gradual new direction. Or maybe a swerve.