Never satisfied

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Dear Artist,

Yesterday, Sridhar Ramasami, currently living in Nanchang, China, wrote, “I’ve been painting for many years but now I never seem to be satisfied with what I produce. I always think the quality is not good, or the colors, composition or some such. Will I ever get to be satisfied with a painting?”

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“VJs Rescue”
original painting 24 x 35 inches
by Sridhar Ramasami

Thanks, Sridhar. At the risk of pigeonholing your pain, there are four main types of painterly dissatisfaction:

“Amateur epiphany” is where it dawns on the artist that the work is now and will probably remain substandard. The artist may still enjoy doing the work, even occasionally getting paid for it, but the possibility of stellar quality looms unlikely. The popular antidote is to fool oneself that the work is okay. Lots of unsatisfactory work is delivered with the benefit of this delusion. Take heart, Sridhar; being really satisfied with work is mainly the province of amateurs.

“Journeyman jading” is where the subject matter or manner of painting loses its initial luster and is seen as shallow, unworthy or problematical. When motifs or ideas start to become boring or tedious, the artist becomes chronically dissatisfied and it’s time to think again and move on.

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“Talkers”
original painting
35 x 24 inches
by Sridhar Ramasami

“Workman remorse” is where the artist has high standards that are very often achieved, and yet there is a genuine concern for particular surface quality, compositional problems, colour weaknesses, and so on — just the sort of thing you mention. Re-dedication, re-thinking and “back to basics” may be in order.

“Professional humility” is where an artist self-compares with the truly greats and falls short. Mature professionals, particularly, tend to get fussier and fussier and become conscious of the loss of their prior quality. Inevitably, they have come to know too much and have developed a sophisticated eye for what needs to be done. Let’s face it, high standards cannot always be met and perfection is an impossible dream. Be philosophic. Decay, like death, is most likely unavoidable.

Add to all these states the thought that being displeased with our work comes with the territory. Without displeasure there is no improvement and no progress. Further, how boring it would be if everything we did were totally satisfactory.

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“Scout”
original painting 20 x 35 inches
by Sridhar Ramasami

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “No artist is pleased. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” (Martha Graham)

Esoterica: Another type of dissatisfaction is what I call “professional posturing.” This is where an artist openly degrades his own work and points out its shortcomings. Some demo-doers are particularly fond of this ploy. In many cases it’s a self-fooling system in an effort to understate and over-prove, and superior work can be the result. It may also be an unabashed fishing trip for compliments. This ego-challenged con artist begs to hear, “No, no, Michelangelo, it is really quite wonderful, and so are you.”

Sridhar Ramasami

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“Children diving”
original painting
35 x 24 inches

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“Woman applying lipstick”
original painting
31 x 31 inches

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“3 Thinking
original painting
35 x 31 inches

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“Women Praying in Temple”
original painting
35 x 24 inches

Love the work and the journey
by Rick McClung, Atlanta, GA, USA

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“Silent Night”
original painting
by Rick McClung

When I was a young painter, I expressed the same to my master that the artist told you… I am not satisfied with my painting.” He told me, “If you ever do a work that you are 100% satisfied with, you may not continue to progress as an artist.” Seeking to improve constantly and exploring new subject matter with excitement should be the carrot we chase. The built-in wonderment should drive all of us until the brush falls from our fingers. Love the work and the journey.



There are 2 comments for Love the work and the journey by Rick McClung

From: SsjPurvis — Oct 26, 2010

I still love this painting Rick. Such mood…..I remember standing at the gallery and seeing that scene every time I was there.

From: Anonymous — Oct 29, 2010

This painting is so evocative and moodful. I love it. It echoes with loneliness and hope at the same time.

No shame needed
by Linda Blondheim, Gainesville, FL, USA

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“Early Fall Oaks and Palms”
acrylic 30 x 30 inches
by Linda Blondheim

A certain amount of dissatisfaction is healthy for an artist for motivation to improve. It keeps me on my toes, striving and studying for incremental success. It becomes a problem when it is paralyzing for an artist, such as a beginner or advanced beginner. Often they are so unhappy that they have lost the joy of painting and spend most of their time wringing their hands with frustration rather than growing and enjoying the actual painting experience. Then there are the painters who bemoan their former works as inferior and suffer embarrassment because someone proudly displays the painting in their home, done 10 years ago. I have always felt that I should celebrate the different stages of my career. At whatever level of skill I possessed, it was the very best I was capable of at the time, so I feel no shame.



