Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Becoming An Artist: ; Part 1; Positive Influences


Plein air painting ... one of my favorite things in life. In workshops I am always asked how I shifted my career and changed my life. I have always answered inadequately, but having reflected on this question, I will answer it in four blogs:

1. Finding positive people in your life;
2. Setting time priorities and direction in your life ;
3. Becoming technically good in your painting skills; and
4. Dealing with the business issues.
Each of the above areas is of great importance. The first is more important than we realize as positive people build your self confidence.

Image this are feeling unsettled. You love art and enjoy making it, and are eating and breathing art, yet you feel FEAR about the prospect of changing careers and your life. What about all the people who need you? What about  money? Will you do harm to people?

You have read Joseph Campbell's "The Power of Myth" and you realize you are slowly dying. You need to muster courage to make a change, but fear is holding its own.

Although you are passionate about painting, you have not yet received sufficient affirmation from the outside world that you are accomplished. Do you still take the plunge? Will jumping apply too much pressure ? Do you have someone who fully supports your dream of being a full-time artist?

We all need help. As a past attorney I was fortunate enough to be around positive, successful people. The most sophisticated, successful people are always seeking help because they have the confidence to know they don't know everything. Confident people willingly seek information and knowledge and surround themselves with supportive people. They are very adept at recognizing positive people and people who are giving.


You can muster courage in small steps . The words "Small incremental success steps are better than  failure" can be of great use.  Fear can and must be overcome for you to own your new career and pursue the happiness you deserve. It is important not to over-think it or bite off more than you can chew;  if you feel fear break it down into smaller steps.



By surrounding yourself with positive and energetic people you will be more successful and much happier. When people around you have a negative slant, you don't even know they are eroding your confidence. They find reasons or claim their circumstance will not allow them to embrace life. According to all studies fortunately these are nothing more than habits that can be relearned by every person willing to change.

Choose humble yet confident support people to help you with your career transition. Arrogance, aloofness, jealousy, playing games and teaching others lessons by force and power or manipulation is immature. Dealing with arrogant people saps energy and wastes valuable time.

BE HUMBLE yet confident. Arrogance, even if you are good, is distasteful. Only insecure people are drawn to arrogant people.

Deal with negatives quickly, don't let things fester and become bigger. Be grateful and let people know often how much you appreciate their support often.



" Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, 
  the whole aim and end of human existence"    Aristotle

  Your top priority in your career is to make your ART BETTER.  Positive people will help you make small incremental steps toward success. Workshops and positive teachers and critiques will pave the path for a more optimistic view and allay your fears.

Don't be afraid; many other people have done it you can do it. It just takes gaining knowledge, observing great art, putting "mile on the paintbrush",  and being ignited in a forward direction. Always ask what makes a painting good?  I love being around the people who are confident they can do it.

Your cup is  half full if you choose to see it that way. Remind yourself daily of the gifts you have. The benefit of supportive people is they make it easier to see life as half full and thus to climb to greater heights. Just a little each day shifts the tides.

This blog has been a while in the making and I was unsure about publishing it, but I just received a email from a very excited artist who had recently been accepted in a very nice show. I would not be getting such an email if I had not changed careers.  The realization that others became artists and the hints they gave of how they did it, helped me immensely.

 What a damn joy to be climbing a mountain with my painting gear.  The top picture symbolizes change, and where all the inspiration for a painting starts, find your  symbolic picture of you.
Next, what I learned about PRIORITIZING MY TIME .


Tuesday, November 26, 2013



 Creating a balance between the deep desire in this sacred life to create great art,  the hard work we encounter on this path, and the need for a pleasurable journey is something we must strive for or pay the price for having missed the joy of living.

     Many of us were taught to work hard. These are great life lessons and a part of  achieving success, especially in the first forty years of life. Many thanks to those who prepared us to earn a living, yet somehow I missed the wisdom of balance.

     Brother David Steindl- Rast, a monk, in his revelatory book, "Gratefulness, the Heart and Prayer" concluded after many years of research that gratefulness was the practice that led to a joyful life. This has now been confirmed by numerous scientific studies. It is so important it is recommended that you write letters of gratitude to others in your life. The key is in creating a ritual whereby you express your gratitude several times a week and eventually your cup will begin to feel like its half full. In addition, make it a ritual to thank people often. The psychological studies confirm that grateful people are happier and happier people are more successful. Happiness should mean both meaning and joy.
  My neighbor has Lou Gehrig's disease, he has lost the use of an arm and it is progressing yet he is a pleasure to be around, he CHOOSES to be grateful and thus happy. We must CHOOSE to find ways to be grateful and joyful or risk a lost life, for who wants to have lived without knowing the joy of living?


     We must work, it is in our DNA. We struggle to be the best we can be. We must "show up". Going into the winter months  I frequently start to crank down , get too serious and think about business TOO much. This is when I must seek ways to regain the joy of creating art by recreating the moment that motivated the plein air studies I use for reference.  PERFECTIONISM is actually detrimental to creativity. When we see masters' works we see their masterpieces mostly, yet we don't see the many other works that they created. The point is they created large numbers of works and only some reached the masterpiece level.

So we need look no farther than "The Art Spirit" by Robert Henri, and I paraphrase as follows:
       " Life is finding yourself, it is a spiritual development. The goal is not making art, it is living a life. Those who live their lives will leave the stuff that is really art. Life is not about much attention to detail. What we need is more a sense of wonder of life and not the business of making a picture. Go beyond the material and put the spiritual in it. If you have something to say you will find the way.What does your soul desire to say right now?"

