Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Let's Hear It For Non-Resolutions!

By now, many of you have made a resolution or two.  And if you're like me, maybe you've broken one (or two).  For me, the euphoria that comes from the promise of a new year has worn off.  I'm still having fleeting thoughts that this year could be "the best year yet," but those thoughts keep getting over shadowed by anxiety.

When I started my New Year's resolution list, I immediately thought of all the lofty goals I wanted to achieve.  What shows I wanted to get in, how many sales I wanted to make, even what awards I would aspire to receive (right, like we have some control over that!).  I looked over my list.  Then I started to hyperventilate. 

It seems as a society we are so focused on "fixing" ourselves, rather than to believe in being ourselves!  As artists we aren't immune to the social pressures in which we're exposed.  I can't be the only one who finds spending too much time on social media can become stressful.  Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy for other artists finding success.  I am deeply grateful for the successes I have had in my career thus far and only hope the same for my peers.  Yet, seeing who got into which show, who sold a painting, and who won an award – it's easy to get caught up in what others are doing and start to believe that I need to do all of those things.  Not only is that adding unnecessary stress to my life, but more importantly, it's keeping me from being true to myself as an artist.

So I will ask this question, what if the New Year's non-resolution was to enjoy being ourselves?  An artist's greatest asset may very well be allowing their art to be a mirror of themselves.  You've probably heard the famous Judy Garland quote, "Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else."  I can not think of a better occupation to which this should apply than one in the arts.  Being a first-rate version of yourself should include discovering more about oneself and finding more joy in our daily lives.

I threw away my first resolution list and decided to make a non-resolution list that was fun not forced.  Here's what's on the list (in no particular order):

Prioritize time for daydreaming.
Read more about classic artists and find inspiration in their work.

Make time for warm up exercises.

Experiment with new media and techniques.

Sketch often.
Collect poems that speak to you and imagine them in paint.
Give yourself a plein air challenge when the weather is nice.

Spend time outside observing nature without painting or sketching.  Listen to the sounds, feel the wind and sun, and mentally record colors you see.
It's important to note that I intentionally didn't put anything on this list that made me even the least bit tense.  For example, I could easily have written "Sketch every day," but that felt like it would have been too forced so instead I chose "Sketch often."  That kept the fun not forced rule.  If you love and can't live without sketching every day then including that on your list would be fine.  Fun not forced is the ultimate goal here. 

I'm not suggesting that resolutions are all bad.  And setting goals can certainly be a positive thing.  But 2016 seems like the right time to look inward to find suitable goals, not outward searching for someone else's.  I would be interested to hear if any of you have gone the non-resolution route this year.  What would your 2016 non-resolution list include?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Announcing my Online Mentoring Program for 2016

This program will be limited to 12 students at a time.  
Free book, "Ideas for the Landscape Painter" included.
$250 Per Month /  Click to Sign Up

Hello and welcome to my mentoring program for landscape painters.  I’ve been teaching workshops for over 10 years - both studio and plein air.  During that time I have not only helped other artists learn how to improve their art, but I’ve also learned how to become a more effective teacher.  One of my biggest frustrations of teaching workshops is that after the workshop is over there are no guarantees that I will be able to keep in touch with each student to see how their work has improved and if they need additional help.  Often I see a student again, but perhaps a year has passed.  Some have improved a lot, and some students admit to not working much since the last workshop.  The only way to truly make a noticeable improvement in ones work is by painting on a regular basis.  I would love to teach a class that meets once or twice a week, but I live in a small town in Kansas and many of my workshop students live 2 or more hours away, even from out-of-state.  It’s not reasonable to think that they would travel to my studio each week.

That’s why I have decided to focus my teaching energy toward an online mentoring program this year.  These classes are set up as weekly, in-depth lessons that will make you a better painter by breaking down the process into smaller steps.  Instead of throwing everything at you at once because we only have 3 or 5 days, we focus each week on one aspect - line, values, composition, light, color, brush work, etc.  Yes a certain amount of patience is necessary because we won’t just dive in and paint.  But all of these steps are important.  They are what I believe in and they are what works.  I am not much of a sports enthusiast, but I have become a runner.  I’ve completed several half-marathons and would never dream of showing up at a race having never practiced.  Instead I follow a plan that adds miles to my practices each week until I build up to running 13.1 miles.  Building upon what we’ve learned previously is what routine practice is all about.  Same for musicians, actors, and yes artists!

Other advantages of this online mentoring program is that you can work in your own studio and at your own pace.  There are also no travel expenses.  If you have taken a few workshops, you’ve probably already figured out that the travel expenses are often greater than the workshop itself.

So what can you expect each week?

•   A video demonstration for each lesson that will range from 45 minutes up to 1 1/2 hours
    depending on topic.  The video will explain and demonstrate the lesson’s goals.  These videos
    will be sent to you by email each Tuesday by 6pm CST, and can be downloaded to your
    computer so that you can refer to them when you’re ready.
•   A written explanation of the lesson plan that you can quickly refer to while practicing.
•   A personal critique of your artwork and weekly lesson with suggestions for improvement. 
    Submit each completed lesson on the following Tuesday by email.  The critique will be returned
    by email by Thursday at 9pm CST.
•   A full outline of the course’s lesson plans will be provided at the beginning of the program.  It
    will include lessons on line, composition, value, temperature of color, intensity of color,
    brushwork and edges, creating atmosphere, types of light, and more.  We will also add goal setting 
    later in the program.
•   Each student receives a free copy of my book, "Ideas for the Landscape Painter."

Who can participate in the class?
You can participate in the class if you:
•    Have basic drawing and painting knowledge.  Even beginners can participate in this class as 
     we will go through ideas step-by-step and it’s on an individual basis.
•    Work in oil, pastel, or acrylic media.
•    Can carve out a consistent amount of time during the week for painting.
•    Have an internet connection and computer capable of opening and playing lengthy videos.
•    Have an email program and address to send and receive images for critiquing.
•    Have a digital camera or smart phone with HDR capable of taking a photo at least 2400 pixels
      on the longest side (8 inches wide at 300 dpi).

How do you sign up?
The online mentoring program is paid for on a month to month basis.  The fee is $250.00 per month and includes weekly lessons and critiques.  You may start at the beginning of any month as long as there is room in the program.  All you need to do is send me an email or call indicating you would like to start and I will send you an invoice.  A Paypal invoice will be sent out by the 20th of the month and is due on the 1st of the following month.  You can pay through Paypal or by check.  You can end your mentoring program at any time.

After paying for the first month, I will send you a list of suggested supplies, tips for taking good photographs, and ideas that will help you set up for a successful lesson.

Once you have paid for a month, the videos and lessons can be downloaded to your computer so they will always be available to you.  Each lesson is emailed to you by Tuesday 6pm CST each week.  If you are out of town or can’t get to a computer for a few days, you will still have the lesson and can start it once you are ready.  I know that life happens.  I have weeks where I travel and can’t get as much painting in.  I try to make up for this by spending more time painting in the studio the following week.  Don’t worry, I will work with you to make sure you can stay on track!

This program will be limited to 12 students at a time.
Free book, "Ideas for the Landscape Painter" included.
$250 Per Month / Click to Sign Up