There are 2 comments for No shame needed by Linda Blondheim

From: Suzanne du Plooy — Oct 26, 2010

Linda, love your beautiful painting and your positive attitude.

From: Eileen Spencer — Oct 29, 2010

It is so important to realize that there is no such thing as perfection – just beauty. If a work of art speaks -even to part of you- then it is worthwhile. Is it our ego that gets too involved with the process and really spoils it?

What’s a ‘fine artist’?
by Doug Hoppes

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“Standout”
oil painting 9 x 12 inches
by Doug Hoppes

I’ve only been painting for about 4 years and oils in the last two years, so I’m pretty new to this. I took some classes at a local university and have been studying (once a week) for the last year with an artist who studied with Frank Mason. My instructor, Karen Winslow (Cambridge, VT) is teaching me quite a bit. I’m definitely improving.

I’ve run into situations where I talk to other artists and they say that they are “fine” artists. I mention that I’m an oil painter and they start talking about getting gallery representation. I mention that I sell a lot of my work out of my office or at craft shows. Some comment generally comes up to the equivalent of “Oh, you’re just a craft show artist… I’m a fine artist.” Then comes the comment that your paintings are “nice decorations.”

So, what is a fine artist? Do I have to have gallery representation and go to some prestigious art school to be considered a fine artist? Personally, I like my work and I like the fact that I can sell my paintings and prints. I know that I have a long way to go and a lot to learn. However, would it be reasonable to market myself as an oil painter or a fine artist?



There are 8 comments for What’s a ‘fine artist’? by Doug Hoppes

From: Mishcka — Oct 25, 2010

Really a beautiful painting. I’d like to hear Robert answer your questions. I don’t know the answers. There is so much insecurity and pretense in this field – we all want to think we’re great artists. Yours is an honest and clear perspective. Just keep painting and don’t get drawn into another’s judgments.

From: TJ Miles — Oct 26, 2010

Hi Doug

Mishcka is right. Hear the comments of others but listen to yourself. The reality of being any sort of fine artist, professional or otherwise is, if it’s ‘fine’ for me, it’s ‘fine’ for you. Don’t apologise and don’t justify your work to anyone – except yourself…. If they like it, they will buy.

From: Faith — Oct 26, 2010

I’m a musician and an opera singer and the same phenomenon exists there. Singers are deemed to be musically ignorant and thus treated with distain by “musicians”. A singer does not need to be musical….??? Oh really? What is musicianship? Reading notes or expressing what’s in them? I’ve heard people claiming to be musicians trying to sing, but they had no inner voice, let alone an outer one! Among “musicians” I always say I’m a musician first and a singer second to avoid disdainful comments.

I think we have a parallel here. “Fine artist” is only a label. It says nothing about anything, really. Every painter is a performer and thus an artisan (I think that’s what painters are trying to say they are not if they are “fine artists”).

So Next time someone lords it over you, just ask them if they can also paint.

I hate labels and especially the one with “artist” written on it.

From: Anonymous — Oct 26, 2010

This is hilarious! A ‘fine artist’ is one who has the official blessing of the Art Establishment priests, or more likely one who longs for said blessing. Next time you encounter such a creature, try not to get any angst on your smock while your hold their hand and offer advice on how to actually sell a painting.

From: Rosie Copper — Oct 26, 2010

Well, I’m a beginner myself – first year (part-time) with TLC in Wellington NZ.. But your painting – it hits me where I live, I love it. You will find the same kind of snobbery in many fields (music and equestrian for me too), but when it comes down to it, I wouldn’t give a rats arse for the comments from people who claim to be something special. I rather would observe from people who have nothing to prove. Keep loving what you do :)

From: Doug Hoppes — Oct 27, 2010

Thanks all! Yeah, I’m pretty happy with the way that I paint and the way that I’m improving. I remember doing a craft show and the woman next to me was a schooled fine-artist. She made the standard critical comments on one of my other paintings (too flat, no depth, etc)… So, I was feeling bad, but things turned around about 1/2 hour later. A young girl (around 10 years old) saw that same painting and said “Wicked!”. Her and her mom bought a print of it. The girl couldn’t stop looking at the painting. For me, that says it all. She loved the concept and the way that it was done. That was so much more important than what a Fine Artist says.

From: Ruth — Oct 29, 2010

This is so interesting. While attending the University of Manitoba fine arts program I was often told (with negative undertones, “you could sell this”. It seemed like a no no to have a painting that was actually able to be sold. I paint for the love of it.