 I recently toured the northwest, living a life in beauty, photographing nature and painting plein air, seeking beauty. This is living at a high level for artists. So coming back in studio it is important to refresh and relive those feelings to create art using all the materials and skills to recreate this beauty and energy for others to see. As a teacher Henri obviously felt it not enough to teach skills but to foster excitement for life, to teach people to paint from memory of intense feelings and contemplation. Teaching workshops is also a time of intense concentration, yet a time of great joy and connection watching the growth of other artists.

"In the depth of winter , I finally learned that there was within me an invincible summer." Albert Camus

Wishing you an invincible summer this winter and wishing you and your family happy holidays.


Monday, August 27, 2012


  Her staring at my plein air piece let me know my design was not good. Blogging is hard when doing a paintout, here is my link to last weeks blog for OPA.

  Workshop attendees always explain why they aren't improving faster, in this link I reiterate what they say and explore some keys I hope, love to hear what helps you.

  I hope this link works,my next blog will cover  some of the beautiful sites during Plein Air Rockies

  My very best to all.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012



   It seems to me like something happens when we are forced to paint from life in less than perfect conditions.The weather looked bad , than got worse and I never could finish this painting because of the rain, it had rain drops on it and all over my palette. I just left it cause it was how I felt that week in less than ideal conditions (loose and shifting) after teaching a workshop to some brave artists in Provence the week before.


   They were really challenged but what growth. It never ceases to amaze if you are inspired, happy and upbeat you rise to challenges, each artist performed unbelievably and I believe partly because of the ability to remain lighthearted. Cranking down on yourself seems to be restrictive.


   Admittedly it is easy to fall back on what you know but it gets boring and stale. Awareness may allow us to shift to new more creative ways of painting. Admittedly it is a struggle and hard not to whip yourself, but in painting for the gallery my paintings had shifted to different types of lighting. This resulted in paintings like above. Another gallery saw these images and forwarded to a collector that wants paintings from their incredible properties. It is amazing to me that by being aware of change and going with it, things worked out better than if I had tightly controlled everything. It is like Joseph Campbell describes in "The Power of Myth."


   I really like my artists friends, and the art world because most are not too egotistical. It is great to want to achieve at a very high level, the new psychological studies are supporting that real risk takers are lighthearted which allows for failures. They go from one failure to another without much of  loss of enthusiasm, exactly how Winston Churchill described success. I like teaching my workshops in a lighthearted manner. Artists crank down on themselves enough without any help, they actually need some relief.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

When Things Go South in Plein Air, Growing

My final version of Gordes 12 by 9 from my workshop in Provence. It was than to Charleston for PAPSE paint out and finally The paint out at Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport, after seeing a show of William Trost Richards that totally moved me.

The issue is what is happening when you are painting well and you slip, I just did,I don't really totally know but here are a few ideas?

   1. Distracted by phone calls or current events, not focusing;

   2. You are trying to shift your normal painting techniques and ideas, so you don't feel or look stale and, thus you are growing;

   3. You have subtly shifted a color, added new colors, or a shifted one of your methods.


   1. Turn off phone , or put yourself under some pressure to focus;

   2. Go back to old ways, boring but safe;

   3. Be really aware of how you changed your techniques and colors, and filter what is working or not.
  Maybe we can always keep growing by asking 2 questions?

    1. If I was just 5% more aware of what is motivating me to paint it?

    2. If I was just 5% more aware how I would love for my paintings to look?
   ART and all of life needs to give both pleasure and meaning, even the things we enjoy. Trying to get both is a real key, just pleasure is unfulfilling. Artists are such a pleasure to be around, what a energizing collection of people.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Reflections on Redesign to Improve

Below is my final product for Western Visions, lets see if I improved it,

Perhaps better cloud and snow work, more atmosphere in back mountains, more form in  mountains, better lighting in trees, and maybe better design of front rock which allowed for a better lead in and more transparent rocks in water:

    This was just too flat, poor front design of rock, yet maybe decent other large shapes:


    Funny, but the sketch painting of different subject matter I did for Western Visions I think I like a lot (it could be I get tired of them if they require a lot of extra work.), I try to always ask this question , how does it go to extraordinary in my view, which may not be in someone else's view, just a good question. I will cover the changes to it next time, and than report on the wonderful set of artists at my Provence workshop hosted amazingly by Anne Huff (fluent in French), of Huff Harrington Fine Art Gallery

Monday, May 7, 2012

Separating Layers in Plein Air Paintings

  Tis the season, just finished a great workshop in the streams, mountains, farms and vineyards of North Georgia, what great excited group of artists, and my thanks to Elder Ridge Studios, Donna and her husbands beautiful land of streams, buildings, etc and the gorgeous Three Sisters Vineyards and Doug's hospitality.
  Now off to teach in lovely Provence for Huff Harrington Gallery. I am actually in JFK airport on way to Nice.
  In preparation I did this quickie plein air, of a closed in scene that people seem to like, it took less than an hour so it stayed fresh with not so bad brush marks, but I think part of it was creating depth through the use of layers, that is trying to separate a strong front, mid front, mid, and back sections. I also tried to use spots of light to move your eye through the painting , maybe it works. I have learned the eye bounces around in the painting so the use of spots and lines of light maybe useful.
  Of course a lot of paintings don't make the cut, but it is always a learning experience. Painting abstract designs in all paintings is a great joy, just shapes and values. Next time we will compare the different versions of paintings done for the Western Visions Show.I love this statement "Small incremental growth is better than great failures. "
  You can only hear what you are ready to hear, so enjoy where you are in your painting.