Lasting Change and Learning

Florentine Sunset

A magnificent Florentine sunset.

The sun was setting over Florence. I was on my balcony, wrapped up in a blanket on a cool March evening, thinking about all I was learning. I was at the Florence Studio to study in the classical tradition.

On a different night, in January, a warm breeze blew into my studio apartment through French doors on the Pacific coast of Mexico, while a mariachi band could be heard playing in the distance. Again, I was traveling to study art.

My balcony in Mexico, studying at the Casa de Los Artists.

Casa

Studying with Jim McVickers at the Casa.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know I’ve dedicated a bit more time to study in the past few years.  I had begun to get frustrated with my art, and longed for new tools in my toolbox with which to make art. By that, I mean new skills. I wanted to expand what I could do.

Studying with the amazing Laura Thompson at The Florence Studio.

So I made study my focus. And I was blessed to be able to go to some amazing places, and study with some of the best artists alive today.

It was while I was at the Plein Air Festival in Santa Fe this past April that I began to realize two things. First, there was a thread among all my teachers. Focus on a center of interest, paint shapes not things. Light and shadow. Values. Composition. These are things they all talked about.

My painting buddies at the Plein Air Convention in Santa Fe.

Second, I realized I had too many voices in my head from so many amazing teachers that it was time to put the brakes on studying for a while and focus on my own work, and my own voice.

I had a workshop already booked, though, and I wouldn’t have cancelled that one for anything. It was with my favorite living artist (after Gerhart Richter, of course), Stephen Duren.

A work in progress done by Stephen Duren at his workshop.

Stephen is an artist who knows how to use reality as a jumping off point to do so much more than paint what’s in front of you. I felt like he gave me a permission slip to return to some bold abstract landscape painting, which is where I began. But lest you or I think I made a complete circle to end up where I started — not at all. I have all those new tools for my toolbox of art making after all.

Stephen also reminded me to focus on one thing at a time. And that years of an artist’s life can be spent on that, creating muscle memory.

And so, I invite you to travel along with me, and see where my work might go from here. I will always remain a student, but I guess you could say I’m working on my thesis now. And I, more than anyone, am curious about where it will take me.

Master Copy

A master copy done at the Florence Studio.

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