Monday, August 8, 2016

Artistic Olympic feats: raising the bar

Sports are not really my thing, but here's what I love about the Olympic Games - seeing the degree of perfection that is achieved through training, sacrifice and dogged commitment. They raise the bar for themselves and all of us.

As a non-swimmer/runner/gymnast, my Olympic aspirations are focused on improving artistically and recognizing how important it is to raise the bar in my studio. One of the best ways I know to do that is to be exposed to better quality art. Museums are great, but for more timely inspiration I turn to art being produced today. Since it's not ancient, it must be accessible. That's what I figure anyway.

Artists well-trained in representational painting are my Olympic heroes. People like Jacob Collins, Todd Casey, Sadie Valeri, Danny Grant, Jeffrey Larson, Juliette Aristides, Jeremy Lipking, Candace Bohannon, Scott Waddell, Graydon Parrish, Sydney Bella Sparrow, Stephanie Rew, Justin Wood, Michael Shane Neal, Patricia Watwood, Michael Klein and so many others. Their training stresses mastery of traditional fine art skills...and practice. Lots of practice.

Lately I've been listening to podcast interviews with accomplished artists discussing the processes and routines involved in creating their masterworks. I love their honesty, insecurities and frustrations, but the thing I value most is seeing how dedicated they are to the work. Like Olympic athletes, they put in a lot of hours. And they love it. They know how to capture the very subtle nuances that render form realistically, just like a gymnast knows exactly how to use each muscle to execute a move. They don't quit or make excuses.

That professionalism inspires me to keep pushing the limits, trying more complex subjects and not settling for less than I hoped to achieve. Basically, raising the bar in the studio.

oil painting, progress shots, still life, apples
Gathered Ladies ©2016 Dorothy Lorenze
Here's a small example. This little painting of lady apples was coming along well enough. But, it's only 4x8" so some of the details were hard to capture and after it was "done" something still wasn't right.

The apples were looking fine and that's the important part... right? But the cloth under the board wasn't working for me. I couldn't get past thinking it needed... something. So I finished the "finished" painting by re-working the crevice shadow and repainting the cloth with more subtle value changes. Now the crevice is better defined and the fabric rounds over the table edge more believably. It took time, but it's so much better! And now I'm happy.

Sometimes you just have to compare apples to apples - and crevice shadows to crevice shadows.

I really believe that "keeping company" with Olympic caliber artists through private study, as well as internet demos and podcasts, has raised the bar for me. Getting to know their personal commitment to art making and hearing about their work habits helps me stay focused on my tasks and goals.

If you're interested, some internet art resources were mentioned in posts earlier this year and in 2014. Also, you can check out these podcasts: John Dalton's Gently Does It, Danny Grant's The Studio,  Antrese Wood's Savvy Painter Podcast and The Clark Hulings Fund's Thriving Artist Podcast. If you have other favorite art podcasts please share them in a comment.

I tend to listen to these interviews on long drives or during studio time and it's always inspirational, but if you want to be a total art geek (and who doesn't?!) it's even better to listen with a notebook and internet access so you can google the artist's work or historical references and make notes as you go.

The main thing to take away from all this is: don't settle. There is no growth without risks. And nothing worth having ever came easy. Do the work. As a kid, when we left for school in the morning, my dad would bark,  "Learn somethin'!" I'm still tryin'!

"Whether you're already an accomplished painter or just beginning on your path to artistic excellence, there is always more to learn, and higher levels of perfection to aim for." Daniel J. Keys 

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