From: Ruth — Oct 29, 2010

This is so interesting. While attending the University of Manitoba fine arts program I was often told (with negative undertones, “you could sell this”. It seemed like a no no to have a painting that was actually able to be sold. I paint for the love of it.

Mired in the past
by Laurel McBrine, Toronto, ON, Canada

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“Bugaboo #2”
oil painting by Laurel McBrine

I just spent quite awhile puzzling over which category describes my state of chronic dissatisfaction with my work. I think it depends on the genre for me. I can’t say I am ever completely satisfied and then the piece is still in my possession and in sight I am always at risk of going back in. Sometimes you just have to move on to the next thing rather than getting mired in the past.



There is 1 comment for Mired in the past by Laurel McBrine

From: Jackie Ivey-Weaver — Oct 26, 2010

I love your painting “Bugaboo # 2”

The reasoning goes like this : #1-It seems like an overcast day: I love a painting that expresses a mood. #2 Your space in the distance is pleasing, ( The mountain in background).

I believe that an Artist who falls in love with every work that he/she does is going backwards and not improving. We need that little bit of insecurity to keep working and learning and growing.

Locked in the same old manner
by Louise Francke, NC, USA

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“Mischievous Petite Harlequin”
original painting
by Louise Francke

There are days when I wish I could create art which is more abstract with a punch full of color and dynamics! My mind and hands seem to be locked in the same old manner of doing things and can’t break the chains or is it more the psychological fear of trying and not being able to succeed? The only place where I see a glimmer of something different is in printmaking where the unexpected can rise to the surface.



There is 1 comment for Locked in the same old manner by Louise Francke

From: Anonymous — Oct 26, 2010

Buy a big stack of paper and just start PLAYING with color and shapes. Surprising things occur.

Four stages of competence
by Bobbo Goldberg, Orlando, FL, USA

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“Matched Set of Trunks”
original painting
by Bobbo Goldberg

Someone hit upon the idea of four stages of competence: Unconscious incompetence (the happy amateur), Conscious incompetence (ah — now we’re developing standards we can’t possibly live up to at this stage but we have eyes to see), Conscious competence (we’re good, we have control of the medium, we’re open to growth), which inevitably leads to a higher view and becomes, briefly, Unconscious competence, AKA virtuosity or “natural gifts.” Of course, this often leads to conscious incompetence, but at a new level, something new to strive for.

And it must be said, there is also such a thing as teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing that has nothing to do with growth. In a different art form, Helen Hayes told her acting students: “Until you’ve been acting for 20 years, don’t judge your performance. Do your work, go home, and don’t agonize.” Agonizing becomes a misplaced form of self-contempt that settles on the work. There is no law against enjoying the hell out of what you do! One remedy I have is inviting students critiquing their work, or each other’s, to be as specific as possible. It helps to focus on the work, not the personality of the observer, points to areas of improvement for all to hear and apply if necessary, and is a great antidote to agonizing (which is, in the end, useless self-indulgence and drama). I’ve known many survivors of academia who could never appreciate their (often wonderful) work, having been victimized by overbearing professors of one sort or another. I don’t think this leads to growth, because the laughter is gone.

Finally, I must take exception, Robert, to your comment that “being really satisfied with work is mainly the province of amateurs.” Satisfied with a particular work is not the same as complacency or habituation. If we’re not loving what comes through/from us, why not do something else?



There are 7 comments for Four stages of competence by Bobbo Goldberg

From: Bobbo Goldberg — Oct 25, 2010

Just for the record, this is a digital photopainting, a hybrid of photography and digital painting. The elephants, Mary and Maude, resided at the Central Florida Zoo until Mary’s death this past year. Now Maude is alone and there is much discussion on what would be best for her. Elephants aren’t designed to live in solitude, away from their own kind. My hope is that this gentle lady finds her way to a sanctuary where she’ll have room to move around and friends like Mary once more. — Bobbo

From: Jan — Oct 26, 2010

There’s a wonderful elephant sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee. http://www.elephants.com/

From: anonymous — Oct 26, 2010

“…agonizing (which is, in the end, useless self-indulgence and drama)…”

I don’t think so.

From: Dayle Ann Stratton — Oct 26, 2010

I agree with Bobbo about agonizing: Recognizing problems and needs for growth, and acting on them is a far cry from the kind of sabotage that agonizing can cause. A young man I like a great deal was told by his professors at art school that he was fit “only to do illustration” because of his style. Yet his style strikes me as refreshing stripped down representation in which he captures beautifully the essence of his subject. Post-graduation, he agonizes over it — he is not interested in strictly illustration (Though illustration itself can be good art), but in creating art. I think though, that he is moving past that. The vehicle seems to be facilitating others who could care a fig about putting styles in rigid categories. Ah, now comes the play and the solution to agony.

