Paint Schoodic

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Safety in small brushes


In life, as in painting, which brush is going to give you the results you crave?

By Sheryl Cassibry, in gouache. Occasionally, I like to brag on my students. These are all from yesterday's class.
Yesterday my class painted on the public landing at South Thomaston, watching the Weskeag River burble its short, strapping way to Penobscot Bay. I was, as I often do, coaxing a student to use a bigger brush. My students accept the reasoning behind this, but they often revert back to smaller brushes by the time I visit their easels again. It feels safer.

“What a metaphor for life!” exclaimed Roger Akeley. “You want to paint bold, but you run back to the tiny brush!”
 By Roger Akeley
He is right. In life as well as in painting, there is a time for measured, patient, diligent action, but there’s also a time for bold deeds. The trouble is, by the time we’ve reached our mid-twenties, the bold has been trained right out of us.

Bold carries a more obvious risk of failure. This is illusory. Bold alone carries the potential for greatness. Safe is a one-way ticket to mediocrity.

My youngest nephew joined our class yesterday. He's going into the eighth grade.
I’ve been pondering the lyrics of Needtobreath’s Slumber this month:

All these victims
Stand in line for
The crumbs that fall from the table
Just enough to get by…

It’s a sadly-apt vision of most of our lives. We hang on from paycheck to paycheck, with no real plan for the future. We want a better job, the opportunity to live somewhere else, satisfying relationships and real community. Yet we stay rooted in our spots, unwilling to make the hard choices that make real, significant change.

By Rebecca Gorrell, in acrylic.
When should you reach for the bigger brush? Assuming you’re not a miniaturist, the answer is: nearly all the time. Most of the struggle in painting is getting the big relationships right. The rest is just detail. If modern painting has taught us anything, it’s that excessive detail is extraneous and often intrusive. It can interfere with the viewer’s ability to understand emotional truth. Detail, in painting, should be saved for where it really matters.

By Jennifer Johnson, in oil. Sorry about the glare.
I’m an artist with the soul of an accountant, myself. I like order; I actually enjoy math, spring cleaning and vacuuming. There are no fuzzy edges in any of these tasks. When I’m done with them, I have a sense of simple satisfaction. But they aren’t central to my life.

By Jen Van Horne, in oil.
The Pareto Principle implies that 80% of our results come from 20% of our work. This doesn’t mean that fussing isn’t necessary, but that it should come at the end, when the work has assumed its overall shape and statement.

By Sandy Quang, in oil.
Using a bigger brush isn’t necessarily more emotional or less rational. In fact, it’s usually the other way around. When I have my monster size 24 flat in my hand, I’m very thoughtful about where I set it down. Flailing around is much easier with a size six filbert. Extend that metaphor to life. It’s much easier to complain about your home town than it is to clean the basement out, sell up and move. In fact, we all complain a lot. But which is going to net you the real results you crave?

I’ve got one more workshop available this summer. Join me for Sea and Sky at Schoodic, August 5-10. We’re strictly limited to twelve, but there are still seats open.

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