Thursday, December 22, 2011


In August, I visited the studio of an artist friend, took off all my clothing and posed nude for him.  It is true, I am 50 years old, and I have body parts that have moved south permanently, not just for the winter.  I had friends ask me if I was embarrassed and the answer is no, not in the least.  What I exposed was merely the vessel, not the contents.  It isn’t like this artist asked me to reveal what is in my heart , what is important to me or the contours of my innermost thoughts.  If he had, I would have felt nude, naked, bare, exposed…vulnerable. 

As artists who have some time behind us, we can identify the painting we made after the death of a loved one, or the one after we kissed our youngest child goodbye before leaving them hundreds of miles away at college.  We know the piece we painted in anger after arguing with our spouse.  We know too well the commission we worked on into the wee hours until everything we looked at was a blur.  We have taken the weight of our lives into the studio and dropped it on the surface of our work.

We need to learn to paint naked.

We can be told to paint from the heart, we have all heard that.  I am sure many of us have been told that our work lacks emotion or movement or texture.  Of course it lacks emotion when you paint while seething with anger, or stoically holding in your tears.  You can’t paint movement when your knees are hurting because you can’t paint what you can’t do.  Why paint texture when your life course is bumpy?

Paint naked.

By now, you know I don’t mean for you to go into the studio, strip to the skin and paint in the nude, even if it would save your wardrobe.  I am suggesting that you toss away the pretense, discard the tension and loosen your grip on perceived reality.  Let go of your cares and find your inner peace.  Be nude, be naked, lay bare, expose the self and be vulnerable so that you can pour out the contents of your vessel.  In other words…

Paint naked.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Art and the Single Woman

Feline Eyes: Marmalade Tabby

I am frustrated.  My life has reached a rather frenetic level.  I am in a wet paper bag without the ability to navigate my way out of it. 

I am a single woman, an artist and a full time corporate worker.  I am responsible for every thin dime I have to spend.  I have no safety net, no spouse and no trust fund, but I have two jobs, one of which I work every day of the year, as in every day of the year.  I am responsible for my own meals and my own housekeeping.  I have grown children whom I chase around from time to time, and who often need my financial help, hence the two jobs I work.  Sprinkle in some serious health problems just for good measure.  My life is full to the brim, even if I don’t paint.  I have responsibilities to others, but I have them to myself as well.  In the midst of my chaos, my spirit demands that I paint. 

I am writing this on a Thursday.  Tomorrow morning, I must enter into the four days of hell I call my full time workweek.  Between tomorrow at 11 a.m. and Monday at 11 p.m., I will have put in more than 50 hours at my desk.  I will be exhausted, parts of me will be numb and my heart will be pounding at the impending joy of three days to paint…knowing full well that I also have Mount Washmore to climb, wash, fold and put away, that the kitchen is not fit for food preparation, not to mention the myriad of other household chores facing me.  God forbid I have to spend a full day driving 150 miles round trip to the nearest Walmart to stock my cupboard because it is bare.  So, much as I am excited to get to the brushes, it is going to take an energy and determination that has been depleted by selling my soul to the company store.

Certainly, it would be nice to paint full time.  That would be the goal, however unrealistic it might be.  I could achieve that by winning the lottery, but I have a greater chance of dying in a terrorist attack.  I could remarry and trade in my day job for washing someone else’s dirty socks and fighting over the toilet seat.  Again, I think the odds of this happening are about as good as dying in a terrorist attack.  When weighing marriage against the scope of my current freedom, it feels like death anyway.  I consider these things from time to time, and freely decide to continue my life as a corporate whore in a job I detest and one that is extremely boring and redundant.

I will now go back to my life divided.  There are the four days in the dark cave and the three days in the light, of rich colors and living in the Zen of watercolor artistry, believing that the struggles are worthy of my efforts.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

 Leopard's Blue Glare by Lynne Hurd Bryant

Art used to be relevant to life.  Look at Vermeer and his lustrous portraits of women working in the home, or at other "women's" tasks.  It was relevant to his surroundings, to the life and times of the artist and his models.  Even centuries later, his paintings provoke an emotional response.  Many people think this is because of their luminous beauty, but the truth is that this emotional connection is about its relevance.