From: Anonymous — Oct 26, 2010

@Dayle – It’s so true. I know a flute player who’s a survivor of the academic music program at a prestigious university. She’s an amazing player, doing 32nd note runs with impressive fluidity. Yet her playing is never good enough to please her. I see it as a kind of artistic PTSD. Not sure she’ll ever recover the joy that brought her to her instrument in the first place. That’s agonizing.

@Anonymous: You din’t think so. Fine. May I ask why not? Can you elaborate on what you do think about this?

From: anonymous — Oct 28, 2010

Lately I agonize about visits to the doctor and there is absolutely nothing self indulging about that. I wish for serenity when everything goes wrong.

From: Anonymous — Oct 28, 2010

Ah, thanks for the clarification, Anon. Anxiety could be considered a form of agonizing, but it’s not what I thought we were addressing here. Being worried about something to come (“Worrying in advance, my friend Donna calls it) isn’t the same thing as getting hung up… especially as a regular practice… on one’s work not being good enough. My point was certainly not that there’s nothing to be legitimately concerned about. Rather, it was that going over and over what’s done and gone, without productive learning, is what’s pointless. Worse, it makes it harder to experiment, to be willing to screw up, to take a chance to break new ground. There’s a difference between being your own best critic and your own worst critic. Big difference.Again, thanks for the reply.

Choice of direction
by Paul deMarrais, TN, USA

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“Bloom on Cherokee Lake”
pastel by Paul deMarrais

No artist is ever satisfied. You learn to live with this fact especially as a professional. It is important to be satisfied with the style and direction and school of painting that you are working in. If you are doing portraits and dislike people or are doing landscapes when you dislike the outdoors, chances are there will be lots of frustration and negativity. I think many amateur painters struggle to find a direction that really suits them. As a result they complete much tired, half hearted work and stunt their chances for improvement. Many of these folks look tired when painting as the inherent negativity of their indecision weighs them down. I think it also important to have artist heroes to look up to whose work just thrills you to the core. These images will inspire you and also give you some guideline of excellence. This artist seems very thoughtful. His dissatisfaction may also relate to being isolated or being unable to get really competent feedback on his work. Artists need barometers in which to gauge our progress. There really are many pitfalls to snare us just as in non artistic life. We need to build inner strength to balance these exterior forces bent on our destruction. Most important is that we don’t fuel the fires of negativity from within our own minds. Cheer yourself on and be your own best friend. It’s only a painting!

The art of moving on
by oliver, TX, USA

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“SV17”
digital photograph
by oliver

A portfolio, phase or period often has a beginning middle and end. It’s harder even impossible sometimes to throw away a body of work, but it is possible to move on. Think of Picasso’s various periods. I wonder what he thought about his work as he moved from one period to the next. I think both the Journeyman and the workman have another potential problem, the first one was great, the second one pretty good it extended the concept a little or a lot, the third one brought some new ideas in etc until you hit the peak of the phase and then you exhaust the phase. There isn’t anything wrong with the work other than it showed growth, a peak, an exploration to the end and then time to move on or if you did more it would become repetitive. You see this a lot at street fairs or with artists who have a flush of success and gallery owners saying send me more like this — the artist stops growing. But maybe the artist is satisfied but perhaps shouldn’t be — or comes they eventually come down with a very bad case of journeyman’s or workman’s.

People who require words
by Trish Booth, Cordova, NM, USA

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“Barcelona”
oil painting 40 x 28 inches
by Trish Booth

What do you think about artist’s statements and explaining work? I have had the privilege to be in a few high profile shows but they always ask me questions I am loathe to answer. I despise having to answer what I consider to be mostly dumb questions. What do I intend with my work? Well, I don’t know, I see a composition, I take it back to my studio, I do some work then we see the result. Things don’t turn from visions into words. All sorts of subconscious and intuitive things come into play whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not. How does one resolve this “artist statement” thing? I make visual works and don’t really want to write about them. It’s a bunch of nonsense. How do we get that across — to people who require words? How do we get them to LOOK and to FEEL rather than to read and compute?

(RG note) Thanks, Trish. There is a persistent myth among the overly educated and the public at large that all artists are tortured and in the business of packing meaning into their work. Thus the widespread need for explanation and prior disclosure that gives employment to critics and keeps the presses humming. Throw them a bone but don’t waste your time by giving them the whole carcass.



