2018 Workshop Schedule. New workshops added! click here for details.
Visit my Patreon Page for more painting instruction

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Why Do You Paint?

'City Sidewalks'               5x7           pastel            ©Karen Margulis
purchase this painting on Etsy $50
I paint because I must. I paint because I feel compelled to express myself with colors and shapes. I paint because I enjoy creating something from nothing. It is satisfying.  It's so easy to loose sight of why we paint. We often get caught up in self doubt and worry that we aren't good enough to be painters. We fret over our work, picking it apart, wondering if we will ever paint as good as we'd like.

Here is some food for thought. I came across this quote from James McNeill Whistler. It is a great piece of advice.

"We look at a painting to know the painter. It's his company we are after, not his skill"
       James McNeill Whistler

Think about why you paint. Is it to create a technically perfect picture? Or is it to express yourself, to create a picture that shares a part of you and how you feel about the subject? Sure it is nice to have command of technique....to understand and use color, value,drawing, composition and do it well. But all the technical skill will come with time and practice.

With time and practice we all improve and grow. We can learn the basics and with hard work we will get better. What can't be taught is how to feel. How to paint with emotion. That has to come from within. As you paint, keep this in mind. Paint with feeling and enjoy the process. The skill will come and your paintings will truly be your own.

Painting notes:  a quick study on gray Pastelmat with my small travel set of pastels. It is by no means technically perfect. I like it because it sums up my memory of this moment....my son walking in front of me on a very cold night in Chicago. We were rushing to get inside the restaurant but I was captivated by the glow of lights on the snow and had to stop for a picture!


Tammy Kaufman said...

This is such a wonderful post! I hope you don't mind if I share it on my Facebook page.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the time and creativity you put into your blog. I just started enjoying it this week since Judsons Art featured you. Great paintings and ideas. And I really liked the photo of your grand daughter and you at the pool, enjoying life with sheer abandon. Priceless!!

Sandi G said...

Thanks ,Karen for all the thought provoking words about why we paint . I often feel it's like an adventure and a puzzle that I really enjoy .
To find your subject, decide what size the painting will be, choose the substrate ( toothieness) t create your design(thumbnail) to choose your pallette (I do this now because of you) it helps. To create the painting, step back and check the design , accept the design and final touches .All the while remembering such things as correct value , color, perspective using skills we learn along the adventure . Feeling joyful thru the process . Then Admire!

robertsloan2art said...

THanks for a beautiful article. It's so true. I paint because I love it. I love doing it and have a lot of internal painting goals. Some people have a bucket list of things like climb a mountain or go hang gliding or visit Paris. Mine is things like "paint a panther in the woodlands uniting the cat with his environment" or "do a bird in a lively pose from observation" and I have a big long list of former such goals now in reach - like painting with bright spectrum colors and get the light brilliant in a painting.

I know that some subjects just grab me. Cats are good people and I can never resist painting a cat. Or nature really, but cats even more. I sometimes get surprised because I get lost in the process and other people react in ways I don't expect.

A rattlesnake I painted recently got a lot of people complimenting it but adding "Eeek" or "I don't want to reach into that hole" while to me it was and is just a beautiful wild animal with sun on it. The sun and shadows and getting the anatomy right are huge in how I feel about it - it's much loosrr and livelier than previous ones.

Yet because I painted it that well, anyone who doesn't like snakes gets a bigger scare at the sight of it.

I paint what I love and trust when I sell again that there are enough nature lovers and cat people to get into what I do. I don't have to please everyone, someone scared of my snake might adore a painting of a fluffy gray Persian. That it all comes out of how I feel about nature is just part of who I am.

Great article. Oh and yes, I am in love with color, color and process. Sometimes even subjects I don't like will wind up getting painted because something about the challenge appealed to me or the particular reference. Painting gives me another layer of self knowledge too any time I find beauty in something and then get unexpected reactions. i think that because I paint, I live in a world that's more beautiful. I am more likely to see the beauty and actually notice a weed or sunset.

Catherine Selinger said...

This is one of your best, most meaningful blog posts ever Karen. Thank you! :)
P.S. Why do I Paint?
Answer: Our lives slip by so quickly. I paint because it allows me to capture, linger, scrutinize, enjoy, understand, pay tribute and hold on to the beauty around me for just awhile longer. Painting keeps me 'participating' in the world and helps me to express how joyful I feel about being part of it. I could be gone tomorrow but at least I experienced today as fully as I could.