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Digging to the Source of Frustration


Mixed Media Dog portraits, Portland Oregon artist Kelly Anne Powers

I spent two weeks avoiding my studio. Every time I walked in I could feel frustration mount. Every time I thought about the fact that I wasn’t painting, I could feel that same frustration. The head is always ahead of the hand, but if you don’t want to just avoid both forever, you have to figure out what is the frustration source.

And for me, finding the source of this frustration was a two week process of starting to think about or do my art, and then note when I had the strongest negative reaction to it. I’d then stop and analyze what specifically triggered the fire. It felt like a slow mental prodding of, “Does this hurt? How about this?”

What Hurts:

1. Color (via value)

One of the challenges I face (and I’m not alone) is getting in all of my darks and lights. But in painting, adding darks isn’t about throwing some black into whatever color is nearby and calling it good. It’s about finding a darker color. To do that, you have to understand color. Aaand there is my problem. I struggle with creating colors with super specific characteristics. I can generally say, “I need something warm here” or “I need something darker here.” But turning those thoughts into an actual pigment is tough.

What I’m doing: (A) Starting with Nita Leland’s book, Confident Color: An Artist’s Guide to Harmony, Contrast and Unity. (B) I will keep pushing myself to add more darks and more lights with collage papers. That way I have more control and don’t have to try and mix darker color on the spot. (C) When I’m painting collage papers, be mindful when creating darker colors. How am I doing it? What are the outcomes. Hopefully I’ll be able to use what I learn when I need to mix dark paint.

2. Subject matter:

One summer in high school I jogged 5 miles every day for the entire break. I played varsity soccer and wanted to be in shape for our daily doubles come late August. The first day of line sprints, I thought I was going to die. “But I jogged FIVE MILES EVERY DAY ALL SUMMER,” I said to my coach. To which he responded, “Distance training is not the same thing as sprint training.”

At this point, I can draw a french bulldog head. I am even getting pretty good at a human head. (And I love drawing both!) But neither of those are a bouquet of flowers. Or a human figure. I would start drawings of the latter two and couldn’t understand why nothing was working. I couldn’t understand why the ease I felt just a day prior with a boxer portrait, wasn’t coming now. And it’s because I’ve been training in a different area. If I want to feel the ease with figures and flowers that I feel with portraits, I know the road I need to take ...because I have been traveling it for two years for the other two.

What I’m doing: Start traveling the damn road. Keep painting portraits because I love doing them, but also make time to work on my drawing skills in figures and flowers.

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