There are 6 comments for People who require words by Trish Booth

From: Rick Rogers — Oct 25, 2010

Instead of complaining about this, artists should embrace it. People ask these questions because they want to know more about you and your work. It isn’t hard to tell them something about yourself. And it doesn’t have to be a manifesto or worse, pretensious drivel. Who knows, they might become interested enough in your work to buy the painting that they already looked at and were moved by… ;)

From: j — Oct 26, 2010

Dear Robert- Please- please- please write a whole letter about ‘pretentious drivel!’ Please!!!

Cause it’s makin’ me laugh!

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Oct 26, 2010

Ooops- I forgot to click on my own stupid name!

Trish- Many people need words- I myself love words- words do in fact have value.

Yes- we feelers all want people to appreciate and experience the work directly at a feeling level. But this does not discount the meaning words can get across-

However- if you can’t explain both your work and your process- there’s some pretty big stuff there too. Do you actually not know what it is you’re doing?

Rick Rogers is right!

Your painting is very cool. I can feel it. I still like the words! Because words work for me.

From: Anonymous — Oct 26, 2010

“However- if you can’t explain both your work and your process- there’s some pretty big stuff there too. Do you actually not know what it is you’re doing?”

A friend of mine is a well-regarded counselor. We were in a discussion and she mentioned something she called “ego-wrapping.” “What’s that?” I asked in all innocence. Her theory (which I’ve never seen anywhere else even with Google’s help) is that we should be able to explain anything of importance to another human being. I told her I thought that was preposterous, that many deep experiences lay beyond rational analysis or verbal communication. I asked her if music ever made her cry. Yes, she said. OK, ego-wrap it, says I. She answered, “Because it’s like a wail.” She could explain no further. Not everyone thinks or experiences life verbally. Not ever aim can be explained or even understood. I’ve been attracted to the haunting voice of the theremin, but could never explain why. It’s quite possible to know what you’re doing, yet not be able (perhaps yet) to share it conceptually in words.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Oct 27, 2010

Dear Anonymous-

What are all you people who keep signing your not/name ‘anonymous’ doing- really? What are you afraid of? That you might be so famous that you’ll be seen in here as somehow something less for your words- if we know who you are?

I want people to know who I am- even if they despise me. Even more so- in fact. I want them to know I exist and just what they are up against- should they try to discount me.

We all live in a very words-based culture. Maybe so- that every experience can’t (YET) be explained in words- EASILY- but forcing yourself to create ARTIST’S STATEMENTS puts you in the position of having to learn more about your own self in the process of coming up with the words.

We are so arrogant- those of us who refuse to explain ourselves to folks who are really just trying to gain a deeper understanding themselves of why we do what we do. To discount them by being unwilling to explain ourselves does ALL artists a disservice.

We should be able to explain- to some degree- what we are doing.

The deeper we get into the almost unexplainable facets of creation and existence- the more important it becomes.

You might say that even in THE SILENCE was THE WORD.

From: Bobbo Goldberg — Oct 28, 2010

True enough, and there’s another side. I think of some of my work as projective. I want the viewer to decide what, if anything, it’s about. The more information I give, the more I interfere with that aim. Also – as an artist who works digitally most of the time, I’ve found that too much explanation shifts focus from meaning to technique, killing in the process whatever magic there may be. I love to talk and to listen (could you tell?) but there are times when the silence is better of containing the word.

Art is exploration
by Peter Brown, Oakland, CA, USA

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“Vermeer Meets Escher”
collage by Peter Brown

I am not sure that Sridhar should ever hope to be “satisfied” with his painting. In fifty years of painting with oil, I have been satisfied with a piece of my own work only a few times. In these few moments, and after a brief time of self-congratulation, I had to ask myself what to do next? What I often did was simply change my whole game. I would put my paints away for a few weeks, or even months, and then come back to try a completely new approach.

My advice to an artist facing the “Amateur epiphany” would be to change your approach. Are you using thick paint? Go lean. Grow! I would give that same advice to all artists with “Journeymen jading,” or any of their other problems. There are many dialects in the language of art. The worst thing that can happen to an artist is to become comfortable, and satisfied.

Last year, I took up collage, and I made a bunch. All the gears were turning. Lately, I am working with acrylics rather than oil. Art is not a product, it is an exploration. Art is a game of solitaire that we human beings made up 35,000 years ago. This game has no rules. You win when you keep growing, and changing. It is a sad artist that thinks he or she must make the same painting in the same way over and over again. That is a job!



