Thursday, February 5, 2009

"New World Order"

Connie Kleinjans fine art
36x36, acrylic on .75" stretched canvas

When you blog your art, it behooves you not to be too negative about your work, even if you can't quite resolve something. After all, who wants to turn readers (and potential buyers) away? So in recent months, I've been feeling more and more dissatisfied with my small still lifes. Now, don't get me wrong; I still think there's something exquisite about appreciating the beauty of small things in our lives. But painting them was making me feel more and more cramped. I had to do a handful of cramped paintings, before I could come out with something painted the way I want to paint: free and creative and with some zazz to it.

So, I looked around. I noticed an artist whose work appeared in a number of books I have showing techniques. I checked his site, liked what I saw, and learned about a workshop where you'd learn to paint larger and looser. That sounded great, so I decided to sign up for a workshop. The artist is Robert Burridge, and I took the workshop last week (Jan 26 to 30) and it was great fun.

Not only was it fun, I also made a couple of conceptual leaps. First, I watched Bob's demos, and saw this wet and wild and loose way of painting -- he does a lot with paper towel, her heaven's sake! -- and leapt into it. Now, I'd brought ten (!) 36x36" canvases as a statement of intent, and I wanted to use them all, if I could. So I sloshed paint around; I spritzed it with alcohol; I scribbled with water-soluble pencils. The results looked cool. The problem was, they felt like technique rather than an expression of me, if that makes sense. No soul. Heck, anyone can slosh and spritz.

The next leap came when I began to grasp how to take my rough paintings, and simplify so that I had an interesting composition, with layers and depth. I think it was because of one specific demo Bob did, where he took a complex painting and found its compositional soul. That evening I stayed until 9 pm and did three large paintings (well, I finished two), which is astonishing from someone who was having trouble finishing a 6x8" painting every day.

I am amazed. Ultimately, in four days, I did nine 36x36" paintings (some might not be worth blogging), as well as some sketches on paper. I swear, once I got it, the stuff just poured out of me. The one in this post is my favorite.

I drove home (five hours) late last Friday. Saturday I just crashed all day, probably the result of workshop intensity on top of a cold. Since then I've been clearing out a space in the basement. I need a place where I can put out the bigger canvases, and not worry about getting paint on anything valuable. So I'm getting rid of a lot of boxes, and vacuuming up years of cobwebs.

So, what were a few amazing things about the workshop?
  • Bob just squeezes paint onto the tabletop anywhere he wants, then mixes the colors and water, and dives in, fast. This is so alien to someone who reads about how you should always put your paints in the same place so you can find them without thinking.
  • As I said, he uses paper towels a lot. I find they shred on me, so I'm using cut up old T-shirts.
  • He uses a lot of white! And occasionally black! And his paintings certainly aren't washed out.
  • He'll work on 2, 3, 4, or 8 paintings at once, some on watercolor paper, and some on small canvases. You know how, by painting every day, you learn a lot? Imagine doing your daily paintings side-by-side, and exploring several painting questions all at once.
  • He answered tons of questions from everyone. At his recommendation, I am most of the way through Art and Fear.
  • There's more, but I'm really sleepy and want to get this out.
So if you liked my small still lifes, I'm sorry but I don't think I'll be doing many for awhile. I actually don't know where this is going, but I'm way excited. But I guess I'm learning that there's an inner drive, and you really need to listen to it if you want to do work that expresses you. And in order to do that, you find whatever resources you need to get you moving down the path.


  1. Connie this is so cool. It looks like fun, but is so much more. I have read Art and Fear and just pulled it out again. Love the commitment to the 10 and hearing what happened once you got going. Bravo! Can't wait to see more.

  2. You are so multi-talented! Your still lifes are great AND you can't paint a beautiful abstract painting too - WOW! It sounds like you've been having loads of fun painting these. Time is always an issue for me and your post makes me yearn to try something new.

    BTW - This is a beautiful painting!

  3. Dori, yes it was fun, and it was also a conceptual breakthrough. But it was also really familiar (as explained in my post the next day). One of my questions has been whether I enjoy the *process* of painting? How do I feel in my emotions and body? And I feel a lot better doing these. This week, anyway. :D

  4. Kim. Wow. Multi-talented? I, of course, am quite self critical, and the still lifes weren't where I wanted them to be. (Then again, once I spend more time on these, I might feel the same. Heehee.) And the issue of beauty is a tough one. I do think this one is pretty, but other recent ones aren't, but they might be more compelling. It really seems to depend on the viewer.

    And, yes on the yearning. I used to go to craft fairs and jones on wanting to make things. Now I'm doing that!