“If It’s Easy, You’re Not Learning”

Paul Rangell, one of my Art professors at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said this to me during my Senior year.

I think about that saying a lot. It is easy for me to paint a turtle on a rock.

The hardest challenge for me is painting my son, Elliot. I do not want to make him look like a cherub, nor a lumberjack, and definitely, not someone else. The planes on his face are subtle, but his beard and mustache are not. So tricky! This is the fourth attempt this year, to paint this guy, by the way.

Elliot, In Progress

I do not think that growth comes from frustration with every creation. That is why I paint small canvases and rocks in between my more challenging pieces. Some never resolve themselves, but looking back on the process I see where I improved. Last year I painted a 4th of July scene on canvas, heavily relying on photos. The photos I referred to do not depict this particular scene. I used photos for reference of my family, the smoke and the sparks. I learned a lot from creating this piece: some easy, like the fireworks and the billowing clouds. Some hard, like trying to accurately capture the figures in the photo.

Dublin, 4th of July, In Progress from 2020

I am happy with the parts that came easy: the smoke and fireworks. But the figures need some work. Last week, I began another painting on the same theme: Dublin 4th of July. This time, I am not looking at a single photo but using image in my head. The characters develop as I paint them; many I have sketched in the park, on Bart, or in a cafe. I have learned from my previous hard work. The canvas below is not easier than the first, but the challenges have shifted. It is still a work in progress but I feel I am close to something. The second painting feels more like a party: an uplifting and hopeful emotion I hope to catch. I will post the final version when I am ready. Until then, I happily dive into a difficult session in the studio.

4th of July, In Progress, from 4/16/21

One thought on ““If It’s Easy, You’re Not Learning”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.