I have always painted in series. When one subject or idea strikes the proverbial gold, I keep digging. But not in some organized, focused way. I flit from this to that. Some series have lasted years, others hours, and I tend not to focus on just one series at a time.
It is one thing that frustrates me the most about myself. One of my deepest art insecurities is people walking into the gallery and not realizing all the work is by the same artist. But when I expressed that sentiment to my friend Carol at our recent artist book club meeting, she looked at me with shock. It is what I love most, she exclaimed. Your birds are nice, she said, but it is the figurative work that I really love.
I heard ya, Carol. And I received it. Maybe what I am insecure about is actually my superpower. I’m an explorer of both “old” ideas (because they’ve yet to dry up) and open to new ones. If Walt Whitman said it, maybe so can I– “I am large. I contain multitudes.”
Do I contradict myself?
I’ve always wanted to try to focus exclusively on a theme or subject but my wanting always lacked the discipline to actually do it. People pleaser to my absolute core, I want to be all things to all people, so the thought of excluding certain subjects and digging deep into just one feels scary. As it turns out, I cannot be all things to all people. News to me. So I had a chat with myself about how if I want to try something, I should just try it. Since I plan to paint until the day I die, there’s no harm in investigating. There’s no timeline I’m up against. A series of paintings focused on hummingbirds felt odd and, truth be told, it started off as a repeat iteration of a similar small painting, but then, oh then, I really got into those tiny little shapes and they appeared in themes I’ve previously explored (portrait, abstraction).
Limiting myself to hummingbirds did the opposite. It gave me a diving board, but the pool still felt as vast as ever. I got started faster because I eliminated the “what do I want to paint today” part. I felt certain that one canvas would influence the next, and it did.
I was sitting on my porch this morning drinking coffee and, in the neighbors oak tree, do you know what I spotted? Of course I did. So small, not at a feeder but in its own natural world entirely. I am not sure I would have noticed her without my laser focus this month. And, unconcerned with me entirely, I still like to think she whispered, “well done.”
I know myself and I know that, like that hummingbird, I will likely flit from one project to the next– using brushes, knives, oil, and water. I will paint people and places and things and shapes that represent no objective thing at all. I will use bright, bold colors and a variety of greys. But, for now, I’d like to take on another limited series, and I’m hoping you might have some ideas for me. What subject or theme would you suggest next? Please drop me an idea in the comments!
Written by Denise Hopkins
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