There are 2 comments for Art is exploration by Peter Brown

From: Carl Kocich — Oct 26, 2010

I’ve always wanted to get into collage but wondered about the legal ramifications of copyright issues.

Could Robert or someone with legal background please comment on this?

From: Reggie Sabiston — Oct 26, 2010

I would find this interesting as well.

Use of glazes in videos
by Francis X. Rosica, Portland, OR, USA

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“Fareless Squares”
mixed media
by Francis X. Rosica

I’ve seen your short videos about oil painting and have enjoyed them. On several of the videos I’ve seen you put a glaze of blue over the half worked image. What type of medium do you use and why doesn’t it smear your oil painting? How much time do you have to wait until that works? When do you know when to do this?

(RG note) Thanks, Francis. In all cases those videos
are acrylics, not oils. I often put on a glaze at about the halfway point to pull the colours more together and give it an overall mother colour. Phthalo blue is a handy one, and, in my case, the most frequently used these days. The underlying painting has to be dry. I use about fifty/fifty water and acrylic medium gloss and a squeeze or two of the desired colour or colours. As you can see I put it all in a little bottle I can shake up. How do you know when to do it? It’s more or less intuition, but you can put on a lot and keep cleaning it off with the rag while it is still wet until it begins to look about right.



There are 2 comments for Use of glazes in videos by Francis X. Rosica

From: Pia Taylor — Oct 26, 2010

I would like to know why you use blue — would other colours work or would they alter the painting too much? Thanks

From: Ken Flitton — Oct 27, 2010

To answer Pia, I find that with oils, a wash with Terre Verte mixed with white and liquefied with a bit of turps or linseed or walnut oil is a good “vaguarizer” wiped or brushed on after underpaint is dry. It does the job of understating so that colours on top aren’t quite so garish.

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World of Art Featured artist Bonnie Mincu, New York, NY, USA
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French River Town

oil painting
by Bonnie Mincu, New York, NY, USA

You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Norman Ridenour of Prague, Czech Republic, who wrote, “The great jazzman, Miles Davis was extensively interviewed on NPR shortly before he died. The interviewer said something like, ‘Miles, you have literally played thousands of gigs. You must have often come away at the end of the evening feeling very good about your music.’ Looooong pause and Miles’ gravelly voice, ‘Yes, twice.’ ”

And also George Kubac of Edmonton, AB, Canada, who wrote, “If one gets satisfied the result is stagnation.”

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Never satisfied

 

 

From: Theresa Bayer — Oct 22, 2010

Dissatisfaction with your art doesn’t mean that you have to suffer. It can be seen as a quest or adventure. It can actually be inspiring: always more to learn, always finding a way to kick things up a notch.

From: Micmac — Oct 22, 2010

“Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man.” I always find comfort in a little proverb here and there.

Something’s missing? My suggestion is to pull your head out of the sand box.

Possibly stop trying to direct the show and you may become open to the clarity and vision you seem to be asking for. I am reminded of Edvard Munch who later in his life wrote, “I inherited two of mankind’s most frightful enemies—the heritage of consumption and insanity.” What ever you’ve got going on inside, make it work for you.

From: Art — Oct 22, 2010

I have been taken round the world and back again.

I am no body in a some body.

I have displayed my feathers and closed down my lot.

To feel pain and sorrow and work through it is at times like a mad man entering the eclipse of the sun; I am lost beyond shadow and doubt.

From: yos — Oct 22, 2010

a painting may be perfect while the person painting is not. consider imperfect can be wanting more of your work or wanting to add but unable to improve. many times the sense of incomplete when it arises is in fact where you need to leave your work and assume its done. a suggestion; try to do one thing perfect, start with one line or with one brush stroke. last, imperfect is the absolute of human endeavor. namaste

From: Thierry Talon — Oct 22, 2010

A painting does not need to be perfect; in fact most are not. We don’t even know what perfection in painting is other than an opinion.

From: Doug Hoppes — Oct 22, 2010

I’ve been reading your letters for quite a while and I have my own

question: What is a fine artist? The reason that I ask was due to an interaction this week. I’ve only been painting for about 4 years and oils in the last two years, so I’m pretty new to this. I took some classes at a local university and have been studying (once a week) for the last year with an artist who studied with Frank Mason. My instructor, Karen Winslow (Cambridge, VT) is teaching me quite a bit.

I’m definitely improving.