Today, most artists don't paint what is relevant to their life and times.  We paint emotional voids in our quest to reproduce the dwindling beauty of the nature around us.  I look at my own work and have long felt that the missing piece is emotion and drama that might better connect my work to the viewer.  This is not so.  There is plenty of movement, texture and emotion in my work, but it lacks relevance. 

My latest piece, "Leopard's Blue Glare", made a relevant emotional impact in a way I didn't foresee.  I have a list of collectors who routinely receive emails of my latest paintings.  This piece was sent around the day that big cats and other "exotic" animals were senselessly killed in Ohio.  One collector responded to my email with intense anger about the incident, and praise for the beauty of the painting that drove home the slaughter in real terms.  The eyes of this leopard are riveting, and when viewed through this tragedy, seem to speak volumes. 

The emotion I felt was lacking in my work doesn't belong to me, it belongs to the viewer.  What is art without an emotional impact?  Certainly, grotesque and shocking artwork elicits a strong response, but what about beauty?  Shouldn't beauty bring about an equally strong response?  Beauty for its own sake is not relevant in this topsy turvy 21st Century world.  Surely art has to recognize this, and if it is to be an oasis, then let it be one that connects to this time and to this place.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Asking for trouble and finding it

 "Emu test drive" by Lynne Hurd Bryant

I don't know if being 50 has given me more wisdom about my shortcomings or merely a stronger desire to try to bend myself in new ways.  Sometimes, as when I dove into oil painting this summer, I am successful, while in others ways I am not quite so successful.

Enter a tempting offer to illustrate a book for an Australian author.  Am I game?  Sure...knowing full well that I am not an illustrator, that I was taught to paint what I see and to leave imagination out of the equation.  Illustrating a children's book requires an imagination and a skill I don't believe I possess.  My imagination, artistically speaking, has been painstakingly subdued in favor of a "clean eye."  As for the skill of drawing anthropomorphized animals from angles I can only see in my mind's eye, it is not subdued, as it is not a skill I have felt I ever I had, or would need.

Add into this something that never crossed my mind:  The animals in question are ordinary for an Australian child, but quite exotic for this middle-aged Western artist...echidnas, emus, wombats, platypuses and kangaroos.  Like most of Americans of my generation, the closet we got to a kangaroo was a zoo or Mister Greenjeans.  An emu is an easier prospect as they are raised, with ostriches, in my part of eastern Wyoming.  I see these foreigners frequently, but I had never even seen a photograph of a wombat!

To top off my anxiety about this project is an embarrassing factoid:  I have not made any art since the end of May owing to job scheduling, financial stress and illness.  Graphite pencils have always felt strange to me, because I am so much more comfortable with color than pure value.  I don't see life's issues in shades of gray, and likewise I can't see lifeforms in shades of gray either.  The preliminary work has to be done in graphite.

I am out of my comfort zone on every level here.  If the publisher moves ahead, all this work will need to be done again, but this time in colorful watercolor where I am much happier to work.  Time will tell if this was wisdom or a desire to bend in a way I am incapable of bending.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dark Night of the Artistic Soul

 Water Lily 
Watercolor by Lynne Hurd Bryant

This is a blog originally posted to my website in February of 2010.  It resonates with many artists and continues to be read frequently.

A fellow artist on Facebook inspired this blog. He had a dark night of the soul recently. He gathered all of his work together and decided to burn the lot of them. He didn't actually complete this task, but he was exasperated by his artistic career. I assured him that he is not alone, we have all been there. I am there nearly weekly.

The dark night of the soul is inevitable, at some point, in our artistic lives. It is born of frustration, the inability to do the sort of work we want to do and not being the artists we want to be. Primarily, I believe, it is profound self-doubt. Self-doubt is not a bad thing.

