Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Painting for an Audience



Silence 2   50x50"   oil/cold wax on panel ©2012 Janice Mason Steeves



How can you paint when someone is watching? I am commenting here on the recent blog post written by my colleague and great friend, Rebecca Crowell.  Rebecca can somehow manage to focus on her own work during the painting time in her workshops.  And do some serious paintings too!  She finds this to be  a learning tool for the class and is not at all bothered by the audience.

I work in a totally different way.  I am able to demonstrate for my students and experiment in the workshops I teach, but I seem unable or perhaps unwilling to paint in the classes.  While Rebecca views her painting process as a learning tool (and I honour her viewpoint),  I see it in a different light.  I hesitate to paint in my classes, mostly because it is not my nature, and partly because I think it is important for my students to struggle to find their own voices.  I feel that if I were to paint in the classes, the students would try to paint like me.  I know this because I did that.  When I was a beginner painter, I took many many workshops..and each time I did, I painted like that artist for probably 6 months after the workshop.  I tried it out and in the end, took what worked for me and moved on.  Maybe I make it harder for my students.

My paintings are created in a very private inner space.  I can't seem to reach that space unless I am alone in my studio.  However, having been in an artist residency in Ireland with Rebecca, I know that she is able to  paint with others around, as though no one else is there.  This is a trait I fully admire.

I remember many years ago, taking an outdoor-on-location painting workshop.  I found it completely invasive.  One day, while I was nestled (make that almost hidden) in a stand of shrubs, thinking I was totally concealed, I turned around to find a busload of tourists quietly coming up behind and beside me to watch me paint.  I was so annoyed.   Would they come up behind me if I was writing in my journal, I wondered?

For me, painting is a very private, solitary activity.  Try as I may, I cannot seem to paint seriously when people are watching me.  I remember reading that the author Jane Urquhart said that she couldn't write if there was another breathing creature in her home.  I know that I share that need for privacy.

I teach differently than Rebecca yet honour her way of working.  I do what works for me.  The thing is to honour who we are.  


8 comments:

  1. An awful lot of my artist friends are now doing live painting demos as part of promotional events for their galleries. I have to say I positively dread the idea!

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  2. I also dread the idea...or painting for a video. I recently saw the film: Gerhard Richter Painting, and he had a tough time with painting while the camera was rolling too, and at one point said that he didn't think it was going to work...to film while he was painting. So I guess we're in good company.

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  3. Interesting post....I have hesitated in taking a workshop (and I really DO want to take yours) because I too could not imagine painting with someone watching. It was a "brave" day when I first "put myself out there" and actually called myself an artist and showed my completed work. I think somehow we are worried about being judged...out own insecurity of "not being good enough."

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  4. HI Karin Lynn,
    You've given me some interesting ideas here. I think I might write another blog post about this.
    Have you read the great book called, Art and Fear? It's the kind of book artists should read once a year just to keep ourselves on track.

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  5. Your paintings are very rich in texture and layers. Beautiful and magnificent work.

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    1. Many thanks Shelley. I appreciate your taking the time to write.

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  6. I have found you via Rebecca Crowell and your work resonates with me as does Rebecca's. A group of women meet once a week on the island where I live to paint. I was invited and went a few times. I found (not surprisingly) that I enjoy the tea and chat but can't work with others around. Any creative endeavour, writing, painting is not entirely solitary, but is just me and the medium, be it words or paints, these are my companions and they require my undivided attention.

    Lovely post! Lovely work. And I am green with envy at the green landscape you and Rebecca are enveloped in. Happy painting!

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    1. Hello,

      Thanks for your lovely comment. I think some of us just need to work in a solitary space.
      Rebecca and I are having a wonderful time in this remote part of Ireland. And although I love isolation, this site might be very lonely if I had come on my own.

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