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What do you seek in painting?

I have recently been producing some incredibly poor quality paintings and it's caused me to wonder: what do I hope to achieve by painting?  If I continue to do the same thing and continue to have poor results, then why pursue the same thing? Do I get enjoyment out of it? Do I want to become a good painter? Do I want to be good enough that I could sell some paintings?

Mostly this is a kind of self-reflection/soul searching.... maybe a blog in the true sense, a kind of journal which has nothing to do with the technique or craftsmanship of painting, but everything to do with what goes on between two ears on one head.

I think of my own current life situation and some of yours as well.  Some of us are going through tough times, a major life change, surgery, grief, no income, relocation, stressful job, a troubled family member. We aren't always at a point in our lives where we can make a commitment to excellence. Do we then try to find the joy in painting without the pressure and what is that equilibrium?

I put some effort into my last painting and yet I find it very disappointing. I made sure to measure out the subject of the stilllife so nothing would be amiss and all objects would be proportionate to one another. I chose a subject which is in abundance where I live, farmland, barns, and livestock. This one struck me because it is older, has a rock foundation, and there were two horses grazing in front. I ended up removing the horses and getting overwhelmed with the field. And somehow it still looks so immature.

Yet in the midst of it yesterday we took our 11 year old twins to the doctor for their regular check up. My son has high functioning autism. He becomes frightened easily especially with sensory issues, so naturally he screamed the whole time they took his blood pressure. His sister cried thinking he was being hurt. They both had shots and finger pricks. It was so traumatic, I just kept them home from school for the rest of the day. 

This is just life, but somehow it impacts my painting. I need to do it so that I have a creative outlet, don't get discouraged by this and the endless household chores and assists I do because my son needs help.

What do you do? do you just stop painting? do you try a different method? do you seek a hobby but also hope for some relief? does it give you some joy?

I've had a few paintings that have been pure joy - wonderment at their outcomes - and that is so soul soothing. But what of the mediocrity? what of the 'failures'? I know we all have them. I don't strive to be a professional painter, but I do want to strive for quality. How do you balance it? What do you strive for?

My landscape before and after our appointment yesterday....

Maybe I just need to Bob Ross paint happy little clouds....



  • SummerSummer -
    edited May 2018
    @Renoir ; You certainly are pursuing your love of painting under very stressful circumstances.  I can't believe how well you are doing as a painter taking this in to consideration.  The one thing that pops out at me is you did mention Bob Ross.  I think he was a professional painter and yet I have read that for every painting we saw him paint, there were two others we did not see.  For his shows, he was under contract to paint one before the show, one during the show, and one after the show.  How good would our paintings look if we painted three complete paintings and kept only the last one to sell, donate, or whatever.  Maybe his workflow might be perfect for you to develop your skills and still cope with a stressful lifestyle.  As you experience life's interruptions, you most likely will be working on the canvas that doesn't matter anyway.  Artist's usually do "studies" to satisfy this same purpose, but your lifestyle might fit the Bob Ross work ethic better.  What do you think? Your paintings are good but you might discover the path you want to take instead--by the third one.  Summer   
  • I remember that Mark has a video Regarding the artist’s curse, Maybe look at it? Sometime when I start to hate everything I draw, I then look back at my old work : I am actually ok!  
  • Today I went with my camera to take photos for the next challenge, and there were some trees, without thinking came in my mind your painting of trees u done near your house. And this was before reading this thread so it's not biased. 
  • PaulBPaulB mod
    I started painting as a distraction from life, and it works very well for that, at least in short bursts.  I find painting very peaceful.  Sure, there are failures, plenty of them.  I expect them.

    Your second barn is much better than your first barn.   I like the weathering on the barn panels, the extra tree, the amazing subtlety of the repainted fence posts.  Second painting looks like spring.  I see the additions and subtractions, and you resolved all the conflict in it, restoring it to a calm scene.  Seems to me that you did for the painting, what the painting does for you.
  • I have never been a sleeper, just a few hours a night, so painting both abstract and Oils keeps me busy in the wee hours - I enjoy it and so do others around me, I want (will) get better at oils and now I have more time to do this,.. it will be my goal.
    Agree with PaulB - second one is far better keep going @Renoir
  • SummerSummer -
    edited May 2018
    Lately, I like to preserve personal memories by what I select to paint and experiment with new materials and technologies created for artists. 
  • I find that the joy comes in the process of painting, AND in the final product. The two seem to be distinct from each other for me. How about you? If we agree that no painting is ever really done, and enjoy the process of seeking perfection in the picture, then disappointment in a "final" product is less impactful than the love of the process. Constant learning and improvement of technique seem to add quality to our lives.
  • I was a fair hobbyist painter a long time ago. not any more I'm so awful but I don't think about trying to accomplish anything except getting messy and enjoy it anyway even with all the frustrations. The big frustration now is having no space to paint.

