Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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04/20/2005: "The Art of Second Guessing"

Guess what? I haven't been able to paint squat since I read that damn book. Does the tree look better half out of frame or just off center? Does it need to be bigger or smaller? Darker or lighter? Bluer or greener? and what's the actual focal point? Is bending her elbow going to lead the viewers eyes off the canvas? My head is flooded with all these new rules.

And my sorry ass inner voice (you know the voice right?) the one who tells you where to put things, and what color they should be and when a painting is finished or when to just give up...well, my "IV" is giving me the silent treatment. Maybe reading the book was tantamount to infidelity? Like I wasn't happy with what I was gettin at home for free and had to go pay for it elsewhere? Now I only have myself to blame for my current impotence (ok, I'll just stop this analogy right here...)

All I'm saying is that even though I did some crap paintings before I at least did them with a flourish and I felt confident about them most of the time. Now I can't seem to make the smallest decisions without second guessing myself. When I change something and some people like it more and others like it less, what happens when I don't hold the tie breaking vote anymore?

So, what's the proper "make up" gift for a spurned inner voice? Chocolates? A hard bound first edition of Anna Karenina? (I've been out of the scene for awhile)

Replies: 12 Comments

on Thursday, April 21st, dave from Nebraska said

Gee, I never saw that coming.
Paint what you like, paint what you feel.
When you like it, it's done.
Just my opinion.

on Thursday, April 21st, Howard said

Ah! now I know which book you're talking about. I remember flipping through it in a bookstore once.
Personaly I don't think you need any help with your work. It's great as it is. It's not like you're trying to do traditional landscapes so I have to wonder if "How to" books are really important.
What I think makes artist work interesting is the inner rules they develope for their own work. I think you already have a rule set in your own work and the fun part now is watching how that will develope over time.

on Thursday, April 21st, Elise said

Was that first line supposed to be sarcastic or sincere Dave?
Cuz the problem I'm having right now is that I can't "paint what I like" because I've lost my own discernment... my sense of "BY JOVE! I think I've got it!" . That was my entire point.

And Howard, thanks for that! I guess the reason I liked this book initially is because it didn't seem like traditional "how to" books which I tend to uniformly hate. I thought the examples were general enough that they'd just sort of sink into my subconcious and ultimately help me design stronger work.

That's probably what *will* happen, I think I'm just going through a thing. I mean, I get so fricking emotional when I can't work. But I think that's probably true for most of us?

on Thursday, April 21st, greg said

Perhaps turn to an alternative, like drawing/sketching in charcoal. Have access to any life-drawing classes?

The b/w aspect of this can help train your eye to the values of shading (pun intended) you identified as needing more, in your own work ( i agree to some degree).

Plus, time away from the colors and brushes, may help "integrate" the books lessons, so you can hit the paints running in a couple of weeks (while still having had excercised the eye & hand).

Make sense? :)

on Thursday, April 21st, Elise said

Give up me colors for awhile?

Actually, that just might work. I could do some black and white versions of the pieces I've had floating around in my head...make sure that the values worked and add in the color later when I do the actual paintings.

In the past I used to draw out thumbnails which naturally led to creating dramatic value contrasts but in the past couple of years I've started using PhotoShop for thumbnails instead and I think that's where I inadvertently lost some of my value (pun also intended).

Anyway, great idea, thanks!

on Friday, April 22nd, dave from Nebraska said

Sorry. I seem to be that way first thing in the AM.
I think Greg gives you some good advice.
Have you thought about working with the Eagle images? Maybe you should hang out at the dump.
Things are getting green down here.

on Friday, April 22nd, Elise said

I always told myself that it would be a cold day in Hell before I ever painted Alaskan wildlife (not that there's anything wrong with that) but probably every Alaskan artist's greatest fear is being considered an "Alaskana" artist. This means painting Alaskan landscapes, fish, fur, or feathers.

I do paint landscapes but almost always with figures in them, and some kind of narrative and they aren't painted realistically so I feel like I'm safe.

But painting eagles, as cool as I think those photographs turned out, would be crossing that line.

Does that make sense?

Also, I'm glad it's getting green down there, it's still mostly evergreen here but the verdant stuff is close behind.

on Saturday, April 23rd, dave from Nebraska said

Yes it makes sense.
I don't like to photgraph weddings or HS Seniors for simular reasons

on Saturday, April 23rd, subi said

:rolleyes: hmmm, i know what will work!!!!! a new deadline! how about early june (from tangent editors) should we chat about it first?

on Sunday, April 24th, Elise said

Yes, let's, but early June should be fine. I can get you samples way before then so you can tell me "warmer" or "colder".

And Dave, I can image it's very much the same as shooting weddings and hs seniors for you. There are certain places we just can't go, even with the lure of good money.

on Sunday, April 24th, Madara in Fairbanks said

hi elise, i just thought i'd add my 2 cents... i don't think there's anything wrong with how-to's the same way i don't think there's anything wrong with studying the work of others to find out how they did it. and i think a person needs to be cognizant of the principles that govern aesthetic choices. but i think that when you get down to work you shouldn't really be thinking about any of that stuff. well, at least i know that much about my own process. i have to have the zen mind beginner's mind going on before anything real gets done. i also can't have fun if i'm intellectualizing what i'm doing. you know how an athlete can't really think about the fact that she's putting one foot in front of the other and whether her arms are in the right position--an athlete like that doesn't perform very well. i'm convinced that so much of painting is a physical skill...and if that's the case then one has to learn a rule and put it into practice without letting the rule control their behavior. my mantra when i sit down to work is "no fear, no desire". so i think your process is similar because you said something about hoping that it would all just sink into your subconscious.

the only way to shake those rules and their hold on your work is to set out to break the rules. try that...don't apply the rules, break them and find out on your own why the rules were made in the first place. then you'll probably internalize them...

this is all coming from a girl that hasn't been able to paint for a week. i need a how to book called "how to paint when your children are vomiting." glamorous.

on Monday, April 25th, Elise said

You know Madera, your comment about starting a painting with a zen mind is great. I mean, when I think about the times I've come up with my best compostions it is usually while doodling during boring meetings, or when I wake up in the middle of the night to go pee and I jot down the images I was dreaming about.

It's never when I say to myself, OK, now I have to sit down and come up with 8 new images for my next show. That is just too forced. So maybe I need to just keep that in mind and maybe the new rules I learned in the how to book will seep into that dream world as well.

Thanks a lot for the input!