Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Retreating


I spent this weekend at the opening of Diamond Willow Artisan Retreat about an hour from Calgary in Turner Valley. There were 10 artists there for 3 days, painting and giggling madly in the rugged green landscape and it was a blast.
We discussed "values" at length and it had nothing to do with personal beliefs. Brushstrokes were admired, pigments were compared and the art business was scrutinized from 10 different perspectives which was enlightening for me.
I think it's important to get together with other serious painters now and then. Painting is a lonely business and it's easy to become a total recluse. Knowing that it's good for me isn't always enough so I often have to push myself out forcibly into the world rather than stay in my little studio and paint.
On the first day at the retreat, I set up behind the painter Alice Helwig and did a painting of her as she was painting. I've done this before while painting with Sharon Williams and it combines what I'm supposed to be doing - landscapes - with what I love most : figurative. I should have been having a great time except I could see past Alice to her rapidly-filling canvas and was beginning to panic at the comparatively-slow pace that my work was progressing. Was I in the wrong place? Did I belong in a setting with such accomplished and experienced painters?
My brush was flying rather hysterically over the board that I was working on and Alice, bless her, did a second painting while I fussed with my first. When she'd exhausted the possibilities of her location, she moved on and I slowed down. I'd done her figure and now I just had to adjust the landscape around her.
To my relief and pleasure, I managed to salvage the painting and turn it into something that I'm proud of. My evening beer felt well deserved.
I'm still ruminating on the painting of Alice and won't publish it now, but I've posted the one of Sharon above. It's called "Another Day at the Office" and shows the painter's life at its finest.

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