Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Building an Artist

Slowly Clearing, 10x8", oil on canvas panel,
©2013 Cindy Greene

Do any of you read Stapleton Kearns' blog? Well, if you're interested in art, you should. He doesn't post often, maybe once or twice monthly, but it's always interesting. 

In March, Mr. Kearns wrote a post called "Negotiating a Painting Commission." He rarely accepts commissions these days, but talks about when he accepted any request that "walked in the door." He describes a couple of unsavory commissions, and his advice to those considering accepting commissions. But the most interesting part to me was his last sentence, which jumped out at me. "Look at your work as building an artist." 

All good artists and art teachers will tell you that it takes time to learn to make good art, and it is hard. There are different phrases used to describe this process, which we all share when a fellow artist-in-process is having a tough time. Carol Marine says, "Paint 500 paintings before the real ones." A few artists have talked about the need to paint "miles and miles of canvas." Kim VanDerHoek says "Painting is hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it." Last night my friend Jeanne and I were talking about how to get through the frustrating times, of which there are plenty. (She and I both seem to cry a bit, and then buck up and move on.) I think it was Carol who also talked about if you started taking piano lessons, would your family expect you to come home and play a sonata after your fifth lesson? No. But when we pick up a paintbrush and some paints, we expect to be good, fast. At least good enough that your mother would want to hang your painting in her living room!

During the last couple of weeks, I've been working on just learning. I've done a couple of landscape "lessons" out of Elizabeth Tolley's great book "The Oil Painter's Solution Book: Landscapes," and a couple of landscapes from Kim's class (one is above). I've also been doing some tree studies, and have been experimenting with some new paints and painting surfaces. I try to paint outside at least once a week, usually in a new place, which is always a learning experience! It's fun to try some of these new colors and techniques, and Stapleton Kearns reminds me that I am building an artist. I'm thankful for that.

Here are the two landscape studies I did from Elizabeth Tolley's book. I have long admired her work, much of which is painted in my favorite part of the country, the California Central Coast. She uses a lot of transparent colors, and a layering technique that is new to me. Challenging, but fun.

Landscape Study #1, 8x10", oil on canvas panel

Landscape Study #2, 6x8", oil on canvas panel

Remember, it's a process. It's hard, but rewarding. And you may be "building an artist."


  1. Cindy,
    I love the colors in Landscape study #1. Also the clouds and trees are so realistic looking. Thanks for the encouragement you gave me on Monday night it really helped. I'm trying to remember that I'm learning and not expect too much but boy do I get discouraged when my painting looks so ugly!

    1. You will get there, Jeanne! It's a process, and it is hard. There is so much to learn, and you are expecting to orchestrate it all together and have it come together into a finished product. Just do studies; lots and lots of studies. You are improving and will continue!


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