Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Artist's Journey: Where I've Been and Where I'm Going

The Italian Garden, oil, 1984-85, Janis Hauser (aka Jan Blencowe) 

Elizabeth Park Rose Garden, watercolor, 2009, Jan Blencowe

Miss Florence's Garden, acrylic, 2010, Jan Blencowe

It's very interesting having a daughter who is pursuing art. Watching her at 16, find her way, gain skills and begin to recognize her unique signature style is enriching for me. (You can see her most recent painting here). Yesterday I dragged some of my old paintings down from the attic for her to see.

This caused me to take stock of where I started and where I am currently on the artist's journey.

The first painting above was done just after I graduated from college with my BFA. As you can see I was working in a much different style. Back then color was very important to me as was an acknowledgment of the flat surface of the canvas ( think Cezanne and the post-impressionists) so the perspective is intentionally skewed and while the shapes do have volume they are flattened and somewhat abstracted rather than being meticulously modeled. It has a kind of Alice in Wonderland feel to it.Yet, when you look at the next watercolor and pen sketch done en plein air in 2009 I think you can still see my unique signature and I think you could surmise that the same artist painted both. 

The last painting done this year has much more sophistication, subtlety and realism, qualities which I have been pursuing and developing for at least the last ten years in my work. My heavy handedness and my proclivity to flatten, abstract and stylize are things that I do naturally that I have worked hard to refine. Not obliterate mind you, just control and bring to a level of masterful refinement. That's work. I think it helps me create better paintings but it's work and I think that's why I really, really enjoy my watercolor sketchbook. That venue allows me to cut loose and work freely in a flowing, natural way. 

"Not that we can't do more than one thing, but one of the things we should let ourselves do is what comes naturally and easily" ~Julia Cameron

Those watercolors and to some extent my other field works are the bones that I develop my more finished paintings on top of, literally. Very often the early stages of my paintings, especially plein air, look a lot more like my work form 1985 and the watercolor sketch from 2009 but I go on in subsequent layers to bring about the refinement. 

But why continue to work and refine a painting? I feel better about my finished paintings when I do. I think it's because that process of controlling, refining and bringing some deep calm out of what started as something more visceral, chaotic and raw is a metaphor for my life. I've spent many years developing an inner life of peace and calm that is very satisfying and protective despite the challenges of life. Those early painting from when I was 22, the sketches and the early stages of my paintings capture my enthusiastic experience of life but my finished paintings communicate my contemplation of life and the wisdom I've gained from that. Make sense? It doesn't always make sense to me either LOL  But there you have it that's the best explanation I can give you at present.

Looking back brings up the question of where I go from here. ?????  Not sure but I have to think that through now that I've taken a look back, and so the journey continues.


Dusty Pines said...

i really like in your early painting! and thank you for your reflections . . . it's so interesting to me to 'hear' what longer-time artists say about their process, intentions, etc. - you were perfectly clear! i'd actually like to loosen, abstract, and stylize what i do at least a bit - but i see that as coming along later, when i've gained much more experience. for me, that would reflect my having (for the first time!) decent control over the aspects & form of my life, but also the freedom to invent as i go along! thank you for helping me think abt this! & looking forward to wherever you do go from here!

AutumnLeaves said...

I am so intrigued by the intellectualism with which you approach art, Jan. The one area in which I tend to give myself credit is in intelligence...yet for me, art is all about emotion. Maybe that is why I struggle so with it. I don't stop to think and do but simply react. When it doesn't go well, I quit. I really like the three separate styles I personally see in these pieces. I'm not sure why I am so drawn to your earliest piece...maybe because it reminds me so much of some of the really old master's pieces. All three are beautiful though!

Liana Yarckin said...

is the reason why i like your first painting, the rose garden is because i am at that stage in my painting?!!! i like both paintings, but, the rose garden sings to me.