Practicing with Intention

Value Study

Creating a value study from a photo. I prefer doing these from life, but in a pinch I’ll work from a photo.

Have you ever noticed things that don’t always turn out how you want or imagine?

If you’ve ever made art, you can relate. The thing is, if you practice anything, you get better. Yet, we all have the proverbial aunt who knits the same lopsided sweaters for years … (Thanks Auntie Em, but no thanks.)

The difference is about intention. You have to practice with intention. Make art with joy, but also with a critical eye. There have been days, weeks, months, when frustration with the process of painting was followed by a desire to lay down the brushes forever. That is just part of the process.

The more intentional you get, the less frustrated you become when things go wrong. If you look at a piece and are not happy with it and figure out how to make it better. Sometimes you can save a painting by continuing to paint; other times, you have to scrape it down and start over. Or break out a new canvas and try to use the old painting as a roadmap to where you don’t want to go. And keep doing it until you’re satisfied.

But as a great teacher once said, do not wander around in the woods lost forever. Have a plan. Get religious about your value studies before you begin. This is an area we could all probably improve upon. It’s easy to get so excited about painting before you have properly done your prep. That initial value study is your guide, your road map; when you get lost, it brings you back. Take your time with it. Don’t start a painting until that value study has spoken to you. As they say, always build on a good foundation.

Then, when you can’t figure out what to do next, turn to the old master paintings and figure out how they solved the same problem. Use the old master painters to help with your plan. (They kinda knew what they were doing, after all.)

It’s in that spirit that I’m starting a new series of a subject matter that is foreign to me. You might have noticed structures rarely show up in my work, for no other reason than they are very rarely where I show up to paint. I typically paint at vineyards, beaches and fields. But now, I want to paint Fishtown in Leland and its all boats and architecture.

I’m excited about the process and what I might learn. Already, the process has consumed my thoughts, and that is a beautiful thing to get you excited about getting back inside the studio each morning.

Just stay with the process, and I hope you’ll join me on my journey, and we can learn and grow together.

Happy art making! Whether you’re into the art of cooking, living well, communicating or painting, the process is pretty much the same. Enjoy your journey.

Please join me in conversation over on Instagram and Facebook. I’d love to hear how you got through frustrations in process, whatever your art is, and how you get better at what you do. These conversations mean the world to me, so please know you’re invited to come say hi!

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