While many people retire at around age 65 and completely stop doing what they’ve spent much of their time doing for years, this does not seem to be true of artists. Instead, some may find that when they stop earning a living, they have more time for art. And even those who have been creating art for years may not be willing to give it up just because they are aging.
But we artists have to be realistic. As an aging painter I know that there are physical aspects of what I do that become more difficult with the passing years. If I want to keep on painting, and I do, I will have to adapt. And as it happens, I’ve found several ways to do that. The first, which I did several years ago, was to buy a new French easel that had wheels and a long handle like my suitcase. I ordered it from Blick, but their current catalog doesn’t have one. I’m often a plein air painter and carrying a heavy easel and other gear was getting harder. Then there are the acrylic paints that I use. Those small metal lids seem to easily have paint stick in them and are hard to open. If I’m painting inside, I run hot water over them and that helps, but I can’t do that if I’m painting outside. So now I use only Liquitex paints with their big plastic lids that will open no matter where I am.
I find that a camera is a vital tool. I photograph the scene I’m painting in plein air in case I need to finish the painting at home. And I always photograph every finished painting and put the photos on my computer in case I need them to enter art shows. The problem was that my hands are not as steady as they used to be. At home I use a tripod but when I’m outside and want to photograph something I might want to paint some day, I don’t want a blurred picture. When my current camera stopped working and I had to buy a new one, I chose a small Sony that was advertised as taking very sharp pictures. And it does. Husband says it is because of the higher number of pixels.
My latest gadget, which I used for the first time on our recent tour of gardens in England, is shown above, a cane with a fold up seat. I took it because I knew I couldn’t do a lot of walking without having to sit down and rest occasionally. But I discovered it was very useful for sketching, since it provided me a place to sit in the exact location I wanted. I had ordered it on the internet a few years ago for a previous trip and didn’t use it then. So with a little help from these aids, I plan to continue painting.
Sunflower Field, Acrylic, 16″ x 12″
With less places available for showing my art, I sometimes wonder if anyone knows that I am still out there painting and would like to share my work. Fortunately, I was contacted this month about appearing in the winter issue of Lawrence Magazine. It’s a beautiful magazine that features various aspects of the city where I live and often has an article about art. The article in which I will appear is about three painters who use a palette knife extensively in their work. The process for the creation of this article has been interesting.
First I was interviewed at my home by the artist who writes the art articles. I’ve known him for some time and once took a class of his. We sat in my basement where I have my paintings covering the walls. He’s an excellent writer but I wonder what he will find to say about my paintings. Unlike more complicated abstracts, my paintings and my motivation for painting them are pretty simple. I see a beautiful landscape and if possible sit in front of it enjoying the view while I paint. I hope others who couldn’t be there will see in my painting what I saw.
The next step occurred when the photographer called and asked me to come to his studio with the two other painters to be photographed. It’s a good thing I happened to look at my email the morning of our appointment. The photographer had emailed me and asked me to bring a palette knife and some tubes of paint. I supposed he wanted to use them as props. Not exactly so. He had placed a big sheet of white paper on the wall. He found something to use as a palette and asked the first artist to start painting. She works more abstractly than I and with a larger palette knife and soon applied some big splashes of oil paint. He then took her picture in front of what she had done. Then he asked the man, who had brought no paint or palette knife, because he had not checked his email that morning, to add to the painting using the first artist’s paint and palette knife. He then photographed him against the background of his addition. Then I with my acrylic paints added to our joint creation and he photographed me.
As a final step the photographer called me up about a week later and told me three paintings of mine that the writer had suggested he photograph. Since no one had told me what paintings of mine would be in the article, I had already taken one to Topeka to be in their current show. Another that was chosen is my favorite painting. It hangs on the wall in my dining room and I would never sell it. So I would rather they have chosen something else but it will appear in the article. So will the one of the sunflowers shown above and “On the Road,” which appears at the top of my blog. All and all this has been quite an experience.
July 19, 2012
I’ve been working on a rather difficult commission. Of course a commission is always more difficult than just painting something I can visualize. You have to try to figure out what is in someone else’s head. The woman who comissioned this particular painting tried to be as helpful as possible. She had very exact ideas of what she wanted. One of the ways she communicated this to me was by giving me those paint samples you can pick up in any store selling house paint.
The painting is to be a floral painting and she specified exactly what color she wanted the various flowers, grass, leaves and sky to be with those paint samples. Now all I have to do is try to figure out what colors to mix to come up with colors called Torchlight, Powder Room, Fig Leaf, Sanctuary, Whipple Blue and Sea Spray. That is not easy but it is an interesting learning experience. For the colors that are somewhat grayed, I must figure out how much of the complementary color to add to the mix I’ve concocted from my tubes of paint.
I’ve looked through these kinds of paint samples before when we have had walls painted in our house. Who names these colors, I wondered and where do they come up with these names? For instance, the color Powder Room is a sort of dark, dulled red. Not exactly the color I’d choose for a powder room in my house. And Sanctuary is kind of an institutional dull light green, not a color I can remember seeing in a sanctuary.
Paint stores change their colors from time to time meaning more new names are needed to match the shades that are popular this season. I like the way the colors are named in my paint tubes better. While many colors have two word names, one of the words tends to refer to the actual color, such as ultramarine blue or cadmium red. And the names and the colors stay the same year after year. It is up to the creative ability of the artist to combine them in an original way.