So, I’ve run into situations where I talk to other artists and they say that they are “fine” artists. I mention that I’m an oil painter and they start talking about getting gallery representation. I mention that I sell a lot of my work out of my office or at craft shows. Some comment generally comes up to the equivalent of “Oh, you’re JUST a craft show artist… I’m a fine artist”. Then comes the comment that your paintings are “nice decorations”.

So, what is a fine artist? Do I have to have gallery representation and go to some prestigious art school to be considered a fine artist? Personally, I like my work and I like the fact that I can sell my paintings and prints. I know that I have a long way to go and a lot to learn. However, would it be reasonable to market myself as an oil painter or a fine artist?

http://www.doughoppesstudio.com

From: Lawrence Klepper — Oct 22, 2010

Renoir on his deathbed was reported to have said, “I think I’m finally beginning to get it.” Or something to that effect.

From: D. Dean Rhoads — Oct 22, 2010

How do you know when a painting is done?

The painting tells you.

Keep painting until it is done to your standard.

Quality control is what an artist establishes for his on work, Determining that standard and maintaining it consistently is what is the basis for own image as an artist.

From: Brad Greek — Oct 22, 2010

Very interesting groups, I imagine that these may also be stages in an artists career as well. Meaning that as we grow we pass through some of these characteristics. I believe I’m more in the final group of looking for praise as I point out my own works failures.

Really though, I think that most of the time, we artists put way too much drama into how we feel about our own work. Is that the right color?, Is that composition correct?, Am I painting in the right light?, Is that the subject that people will like?, What are people going to think of this?, Is it up to my standard, because I am great!, etc…… I’ve found that the least I like my own work, the better it sells LOL. Is it that I can’t tell what is good or bad or even if my own taste in art sucks LOL. I let the painting take it’s own path and I’ll through it out there and see what happens. I may like it, I may hate it, it may sell right away, it may not, it is what it is, it’s a Greek. And that is all it will ever be.

From: Susan Easton Burns — Oct 22, 2010

I climb the stairs to my studio every day never knowing how I will see things. Sometimes I am satisfied with yesterdays work and sometimes not.

It takes a lot of focus though to decide what works and what doesn’t. It also takes time and space for me. I have to separate myself from the painting or act as if someone else painted it. Then I can be fair in my criticism. The universe has a dual nature. For every problem, there is a solution within the problem. If I recognize a problem, there is my gift to myself. I go there. That is my gift to the world as well. Doing my best is sometimes just showing up, rain or shine, and trudging through the muck.

From: Laurel — Oct 22, 2010

I just spent quite awhile puzzling over which category describes my state of chronic dissatisfaction with my work. I think it depends on the genre for me. I can’t say I am ever completely satisfied and when the piece is still in my possession and in sight I am always at risk of going back in. Sometimes you just have to move on to the next thing rather than getting mired in the past.

From: Louise Francke — Oct 22, 2010

There are days when I wish I could create art which is more abstract with a punch full of color and dynamics! My mind and hands seem to be locked in the same old manner of doing things and can’t break the chains or is it more the psychological fear to trying and not being able to succeed? The only place where I see a glimmer of something different is in printmaking where the unexpected can rise to the surface.

From: Claudia Roulier — Oct 22, 2010

I have what I like to call “my art sucks” days. I had another friend in response to that by saying just as long as it isn’t a huge pile of c**p you should be okay.

From: Joela — Oct 22, 2010

I studied privately with a teacher in Venice Calif for 15 yrs. At the end of every painting I would say to him “once again I’m three strokes short of a Vermeer!” He would assure me that Vermeer said something similar at the end of each one of his paintings!

From: Edna V. Hildebrandt — Oct 22, 2010

There are times as artists we feel that way. Who does not like to have great work that perhaps may persuade the viewer to acquire because of the beauty he or she sees in it? I think that it is alright to self critique ones work to improve it and to learn when to stop. But if we are never satisfied with what we have done in the end we are creating a self fulfilling prophesy that will lead to more dissatisfaction. I create because I have an inspiration and I admire beauty. I can be proud to posses the talent to express my inspiration and to interpret my perception of the world around me. I also hope that other people can share the vision I see that is expressed in my art. As I can see Mr. Sridhar’s painting are unique and quite detailed.

From: Nader Khaghani nader_khaghani@yahoo.com — Oct 23, 2010

All you need to do is mentally mix the color and say go. Presto it’s done.

