On The Value Of Experiments

"Bridging the Gap"
oil on canvas panel, 8" x 10"
Every day is different when it comes to painting. I never know what the day will hold until I approach the easel . . . .unless I am working on a specific project. Then, I am like a wild dog with a bone. Nothing will dissuade my purpose until it is finished.

As you know, Dear Reader, I have been busy this last week with plein air work . . .and I had to interrupt a project of a very complex studio watercolor to do this plein air work. Work? Whoops! This isn’t work !! This is absolute entertainment . . . .at least until I get to the place where I am saying to myself, “What am I going to do with THIS?” Or, “There has to be a better solution to this problem than this meager outcome!”

And so I experiment . . . .or do ‘studies.’ Many artists I know believe the studies or experiments to be a waste of time and materials. In my opinion, failures or lackluster results are our constant companions in the pursuit of good art. It is these kinds of outcomes that frustrate us and awaken the curious artist to new methods or approaches or, the thirst for growth.

I recently visited the website of Scott Christensen, a master painter. On one of his pages, this quote appears . . . . .

"Nature does not capriciously scatter her secrets as golden gifts to lazy poets and luxurious darlings, but imposes task when she presents opportunity." Edgar Payne

Opportunity is with us artists constantly. How can we ignore the siren of successfully answering that opportunity with good painting? We can’t. What’s more, we must constantly try new ways, new subjects and build our skills with executing values, colors, edges, techniques and designs. Any one of these things is worth years of study!

Simply put, we must constantly step away from the projects to accomplish good practices and set up our growth to the next tier of skill. I repeat: Constantly. It is a part of the pulse of the artist’s life. In this game, ‘good enough’ just isn’t good enough. We must always reach for better.

Yesterday’s piece was one of those quickie experiments . . .to use an orange toned canvas and paint thin to allow that orange to show through in key places. This was a one hour test. Here is the outcome. There are parts I ignored, such as foreground textures and shapes, just to see what would happen IF I completed the test or experiment.

My studio is full of ‘experiments.’ In fact, most everything I do is an experiment. If I have that attitude about every painting, then the fear of failure escapes me and I make new discoveries about my work.

Priceless !!

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