The studio never really gets cozy, but I’ve settled in for the day. A heavy downpour filters its constant rattle throughout the building, and since I don't have a window, I can only imagine how the wet streets mirror the city above them. The real world floating on top of it’s murky doppelgänger below. I had planned to take photos for more cityscapes this afternoon, but I waited too long and now it's dark outside. It's all right though. Paintings don't paint themselves, and I don't mind staying in. So I'll work till my eyes start to itch again, then head home to my cat and my clarinet.... I like these moments. It's a good day to be an artist.
I mix some white with terra rosa, yellow ochre, and a touch of blue. I’m having trouble matching the subject’s skin tone with my palette for the commission I’m working on. It’s the blue that makes it. People don’t realize that it takes a little bit of blue or green to get it right. Little tricks you learn as a portrait artist. But then all skin is affected by light and shadows, so in reality one needs to mix several colors for a person. Often times I’ll begin each day by mixing one shade after another to get a general spectrum of skin tone to work with. By the end of the day my palette is crowded with different colors and shades all to capture how a cheekbone recedes into the background. I’m fascinated with mixing colors, but it’s not this that I love about painting. One mark can say so much. It can define, or direct, or describe. Anything you intend it to do is possible. It’s painting’s ability to range from the suggestive to the descriptive that I love, and I strive to achieve this.
I've thought a lot about art over the years. I've thought about what elements are needed to make an artist become good, and help a good one become great. Not sure if I’ve figured it out yet, though I’ve got some notions that may be original, borrowed, or stolen, I can’t remember which.. I don’t think anyone asks to be an artist. Why it happens is a mystery. There are different opinions and explanations based on genes, environment, or a combination of both. But in the most lucid moments, I realize that art is an entity in itself. It channels the creative urge through people like me, the ones that need to create. So perhaps being open to the force where creativity comes from is what makes an artist successful. It will remain even after you put down your palette or run out of paint. For me, it sheds some light on what it takes, but doesn’t completely illuminate the reasons why. Viscerally I feel that there is something else. Another component that I haven’t yet uncovered. There’s still mystery in art, I’m still searching…
1890 Bryant Street Studios is my home away from home, and I’ve spent many hours putting a color here or placing a line there. Though I’m working on a portrait right now, a cityscape waits on the side, a figurative piece is sketched out in the corner, and a freshly gessoed panel is drying on the floor. As an oil painter I’ve learned to handle the slowness of my medium by working on several pieces at once. It keeps me busy, and it motivates me to keep painting. We all need our methods and reasons for getting out of bed. I’ve found mine, and I’m finding new reasons everyday. But when you take away the career, the need to prove something, and the desire to achieve, the heart of an artist is their love for creation. Or at least the heart of this one.
Photo Credit: Yvonne Michelle