Posted on 2 Comments

Artist’s shocking revelation: I am rarely in the mood to draw or paint

Not in the mood? Cannot Draw? Let me dispel those and other bullshit ideas.

These are my thoughts, in no particular order, as they apply to the philosophical, procedural, and practical issues of painting on location.

Michael, which is the greatest rule for painting on location? Michael replied: “Enjoy where you are and what you are doing with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest rule. And the second is like it: Do not worry about what your neighbors think, just do it. Everything else is secondary to these two rules.”

But I cannot draw! —– So what? Travel sketching is about recording memories. Please do NOT tell me “I cannot draw.” I don’t care and it pisses me off (I will nod and smile outwardly if we are together). I do not care if you cannot draw. Just do it.

But I really can’t draw. —– Think sketch, not Mona Lisa. Try this: Squares and rectangles with dots look like buildings with windows. Pointy triangle-like shapes look like mountains. Bubble-like circles look like clouds or smoke. Bubble-like circles or triangles with sticks on the bottom look like trees. A short vertical line with small circle on top looks like a person in the distance. Trust me: Right now, draw a tall skinny triangle. Now put a little line coming out of the bottom. Add a little green and you have a tree!

My drawing will never look like _____. —- We are not taking a freaking photo here. Don’t worry if your sketch does not look like the Eiffel Tower. I sketch every day. My lines are not always straight. Besides, you can always take a beginning drawing classes if you are so inclined.  Travel painting on location is easy when you realize that your painting does not have to look exactly like what you see. It gives you freedom that photographers do not have. I don’t like everything I do, but it will still give me a nice memory. Besides, the Pareto Principle (the 80/20 rule) applies to all artists. About 20 percent, or less, of our work is “ok.” Even less work can be called “good.” An anonymous, but well-known, nature photographer once told me that he threw out 90 percent of his photos, and about one percent of the rest made it to print.

I am embarrassed to draw in public. —– Be prepared to attract on-lookers. They can be intimidating, but they are usually very nice. Painting in public is performance art. Passers-by will be interested in what you are doing. It is part of the reality and fun of painting on location. I once had a brief, but meaningful (I think), conversation about painting with a young French woman. Neither of us spoke the other’s language. As a rule, I am no afraid of street people. Those with some forms of schizophrenia can be off-putting, but they can be quite interesting conversationalists as well.

I am embarrassed to show people what I draw. —– It took me a while to get comfortable showing my sketches to passers-by and friends, but then I realized that I am the only critic that matters. I am sketching a lighthouse in a cold fog for Christ’s sake, not painting the Mona Lisa in the comfort of my studio. 99.9 percent of the people I meet on location are nice, but I give you the permission to say “f you” to anyone who is rude enough to voice a negative opinion in public.

What should I draw? —– Paint what you like. If you don’t, painting will be a chore and your work will look bad.

The Tao of Painting —– I personally do not look for something to paint. It finds me. In the meantime, I enjoy where am, take a walk, have lunch. When I see something I like, I sketch it. Finding a shady spot where I can sit down is an added benefit. I’ve changed views just to get a decent place to sit. I’ve also moved chairs, tables, and other objects to suit my need for comfort. That makes up for all the times I’ve sweated bullets in uncomfortable places (with ants).

Moods and Muses —– Painting creates my mood. I am rarely in the mood to draw or paint. I’d rather sit and enjoy the view with a friend and a good wine, lots of wine. I am not sure what a muse is. I think it is a fantasy invented by a horny guy who should have been writing or painting instead of thinking about sex.

Painting takes such a long time. —– Painting is nice, but it’s not the only thing I do. I have a schedule, and a life. I have never spent more than 30 minutes on a travel painting; 15-20 minutes is typical. I have other things to do; be a tourist, other work, have lunch, see friends. Sketches are BRIEF. Try this: Do a pencil sketch, take a photo, paint later. Eventually you will get faster.

My next post will have some ideas on what supplies you should carry as you travel.