It has come to my attention -- by me, in fact, though I'm sure others may have noticed it -- that I have a tendency to creative laziness! And I don't mean just procrastinating. I mean "not going for the gold star."
I've often told Rick, who diligently practices his classical guitar every night, "I love hearing you play. I just hate listening to practice."
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book "Outliers," speaks of how those who "make it" tend to have about 10,000 hours of prep work, writing and rewriting, painting and repainting, coding and recoding computer software.
I may take my time with a project -- or not -- but then it's done and on to the next one. A new canvas, arrangement, crafty bit. Creative ADD. There was a time in the 1980s during the peak of my knitting period that I was turning out a sweater a week, some reasonably complicated. I can't say all of those were made to gauge, that they all fit or that there weren't a million flaws. Off the needles, on to the next! (But I did use good yarn -- it takes just as much time to knit good yarn as cheap and it lasts much longer and holds up better.)
And yes, I proudly wore every single one of those sweaters. (And I still do, a couple of them.) But most? They were just OK. Not good, not great, not spectacular. Only a few things, like handwarmers and purses, really felt like they were done to the max. And I wonder -- if I saw them now would I feel the same? Probably not.
Now, I'm not saying everything I turn out is junk or that I don't agonize over some things and do them till I get them right. I do. (Rick's book is an example.) I have tons of photos of Harry the Heron because some are better than others -- sometimes because of me, sometimes because of camera or conditions. I can rewrite till I'm crazy.
But I've been a lazy painter.
A week or two ago I was reading Vivian Swift's inspiring blog. She is one of my favorites, partly for her wonderful humor and equally because almost every post includes a painting lesson of sorts, as we paint along with Vivian. (By this I don't mean I get out my paints while she is painting but her readers watch her through photos. Step by step.) Vivian's newest book, Gardens of Awe and Folly, will be released March 1 (my copy is on backorder!), and now she is at work on her next, featuring the gardens at Giverny, one of my favorite spots in the world.
As Vivian was working through a painting she repeatedly said, "That's not it."And did it again. And again. Four times.
And I thought, "Gee, if Vivian Swift has to start over four times, who am I to think I can just finish and go on to the next thing!"
I thought of my friend Kate, whose remarkable "Birdiferous" calendar has only 12 pages, yet she spends countless hours on each one. I realized with more than a bit of shamefaced humiliation, that I can turn out things fast and maybe just fine. But not necessarily perfect. And yes, I still am learning but then, isn't that when practice is most essential?
My realization took me on a journey back through my photos where, like Vivian, I found one of Giverny, though in my case, the town, not Monet's home. I started with a color pencil sketch. (Size: approximately 4x4.) The photo is blurry -- old camera -- but it isn't much better clear!
A little blobby. Not a lot of detail here. Maybe not the the right medium for the subject. So it was on to gouache. (I'm working on watercolor postcards, 4x6, for size comparison)
Round one, so-so. The trees need work and it's simply a little flat. (And that gate was driving me crazy.)
Round two, better. I started with a partially done sketch This time I did the gate first -- get the bad thing out of the way. I'm not all that happy but it's better than round one. The trees and flowers are a bit better too, I think. I kept trying to remember some of Vivian's methods and incorporate them. Safe to say she has no competition from me, but I am learning, getting the feel of the paint.
Round three. I began with my initial light sketch and some gentle color blocks.
Then I started putting in the trees, the garden, the detail on the walls. And back to that damn gate. Finally I realized I probably need steadier hands or a smaller brush to do the gate and pulled out the white gel pen and black Pitt markers.
It looks better. Actually a lot better, as I found myself adding more details. It has a bit more depth, I think and the flowers and leaves have improved, though the gate is still impossible. (But Rick liked the wall better in an earlier version!)
Maybe it's on to number four -- although I have to admit, a couple other subjects are calling my name!
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