Make Shift Studio – Santa Cruz California
I come to Santa Cruz for the month of January each year. Sometimes longer. This year I am thinking I will take the month off from painting. Regroup, think about what is working and what isn’t. I will focus on my business plan for the year ahead, add some things to my website and get organized.
Over Christmas week I met with an art consultant in Denver. PS Art Consultancy provides art for medical centers. She needs samples, so, while in Santa Cruz, I get to painting a couple of small pieces. I need to work with more texture and a 3-dimensional feel for a clinic working with the blind. A touchy-feely approach. What do people feel when they literally touch my work. In order to paint these small works, I need to get some real texture on there, so I start researching cold wax medium.
Samples done. Now I meet with my Santa Cruz Gallery, Mcnaught Fine Art.
The owner tells me he needs some 30x40 inch sunflower paintings.
He wants to take them to the Palm Springs Modernism Show and needs at least one by February 9th.
That is cutting it close. But how can I say no.
The Palm Springs Modern Show is a BIG deal. Lots of texture and thick brushwork.
I could paint just one, but I like to work on at least two at the same time. It takes the pressure off. I do the same for commissions. That way I know the person I am painting for, will like one of them better than the other or like both. My art studio, here in Santa Cruz, is my partners fancy living room full of antique rugs and furniture. Bless his heart. I pull out a large roll of heavy-duty plastic and cover everything within reach of my easel. Griffin, the Irish wolfhound, and his bed take up the rest of the floor space.
Glad, we bought that easel at the flea market last year.
I need supplies. I did bring some paints because I thought,“you never know, I may miss painting so much I will want to paint.”I can work on some small works while I am here.Which did happen. I did miss it too much.
I go to the local art supply store, get a high quality 30x40 canvas and a big Connoisseur bright paint brush in a size 16. I want a 20 also but wow. A lot of money. Someone said to me, “those paintings must cost a fortune,’ with the cost of paint and brushes and canvas. Especially when painting thick, with lots of texture. My reply is always the same, “an artist must paint as if a millionaire.” “Don’t spare the paint AND use the highest quality of materials.” A bold, colorful, textured, work of art, full of luscious brushstrokes in oil paint, cannot be created if your pallet has nothing but bird dropping size puddles of paint along the edges. Won’t happen.
Shopping done and in my little studio of sorts, I have one store bought canvas and one abstract painting on a canvas that I made. Linen stretched.
I like painting over other paintings. It gives me something to start with.
I get to it. Got my reference materials from other sunflower paintings that I have done and photos of sunflowers I have grown.
And I start working. I block in the colors and get my composition down. The first couple of hours go the fastest.
It is like framing in a house. You think, wow this is going fast it will be done in no time, forgetting that it is the finishing that takes the time.
The cabinets, flooring and trim. The quality of finish, line and paint quality.
How long does a painting take? Oh . . . about 50 years
Someone comes in and says, “how long does it take you to paint a painting?” She is wondering, because she bought one from me last year and is thinking about how much she paid. My response is, “It took me about fifty years.” The fifty years of practice and the thousands of paintings brought me to this painting. There may be 10 or 20 hours that go into a painting but how about the 10,000 hours of practicing?
Once the composition is laid and the big pieces are blocked in, I stand back and look. I am happy with the colors and the darks and lights. The shapes are done. Rough but done. Good shapes that interlock and overlap. Then I look at the patterns and the movement. The things that tie it all together. The closer to done I get the slower I go. Lay in some paint then stand back and ask the painting what it wants. All of this takes several days.
At some point the painting seems to talk back.
When the piece changes
the energy in the room,
I know I am getting close to done.