When I was in school, I got in ruts just like anyone else. Sometimes you are just frustrated or uninspired. But one of the great things about school is that you have teachers and classmates to inspire you. I have written before about how different it is to paint after college. You do
not have deadlines to meet unless they are your own and you do not have teachers to impress or class critiques. It is easy to become stagnant. And that is where I was in my art.
After a few years of painting my "Creeper" series, I moved onto a series inspired by Bettie Page. After a couple of paintings, I just was not into it and it was evident in my work. I felt like my technique was slipping and I was no longer challenging myself in either execution or concept.
About two weeks ago I got to go to the Portrait Society of America's annual Art of the Portrait Conference in Atlanta. One of the best ways to learn is by watching; and there was plenty of talent to watch and learn from throughout the weekend. The face-off competition on the first night had 15 of the top portrait artists painting from live models for only 2 hours. There were fantastic demos from artists such as Rose Frantzen and Jeremy Lipking.
One of the best experiences I had was at a place called Fat Matt's Rib Shack. We went there for drinks the first night and a blues singer named Eddie
was performing and he was amazing. He is 82 and has been performing since he was 14. Alexey Steele asked if he would be willing to meet him there in the morning and model. He agreed. We saw him the next day when Jeremy and Alexey painted this genuinely sweet and talented man. It is great to watch Alexey paint because he is equally concerned with catching the likeness of the person as well as their essence. After meeting Eddie, I can say that he definitely achieved both.
So after three intense days of demos and fun, what did I bring back to the studio?
Well, for about five days…nothing. I was on a high about what a great time I had, really disappointed about not still being there, and getting back in the groove of work. But then I was ready. The motivation and inspiration that I had been longing for was back. Every night when I get off work I have been in my studio for 4-5 hours working on my newest painting, a 6'x6' oil on canvas.
Even though I have continued to paint the figure since school, I found myself attacking this painting in a completely different way. I am by no means painting the same as the artists I watched, but I see differently. My process has changed. I have kept some of my own methods and I have added new ones. There's more than one way to skin a cat and there's more than one way to paint a figure. Changing the formula keeps it interesting and puts you in the mindset of innovation which is where failure and huge successes occur. And that is definitely the place that I want to be.
Newest Piece in Progress... 72" x 72"