My Dear Art Friends,
I’ve excerpted here the first draft Introduction to a new book with the working title Painting Expressively: An Intuitive Approach. I’m sharing it here in gratitude to everyone who has ever stopped in to look at my work and been inspired. By the way, since I didn’t go to Mexico, the Studio & Gallery is OPEN and you’re welcome to visit! If you have an anecdote to share related to a visit to my art space, please leave it in the Comment section below (or send it to me privately by email).
P.S. Thanks for your sweet thoughts for me about Spotty, who is sleeping a lot but still with good appetite.
Introduction to Painting Expressively: An Intuitive Approach.
Ellie Harold Art Studio & Gallery, located in a renovated 1895 Victorian home in the small city of Frankfort, Michigan, is open to the public. In a typical year, a few hundred visitors will stop in to look at my art. Sometimes people hesitate, fearing they are invading my private space; however, I assure them, this is my preferred way of showing and selling my paintings. I enjoy the direct contact with the people are interested in my work. And, this method also gives me the opportunity to meet with and inspire other artists, as well as those might like to paint but don’t think they can.
Over the years I’ve learned there are quite a few people who would like to make art but, for one reason or another, have avoided doing so. Not infrequently, a studio visitor will comment, “You are so talented!” Then, disheartened, “I wish I could paint.” I typically respond, “Have you ever tried?” and invariably I hear this: “Oh no! I can’t even draw a stick figure.”
I hear this and “I couldn’t draw a straight line if you asked me!” so often, it’s like they are reading from a script. Clearly, this is a widely held belief! Yet, the truth is, stick figure drawing is not a prerequisite for painting and, using a ruler, anyone can draw a straight line. Yet almost every wistful visitor with whom I have this conversation mentions their failure to master stick figures and straight lines as the reason they haven’t pursued their desire to paint.
Many people, it seems, dismiss their desire to make art because they assume a person must demonstrate the particular talent of a Real Artist—stick figures and straight lines, apparently— before they are entitled to pick up a paintbrush. If they believe they don’t possess the magical gift, they won’t even try. “Why bother?” their body language tells me.
I know that feeling. Before I began to paint in my early 50s, I was convinced that I had no talent and it would be waste of time and money to even try. Then, following a definite inner nudge, I came to realize I could and should do art. Now, almost 20 years and more than a thousand paintings later, it seems ridiculous that I would ever have doubted my artistic ability.
Back in 2003, however, I’d received a “call” to make art. I had very little idea how to get started. Recalling an oil painting class I’d started (and quit after 3 weeks) in 1981, I bought some basic art supplies and a slim guide to oil painting (Barron’s Art Handbooks: OILS). The materials I purchased sat untouched in a corner of an indoor porch and, from time to time, I’d pick up the book and puzzle over the different techniques it surveyed. After 6 months, attracted by the color of a patch of flowers in my garden, I finally began to put the supplies or the information to use.
Once I did, however, I rarely stopped. I progressed from making many 5” x 7” paintings of pears, through a longish period of outdoor painting, to the creation of more and much larger abstract pieces (60” x 72”). The unexpected arrival of birds in my paintings in 2016, led to a major art installation (BIRDS FLY IN: A Human Refuge) in which to share them, as well as exhibits in the U.S. Embassy in Slovakia, and several large hospitals in Michigan. Hundreds of my oil paintings have permanent homes in private homes and several in public collections.
Even though my work is now widely collected, I am rarely 100% confident about my art-making; however, this doesn’t keep me from painting. I’ve come to realize I have within me what I call an Inner Artist, so I don’t have to feel confident in order to paint—I just have to do it! Experience has taught me that no matter how insecure or resistant I might feel, each time I stand in front of an easel, paint inevitably finds its way onto the canvas. My Inner Artist is on the job; and while she works, I feel as if I’m being used as a vehicle for expression for something that is me, but also more than me. I’m often amazed by what happens when I paint and I don’t always understand my paintings or even like them. Most have a Presence, however, that engages me and, sometimes, others.
I believe each person has their own Inner Artist. It takes some effort, however, before to realize this. Until this realization occurs and an individual chooses to activate it, this talent remains latent. The effort required to activate the Inner Artist may be nothing more than opening a book such as this one and employing some simple guidance. Only time will accurately tell if the art I’ve made is historically significant, but I don’t worry about that. The most important thing to me is that I clearly had not realized what was inside me just waiting to get out. Without venturing to try, I might never have found out.
I want Painting Expressively: An Intuitive Approach to give your Inner Artist permission to freely express itself through you. While the principles embodied in this book will work for any creative endeavor, since you picked up this book, there’s a very good likelihood that your Inner Artist might be inclined toward painting—and probably not the sort you could learn in a traditional painting instruction class. Chances are your Inner Artist is eager to paint expressively!
This book shows you some simple but effective ways to start the process—even if you’ve never held a brush in your hand before and using a few basic supplies. The text will encourage you to explore your unique art process while the exercises prompt you to discover the marks, colors, shapes, and textures that most uniquely express you. For those who haven’t been to art school, don’t know how to talk art-speak, and haven’t ever painted something that “looks like something,” the intuitive approach to painting I describe in this book will give you permission to begin painting, show you a kind of painting that bypasses your preconceived notions about art, and empower you to make are that is uniquely original to you.
Intuitive painting is not for novices only, however. If you do happen to have an academic art education, your training may have inadvertently prevented you from activating your Inner Artist. Because you’re well versed in art history and theories, you might believe you already know what your art is about and who you are as an artist. However, it may also be the case that your unique voice or style has been cramped by intellectual concepts, traditional practices, or other so-called art world forces. If you feel stuck in your practice or your work seems stale, loosening up with the exercises in this guide may transform more than your painting style. Your Inner Artist, it seems, is not only interested in how you make art, but also the rest of your life; and, as you expand beyond creative blocks, you may be inspired to create a larger vision for your art and your life.
Painting Expressively: An Intuitive Approach is organized in three parts. The first briefly outlines why an intuitive approach to art-making is key in making original, meaningful, good art. The second part suggest ways to activating the Inner Artist, as well as assignments or exercises for intuitive painting. It also deals with troubleshooting psychological defenses that may prevent the fullest expression of artistic potential. The final chapters offer resources for supporting an intuitive approach to painting or other art forms.
Whether you’re reading this book as a novice or practiced artist, I hope you will receive in these pages the permission you seek to give expression to your unique artistic potential. Imagine the exercises as clues to satisfying the longing of your Inner Artist to express something beautiful through you. I hope you’ll enjoy the pleasure that comes of serving the best and highest good of all who will come in contact with your art—even if turns out to be a stick figure.
(c) 2022 Ellie Harold. All rights reserved.