Reflections on Creating an Artistic Body of Work

21 Feb 2012

Inkhead by Patricia Watwood, 2009, oil on canvas, 29 x 16. Dorothy by Patricia Watwood, 2010, oil on canvas, 14 x 14. Anakin Padawan, 2009, oil on canvas, 44 x 28.
Inkhead, 2009,
oil on canvas, 29 x 16.

Dorothy, 2010,
oil on canvas, 14 x 14.

Anakin Padawan, 2009,
oil on canvas, 44 x 28.

I have been blogging this past year about preparing for my exhibit, "Myths and Individuals." Now, it's time for the opening at The Forbes Galleries in New York City. I can't believe the show is here at last. I have been working on paintings, and planning this show for almost three years, so needless to say, I am just a little bit excited that the big moment has arrived. 

I had the "out of town opening" in St. Louis, at the St. Louis University Museum of Art, in the fall. I am including one new figure painting, "Venus Awakes," and a few new drawings to the list of works in the St. Louis show. I will have over 30 oil paintings and 6 drawings on view, from February 17th to June 9th

In reflecting on what I have learned through this journey, there are two takeaways that I want to share with you.

First: "If you build it, they will come." This reflects the principle that in working toward a goal, sometimes you have to build it first, and then the opportunity will fall into place. I have been envisioning my goal of a large show in a New York venue for a long time. Three years ago, that goal seemed elusive, but I began to create the work anyway and trusted that the road would rise up to meet me. When the opportunity came, last year, I was already well underway to having the body of work I needed to have the exhibit at Forbes. In the words of Dorothea Brande, "Act boldly and unseen forces will come to your aid."

Waiting for Supper, 2010 oil on canvas, 18 x 35.
Waiting for Supper, 2010
oil on canvas, 18 x 35.
The second lesson: Consider your artwork as a whole—what are the large themes, the connections, and the persistent vision you are expressing? My work is almost all figurative, but sometimes it is mythological, sometimes there are portraits, and sometimes simple figures. I needed to reflect on the whole group and see what common themes they shared. I had to think back to the very first ideas I had in creating a composition, and consider what the original motivations were. Then I began to see similarities and connections in intent and philosophy between paintings, and see the common threads that had been there all the time.

Oftentimes young artists are given the impression that the artist must start with a vision, the grand theme, and then you find the tools to express your big idea. I've come to another conclusion through my personal journey. The artist excavates the vision out of one's body of work, out of the long process of becoming the artist and creating the work. Like a refiner's fire, the artistic process clarifies the vision, and shapes the artist.

So, take a group of your paintings or drawings, and consider them all together to see the underlying themes in your own work. Make notes of your strongest impressions, or even write a couple sentences about each picture, asking yourself "Why did I make this painting?" and "What am I trying to express?" Even if your notes are more word association than sentences, you will see themes emerge. You could also gather a few trusted artist friends, and do this together. 

Next, you can ask yourself, "Is this what I wanted to do?" And, moving forward with your artwork, you will have more ability to consider how you shape the underlying themes you express in your work.

--Patricia

For more painting instruction from Patricia, check out her latest DVD, Figure Painting: Realistic Skin Tone.

***********************************************

Patricia Watwood: Myths & Individuals

February 17 to June 9, 2012

The Forbes Galleries

60 Fifth Avenue, at 12th St. Manhattan

Free, open to the public
 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Tues-Sat.
Thursdays open to groups by appt.

212-206-5548

************************************************

Patricia Watwood 5-Day Design & Figure Composition Workshop

Want to join me in Northern California? Spend five days in a beautiful north-lit studio, learning how to paint the figure with a live model. Small class = lots of personal attention!

 

 


Featured Product

Figure Painting Realistic Skin Tone with Patricia Watwood DVD

Availability: In Stock
Price: $49.95

DVD

Capture the vibration of rich color and life in natural flesh tones.

More

Related Posts
+ Add a comment

Comments

cjwaterfield wrote
on 21 Feb 2012 1:55 PM

A very insightful article here, lots of tips and inspirational fodder to keep us young artists going.

I myself am a developing artist, and it is often a struggle to not dispose of a piece of artwork or a project simply because it wasn't working how I planned. It's not always a means to an end, in fact the whole artistic process is one learning curve. 'Considering your artwork as a whole' is a great philosophy. Perhaps in a month, a year, or ten years time, those scraps and half-painted canvases could be our new exhibition masterpieces!

Keep up the great writing!

Chloe Waterfield

http://www.canidaeart.com

Journeys into Nature

KatPaints wrote
on 21 Feb 2012 7:28 PM

This is wonderful work Patricia.  You may view your big step as the road rising up to meet you, but you've overlooked the obvious. Your work is excellent, well-executed, consistent, and demonstrates your skill and proficiency.  Yes we can act boldly, but if the work does not stand on it's own merits and reflect quality, no one, no unseen force will come to your aid. Thanks for the lesson - Do it big and do it well. Congratulations on doing both of them exceptionally.

KatPaints wrote
on 21 Feb 2012 7:40 PM

Thank you for your comment about an artist's vision unfolding.

"The artist excavates the vision out of one's body of work, out of the long process of becoming the artist and creating the work. Like a refiner's fire, the artistic process clarifies the vision, and shapes the artist."

I really needed to hear this. I frequently find myself getting stuck before I even start. Your words are very profound.

on 24 Feb 2012 10:12 PM

Great article !! Shows hot hard work and guts can pay off and I especially loved the idea :

So, take a group of your paintings or drawings, and consider them all together to see the underlying themes in your own work. Make notes of your strongest impressions, or even write a couple sentences about each picture, asking yourself "Why did I make this painting?" and "What am I trying to express?" Even if your notes are more word association than sentences, you will see themes emerge. You could also gather a few trusted artist friends, and do this together.  

I often wondering what I am trying to say. Sounds like a good excercise.