Monthly Archives: October 2011

Inspiration and Perspiration

Lois Griffel demonstration

Lois Griffel demonstration

Thomas Edison once said “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent inspiration”. So now that I’ve got the inspiration part down it’s time for the hard work part, well almost. I am spending my last night on the road before I get home tomorrow evening. I have so much I want to paint and hundreds of megabytes of pictures for reference. First though I need to finish the paintings I started in Colorado. I have two unfinished pieces from the workshop and another unfinished piece from my first trip to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Lois Griffel and myself the last day of the workshop.

Almost as important, and in keeping with Mr. Edison’s quote I have an increased knowledge base from which to approach all the new paintings on which I will begin working. It’s always exciting to work on paintings when you feel more confident in your ability due to a workshop. There is always more to learn whether from books, museums or workshops. Fortunately Lois writes books as well as teaches workshops which for me is the best way to learn because you can go back to the books with a better understanding once you’ve attended a workshop. Her books “Painting the Impressionist Landscape” and “Painting Impressionist Color” are a must for anyone interested in painting in the impressionist style. She is also a great teacher if you can make it to one of her workshops.

Iowa sunrise

For now, I just want to get home. I’m ready to see another sunrise in the morning, although I don’t think you can beat todays Iowa sunrise. Even though I was just passing through, this was my third time in Iowa and it felt great to be there. It was a beautiful day full of sun and big sky. The rolling hills of Iowa were another level of inspiration for more paintings and I did jump off the Interstate for a few pictures of farms and fields. Once upon a time Iowa seemed to be a long way from home, today it seemed much closer. And now sitting in my hotel room in Indiana I feel like I’m a “stone’s throw” from home. I know it’s full day of driving tomorrow that’s going to get me home, but it’s the getting home tomorrow that has me thinking about next steps. While I’m at it, I’d also like to put a plug in for driving across the country. It’s a wonderful experience and we are very fortunate to live in such a beautiful and diverse country. There’s nothing like seeing everything you can, up close and personal. Dropping into places by plane will never give you the same understanding of where you are and the grandeur of our country.

Well, here’s hoping I sleep well and this time tomorrow, I’ll be heading into my own bed.

One More Adventure

My car is all packed and I’ve made reservations for a hotel in Omaha, Nebraska. I’ve never been to Nebraska. Some may not find that an exciting destination, but I do. I have found that all these places have a beauty all their own. They also add to the feeling of being blessed to be living in such a magnificent country.

So tomorrow, I am once again heading into the heartland. The workshop is over, and all the information gathered has yet to be fully digested. The long ride home will be a good way to do that. This whole journey has been a learning experience. Heading back tomorrow I leave with a new perspective. It’s a culmination of the knowledge gained from the workshop and learning that I could make such a journey by myself. While I had my doubts, my family and friends believed in me and it gave me courage. Facing the many miles home is easier now, because I’ve already done it, in a sense, but mostly because I miss Rick.

While the weather may be questionable tomorrow, I’m hoping for one more good day. Snow is predicted for the mountains here in Colorado. That is in addition to the snow that’s already fallen in the highlands last night. Just a few good pictures of Nebraska will make this trip all I asked for. Keep your fingers crossed and be on the lookout for future paintings of the heartland.

Come Together

It’s the things that don’t make sense, or that I don’t understand that sit in the forefront of my brain the longest. Once I “get it”, that information settles in with the rest of the data; although I hesitate to call all that resides in my head data. Truly, it goes back to one of my earliest memories, that would be the mouse that use to leave my brother and I little gifts. Yes, you read that correctly. Of course it was Grandpa Mike that was leaving them, but he told us to reach into the whole at the bottom of the stairs in his house, to see what the mouse had brought us. There was always a little something for each of us from the 5 & 10 (remember those?). It was a memory I treasured but the reality came as an adult when Aunt Mary explained the hole was a result of home improvement project left unfinished, and it was Grandpa Mike who left the toys. Still the idea, while wonderful, still was puzzling even as a child of 4 or five, could a mouse really have left those toys?

So for the last 8 years I have been taking art classes and workshops. My knowledge base previous to that was a limited amount of college courses and whatever information I could glean from books and experience. Some classes are pretty straight forward while others start dipping into the vocabulary of art and artists. That’s where the trouble starts. I believe that’s true for a lot of occupations. Just think, computer lingo. Understanding the vocabulary is not just knowing the definition of such words but when you find yourslef using them. That’s the first step to truly understanding, because you find no other words really work as well and it becomes an ah ha moment.

Then you get into the more you learn, the more you learn what you don’t know. It can be sort of a moment of truth for the faint of heart. Learning how to paint well is work. That’s right, I said it out loud, it’s work. Not like digging ditches or mining coal, although hauling your gear can sometimes feel like that, but the combination of learning color theory, perspective, materials, proportions and drawing in general along with hours and hours of practice, well you get the idea. Just because you love your work, doesn’t mean it’s not work. The real challenge to measuring your competence is history, I mean the work that fills museums around the world and if you really want to beat yourself up, take a gander at the Sistine Chapel.

Then there’s the getting back to reality part. That scary blank canvas part that gradually becomes less scary. The point at which all those classes and all those hours of practice come together. That’s one of the reasons why I traveled so far for this workshop. My style of painting took a dramatic uptick the last time I took a workshop with Lois Griffel. More firmly establishing my style with the person who had lead me down this road seemed to be the only logical step. That’s not to say I haven’t worked on other skills with other instructors, but the person with whom I most closely align my style with, has to be Lois. I can’t thank her enough for her generosity of information and support. Her methods of teaching are excellent. She is a student of Henry Hensche, who was a student of Charles Hawthorne, who studied under Charles Merit Chase, founder of Parson’s School of design and one of the first American Impressionists who studied in Europe. Such an educational lineage is one I am thrilled to follow.