Don’t open a shop unless you like to smile.  --  Chinese Proverb

Don’t become an artist unless you like to explore.  --  Kate’s Corollary

DarkLilyAbout three years ago during one of his excellent workshops, Mike Bailey told us that painting in series would take us to new, exciting places in our art. He said that somewhere around painting number 25 of the same basic subject, a shift would occur in the way we think about painting. He was right. I’ve been painting callas for 15 years, now, and you only have to look at “Dark Lily” (calla painting no. 20 at right) to see the truth of that. “A shift” is putting it lightly.

The biggest change is that more of myself is included in each painting. That is, instead of a painting being 90% about a particular subject, callas in this case, 90% of it comes from within. For me, callas are a very personal flower. I don’t know why. With them, though, I can look at feelings, life changes, and relationships with a clarity I can’t achieve any other way. Those feelings do amazing things with my brush.

WeepingLilyANow look at “Weeping Lily” (painting no. 21, left, unfinished). It’s the same three callas, but we’re looking at a very different set of emotions. Right now I’m at a point where I need to decide how to crop the painting before I finish it. As always, there are many possibilities, but my process has changed.

First I turn the photo to black and white, then I try cropping it in as many ways as I can think of. In this case, the two subordinate callas must be included or it simply won’t speak of my emotions. The painting needs all three. Taking that into account, here are some contenders:


Right now I’m leaning toward numbers 1 and 3. Painting 4 has its good points but I don’t like the competing shape in the lower left sweet spot (one of the four places in a painting where a center of interest fits most naturally). Number 2 has too much of a feeling of air; attention flows into the upper background and gives it a happier, summer day feel.

So. How do I decide? First I insert photos 1 and 3 into my word processing program (i.e. Pages or Word), two on a page. I print the document, separate the photos with scissors, then start shading in values so I have two “instant thumbnails”. Compositionally, it turns out that they both work. Now I can ask myself the deciding question: Which one says what I wanted to convey?

In the end, I choose thumbnail 3. It carries the emotional intent I wept.  Check out the finished version on the Experimental page in my Gallery.

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