What does the word game Bananagrams share with an artistic journey? Bananagrams can be like art (or life?) in that sometimes you have to re-scramble what you have and create something new. The goal in the word game is to use every letter tile in your possession and assemble them into interconnecting words. At times, in order to use every last tile, you need to take apart the words you’ve connected and assemble them differently. Other times, you may need to discard a tile back into the drawing pile in the hopes of drawing a better letter. I’ve played plenty of Bananagrams lately, both with my boys over the holiday season, and with art.
How do you play Bananagrams with art, you ask? Experimenting, then selectively choosing what works and what doesn’t. Discarding techniques that don’t feel right, and re-evaluating/re-assembling those that do. Let’s say you’ve been painting in a realistic style for a while, when it becomes apparent you need to change things up. Realistic styles may be better suited to some artists, but maybe you are needing a different message. Impressionistic work, with vibrant colors might fit. So you try it out and experience an exhilarating “aha!” moment. This, THIS is what you’ve been waiting for!
My artwork has gone through major changes. For many years, my transparent watercolor paintings were traditional, realistic portraits on 140# cold-pressed paper. Every eyelash, hair, wrinkle, and detail was depicted on a muted, deeply washed background.
Why would I change the above style? It works, doesn’t it? It did, but as time and circumstances change, so does a person’s art, or reason for creating art.
Creating art is a continuing journey, and artists find themselves through experimentation of styles, media, themes, and technique, ideally narrowing these down to a bounty of work that speaks the artist’s message clearly and cohesively. It is a natural, tried and true method of becoming a successful artist.
In 2013, because of changing circumstances in my life, I no longer chose to paint in a realistic manner. Although I still painted with watercolors, I changed my surface on which I painted, along with my style, my theme, and my palette. An abrupt change like this is not for the faint-hearted. Sure, it’s invigorating and challenging, but can be frustrating, scary, and takes time.
During the resulting three-year experimentation, I tried several styles.
Impressionistic style with vibrant hues
I enjoyed painting almost all of them, and liked them initially, but eventually noticed they didn’t fit what I was trying to say. The painting above, for instance, is bright and impressionistic, but felt jarring and didn’t convey the serene beauty of the connection between the girls. I knew I needed to try something different. After many months and many more paintings, I stumbled upon semi-abstract landscapes. I taught myself the technique.
Soon after, I realized my recent paintings had been about inner strength and power. True grit, introspection, steeling yourself for battle, having tenacity, and calming the soul with those inner powers. These themes reoccur frequently in my life and I feel they resonate with many people. I decided to focus on that idea as a central theme in my new work.
In 2017, I’m challenging myself to build a solid, cohesive body of work, necessary to becoming a successful artist. In that vein, I’m working hard to develop artwork that collectors can easily identify, central around the theme of inner strength. To do so, I’m focusing on the following 6 criteria, on the advice of renowned gallery owner and writer, Jason Horejs:
- Subject Matter: Landscapes
- Style: Semi-Abstract
- Theme: Strength, Serenity, and Inner Power
- Palette: Neutrals with areas of saturated hue
- Medium: Watercolor and Gouache on Plexiglas
- Presentation: Float frames, wax coating
Since September, 2016, you have seen the new direction in my work. The choice I’ve made to paint landscapes in a semi-abstract manner feeds a theme of inner strength and calm more appropriately than does a literal, realistic painting. Strangely enough, it’s much more difficult for me to paint in a semi-abstract manner than it is to paint realistically. There are so many decisions to make on how to fill the space. The process is challenging, intuitive, and engaging.
Here is an example of my new direction, and, coincidentally, my first painting of 2017:
The Source, 16×32, original watercolor and mixed media on Plexiglas
What is SO COOL about this painting is that the mountains are created around a long strand of netting, which flows down into the foreground, creating a gully or river. There is a feeling of power, strength, and fortitude through use of color and composition. “The Source” implies both the source of water, and an inner source of strength.
The Source, detail
Paper squares, string, and tissue are layered into the gesso base to give the painting an amazing texture. Plus, look at those COLORS! Yum. Neutral with a pop of saturated blues and oranges. This is what I love about my “new” style. It has more imagination, more power, freedom, and suggestion. I feel like I can sit and look at the work for days, seeing something new every time.
Playing Bananagrams with my artwork, i.e., completely changing my style in 2014, then tossing out what didn’t work, keeping what did, and embracing semi-abstract neutral landscapes, has proven to be a challenging, meaningful change. Follow me this year and see where I go!!
Enjoy the new work, and check it out at Tumalo Art Company, Hood Avenue Art, and other venues. The Source and other new work is currently installed at North Soles Footwear in downtown Bend, OR.
Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and follow this blog to be informed of amazing new paintings and events! Contact me to receive my newsletter so that we can meet at showings and to receive notifications about classes. I am planning an upcoming workshop on Textured Watercolors in February, 2017. Let me know if you would be interested in the 2-day class. Every one of my paintings is available as a print, and I sell signed greeting cards of all my images.