I am, like always, dreaming of color. Talking about color kindly inform me what is your understanding of this word “dissonance” in color, and I must warn you, I need more than violet is complementary to yellow, hence in dissonance to blue. What yellow (cool warm) which violet so fourth and so on. Let’s get some impressive color theory going in here. Maybe the blue is not a good choice. Goethe considers yellow and blue complementary. I am open to further discussion.

Thanks a million and a pleasure to write to a brother in arms (paint) Robert.

Nader from Gilroy! the Garlic capital of the world in Northern California

From: Ellen Koehn — Oct 23, 2010

I love the texture and color of these paintings. I believe dissatisfaction is a sign to push on, stretch, grow. I always seem to have that little devil sitting on my shoulder saying “not good enough”.

While I acknowledge that is certainly a possibility, I can tell it to “shut up for a minute” and let me enjoy this effort, until I move on to the next. I might add that these painting are the first to move me to write a comment; I’ve had such a positive response to them!

From: Dorenda — Oct 23, 2010

Is a painting ever REALLY done? Or is it a matter of knowing when to stop the current “lesson” and move on to the next? Maybe being unsatisfied is a merely a stepping-stone to improvement in your work. I think total satisfaction in one’s work might lead to stagnation and boredom.

From: Janice Robinson-DelaneyT — Oct 24, 2010

I have viewed too many artists since I signed in on FB, and though it hasn’t affected my business aspirations it surely has challenged my respect for my own work (occasionally). Something derogatory I read about artists and their usual financial status really flavored this mood, as well as my current state of not being able to display what I would consider my best work…There is so much to be said about pre-designed computer apps for artistic work, two of them are functional but encompassing and/or restrictive. Anyway I’m accepting my current boundaries and hoping to unleash the hounds sometime in the near future, that phrase is a little over the top, but you may consider it a self-help thing. As usual you are in touch with the woes of the artist!

From: Paul Poirier — Oct 24, 2010

It’s so much better to work in a vacuum without posturing, professional or otherwise, realizing the kind of joyous struggle you mention, and to keep one’s own counsel. Yes, self criticism and doubt are part of the growth equation.

From: Rick Rotante — Oct 24, 2010

“…I never seem to be satisfied with what I produce.” And this is a bad thing?? Imagine, tomorrow, you create your masterpiece..What’s left? Keep working and be happy you can get up again and again and find new things to work on. Be satisfied you did your best today.

From: Kamoos Obomor — Oct 24, 2010

David Leffel suggests to make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve before you start. Then it’s not hard to know when you are finished. You subsequently have an opportunity to be satisfied. Thierry got it right: there is no perfection in painting.

From: Thierry Talon — Oct 24, 2010
From: Diane Hall — Oct 25, 2010
From: Midge Smith — Oct 25, 2010

I’m satisfied if I drag myself home after a day in the field, regardless of the quality of the work. On the whole, I’d prefer decent work, but satisfaction is having another day to be able to go at it hammer and tongs. Perhaps this is an elder person’s perspective and seems strange on a person with fewer years. Then again, perhaps it’s the result of my meditation practice, or having had threatening health issues. I’m glad I only have to wrestle with the problems while I’m at the canvas, not before, and not after.

From: Brad Greek — Oct 26, 2010

I see I can’t spell either LOL ….through=throw

From: Mark Rue — Oct 27, 2010

For me satisfaction in painting comes in that last brush stroke when I intuitively know it’s done. I look at it for a while and revel in it. Then I can’t wait to show it to friends and family. But then a month (or a year) later I look at the work with fresh eyes and wonder what the heck I was thinking. I may even rework it. I think it was Picasso who said ‘A painting is never done – they just stop at interesting places’, or something to that affect. Sure painting’s frustrating. But it can be very rewarding, too, right? … that’s why we keep painting. Artistic expression is a process. We will do some duds – for sure. I think that if you’re not doing some “bad” work occasionally you’re not stretching, not experimenting, not learning. Bottom line – what if every piece you painted turned out exactly like you had envisioned it – perfect. How boring would that be?

From: John Burk — Oct 28, 2010

I wonder at artists who create but are unhappy in their work. I should think the act of creating artwork is, or ought to be rewarding in its own right, regardless of its qualities. Commercial success tells us something about those qualities and how we’re doing with them, but it isn’t the only criteria by a long stretch as to whether we should do it or not. It either brings us joy or it doesn’t. Maybe like Algebra. And as for those qualities, if there is movement and improvement in what you are doing, more the reason for joy. My heart goes out to those who are “never satisfied”.

 

 

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