I am a converted Catholic of nearly three decades. There is one particular idea that was presented to me during instruction and it is this: If you never doubt God, your faith will never grow. I turn this around: If you never doubt yourself, you will never grow. This is something I have thought about repeatedly as I have tried to paint again over the past several months.

We have to understand the dynamics of self-doubt and the origin of these feelings. The only way to combat them is belief in one's embrace the artist within, not the one who is without in another body doing work we envy. This is a lot easier said than done.

I paint florals because they are my best work, not necessarily where my heart is. Is continuing to paint florals embracing the artist I am, or prostituting my talents? As I have been painting florals since 1977, there is now self-doubt as to whether I am capable of anything else. Will my envy of the landscapes and portraits of others take me back to a point when I refuse to paint? Is there a dark night of my artistic soul in the future, when a pile of flower paintings will be tossed into the fire? Will I burn my dreams and ambitions?


The why (and how) of buying original art

 Faded Glory
Watercolor by Lynne Hurd Bryant

I am preparing to move my art website to another webhost.  I need to be saving some of my better blogs as once I am moved, they will be lost.  This is a repost from my website proper.

Most people are intimidated when it comes to buying original artwork. There are many reasons why this is the case. I believe most people feel that original art is out of their league and their budget. In today's contemporary art world, this is often not the case. Increasingly art is being sold on the internet and competition is stiff. The days of spending Saturday afternoons in a gallery district browsing through expensive pieces in ugly frames are gradually coming to an end, in favor of late nights on the computer. There is no intimidating, hungry for a sale gallery person to follow the perspective buyer around, and the would-be buyer doesn't have to keep an opinion to themselves!

Another reason is that people don't know what they are buying. Is the piece good? Does it mean something? Is it okay to form their own opinions? Who is the artist? Who are they buying from? Is this really art, or is it junk? Unless someone is very well known and their pieces sell for a great deal of money, it is not likely a buyer has ever heard of them. This is the great unknown, but it doesn't have to be.

The vast majority of artists have websites. They also have blogs. This gives a potential buyer a chance to get to know the artist. A simple email and a request to discuss a given piece will usually give the interested buyer an "in" with the artist. Artists love to talk about their work. This is the connection factor that artists and patrons treasure; the artist because they feel connected to their collectors, and collectors have the cache of knowing about the artist, the piece in particular, the artist's training and techniques that they can share with everyone who sees the original artwork in their home or office. The buyer becomes an instant expert on the work they own.

Most people don't know that a painting is worth more if they have a signed, dated Certificate of Authenticity from the artist. If a collector finds that original artwork is like a potato chip, and they can't have just one, the day will come when they will want to insure their collection, sell it to someone else or leave it to a family member. Valuing artwork and transferring ownership is much more difficult when there is no COA. If you purchase an original, be sure to ask for a COA and protect your future interests.

Brick and mortar galleries attract a certain crowd. Shopping online means you can wear your pajamas and state your opinions freely. You can shop at your convenience. The question then becomes, where do I find artists and artwork? You could certainly google, but you can look on Facebook. There are many fabulous artists with fan pages here. Search for pet artists, floral artists, watercolorists, oil painters, landscape artists and portrait artists...they are all here. You can also visit somewhere like and browse lots of artists with your mouse, read blogs, know your artists and compare prices.

In the final analysis, there is only one thing you really need to know about buying original artwork: Do you like it? If you find something that sends you every time you look at it, that is the one to buy. If you find someone whose style you really like, but not a particular piece you love, contact the artist about a commission. There is nothing more special than having original artwork made just for you, and you don't have to be millionaire to afford it.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Frustration by the tube

I am a watercolorist. I knew this to be a fact long before I began painting in watercolor. From my initial forays in high school, I have pronounced that I have the soul of a watercolorist, but I was nearly 50 before I began working in it. The medium is "mine" to the core. The colors that can be achieved through many layered washes, sometimes a couple of dozen or more in a single area of a painting, never fail to excite my eyes and my heart. It is a passionate love affair.
Sunlit Poppy
Oil painting by Lynne Hurd Bryant