  • @Renoir,

    You could try to paint to relax, to escape from the difficulties of life, to find joy in what you are doing.

    Another option is to paint to express the frustrations, fears and feelings you feel what what is going on around you.

    Either way is valid I believe :)
  • edited May 2018
    I agree with @ Richard_P above. I also know of an artist by the name of Mary Pratt. I also find that in order for me to paint to relax, sometimes it's hard work and long time preparing (drawing and sketching) before painting.
  • I thought a lot about what u wrote here Renoir and I think if the Art is the strive to find something over the quotidianity or the life problem, well u have definitely the artist attitude. 
    I think honestly u have the capacity to paint beautifully, I still remember the reflection on the clew u painted. So talking strictly to what u consider "incredible poor quality paintings" are just a normal process in the learning curve. 
    I believe that people who have an higher sensibility are artists from themselves, tecnique can be achieved by practice (history sadly gave us painters better to forget they were) but the main things I like in an artist or an art piece is the humanity behind the opera, and this is cannot be achieved studying or glazing. So keep going, from what u wrote and posted here in the forum I have good feelings about you :)
  • I agree with @ Richard_P above. I also know of an artist by the name of Mary Pratt. I also find that in order for me to paint to relax, sometimes it's hard work and long time preparing (drawing and sketching) before painting.

    @Forgiveness I know an artist of that name, but she is a potter... gorgeous pottery! So I looked up Mary Pratt and I see there are two Mary Pratt oil painters, one from Canada with beautiful, rich colors of everyday things and stunning lighting; and another from Atlanta who does lots of paintings of women with intriguing colors. Both are wonderful. I will now read more about Mary Pratt from Canada as I am quite intrigued.

    Thank you for that.

  • Come now, your pictures aren't as bad as you think. Take a look at this Corot. He's considered one the greats and yet his handling of the human figure leaves much to be desired. His genius is more apparent in his landscapes. 
  • I don’t feel like I’m seeking anything, but something is seeking me. I can run but I can’t hide.
  • Boudicca said:
    I don’t feel like I’m seeking anything, but something is seeking me. I can run but I can’t hide.
    Leonardo? :)
  • I am not sure what you don’t like about your paintings, I prefer the second. Did you paint from a photo? You are painting, that’s what counts, you don’t let your life’s problems stop you. I painted a simple Watercolour landscape yesterday and I would have been disappointed with the results10 years, ago,I have lost the “ touch” , that’s what happens when I don’t paint fir ages. Life is, as you well know full for difficulties, but I admire you for surviving and progressing. Don’t be so hard on yourself. 
  • @Renoir, I find your second painting very tranquil.  I agree with Summer. I think you may have already answered your own question.  About 39 years ago I took a Bob Ross class.  It was fun with no pressure for perfection or following many rules.  You might consider painting soothing Ross style paintings in-between  more structured ones.  
  • edited May 2018
    @Renoir I meant Mary Pratt of Canada, I believe that she painted in oil and in acrylics, and it's about the "just everyday things" and the beauty and delights in what is already there at hand, that we so often take for granted. The controversy surrounding her work, calling her work "boring". You can absolutely trust that I disagree with boring, ha,ha,ha!. 
  • What I learn from all.of you is how incredible each and every one of you are. I would love to hear everyone's thoughts. There is a very personal journey in this hobby. And every time we are poised, brush in hand, a different portion of our journey is covered.

    What I'm learning from you is to follow the Nike logo: just do it.

    So I am. I started painting the house and trees behind me and it became a crazy, surreal, semi Tuscan landscape. I'm now at the front of my house attempting to paint a glorious azalea bush :-) so grateful the earth is beginning to bloom; It was a long winter. 

  • Ohh, nice! It has a certain mysterious quality :)
  • Richard is very right, there is a naïf abstraction in this, definitely a beautiful painting. Maybe u should go deeper in this style which in my opinion is deep in your art.
    This reminds me of Henry Rousseau!

  • @Bobitaly ;
    Thank you for that. I don't even know if I know what my style is so perhaps if I follow Kaustav's lead, if I just keep painting, I will find many styles. I love Rousseau!

    Thank you @Richard_P !

  • Of course Renoir that's the goal keep going! I really like how u manage and abstract things, I will hung your painting in my house, somehow makes me happy!
  • My advice is if you are still learning to paint (which really never ends actually), don't focus on the end result so much.  What I mean by that is don't worry about keeping all your work or displaying all your work.  In other words do a lot of painting "sketches".

  • Well said, @JeffAllen. When I started out I used a pad of linen canvas and felt much freer to just use it up like a sketch pad; not a completed work, but rather as a study.. 
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