I have heard other artists speak of watercolor as unforgiving, difficult to control and tedious. In the next breath, they will extoll all the finer qualities of oil paint. I will agree with oil being luminous and lustrous, that is has a certain glow, but I have never found it easy to work with. I have always considered painting in oil like trying to paint with bathroom caulking. It is thick, pasty, gooey, messy, difficult to pry from under the fingernails; in short is impossible to work with. I never could get the paint to come off the brush and onto the surface, so my paintings didn't look like my work, they didn't carry my style. My ignorance of the medium was bliss, as I charged away at watercolor paintings.

I have had reasons for wanting to work in oils, and none of them had to do with passion. I have always considered oil painting to be akin to "en pointe." You learn to dance in ballet slippers and then, when you have worked hard enough, you graduate to toe shoes. It had been easy to dismiss, but I found I needed to paint in oil to further my marketing and my artistic career.

Over the course of 2011, I have researched about oils and the bliss of my ignorance changed to desire and excitement. I spent time carefully acquiring my watercolor pigments in oil paint (no black, brown or gray). I purchased a type of brush I used to love for acrylic while in art school. I shopped for the perfect easel for my needs and bought 5 cases of canvas panels. Then, after much trepidation, I took a deep breath and started in.
The poppy with this blog is the result of about 5 hours of painting in oils. It was a relaxed, joyous, capable 5 hours. The modern mediums for blending oil paint are miraculous and speed up the drying time. The colors flowed off the brush in creamy strokes of intense color. All the problems I have ever had with oils were simply nonexistent. The best part is that those familiar with my work will recognize it as my style. I successfully translated my own personal magic to another medium. Oil paint did not defeat me.

I owe watercolor for so many lessons. It taught me to fine tune my "eye" and to have patience. It taught me to see and to think, not merely to look. The gentle medium with its transparent layers helped me grasp the subtleties of value and color. This has never been more apparent than in this oil painting where all of my knowledge was put to use.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

It was better than sex!

Golden Grin 10 x 14 Watercolor

There is sex, that physical act, and then there is love making.  While often playing semantics, there is a discernible difference between the two.  Making love implies an emotional connection, a certain intimacy that transcends the physical, and often has nothing to do with sexual intercourse.  Making love can be present in all kinds of relationships, in fact, as it is the uniquely human ability to connect on a spiritual plane.

Suze Orman says, quite accurately, that women are more relational than men.  A woman cannot do well with anything in her life, unless she has a relationship with it.  While Suze is talking about women and money, I think this idea is important.  How many things do you have in your life, and how many of these things do you see in terms of relationship?

For me, one of these things is my artwork.  I have never considered that I have a relationship with it, nor have I felt that having a relationship with my art is important.  I have always considered my art to be an extension of myself, the "self" within.  When I post my work online I often feel naked, as though I have exposed something that should be kept covered up and private.  It feels as though I am baring my soul for the world to see.  Perhaps that is true, but there are other forces at work here too.

If you were to ask me two weeks ago if I had a relationship with my art, I'd have thought for a moment and felt, in a vague way, that it was a relationship of sorts, but a contentious one; I do a lot of fighting and arguing, frequently feeling a lot of disgust and frustration.  If I had a human life partner and we shared the sort of angst I have had with my art, we would soon be divorced.  No one likes to live like that!

Two days after my birthday, February 20, I had a "better than sex" experience with making art.  I made love with my art.  I have never done that before.  I realized, quite suddenly, that this is more than an extension of the self.  I suddenly understood that I have to build a relationship with this activity.  I have to love it unconditionally, appreciate it, build on it, trust it, believe in it, nurture it, as I would any important relationship in my life.  Then, and only then, am going to be able to relate to it as intimately as I did last week.  It was the most singular experience of my life, quite the defining moment.  It was the most intoxicating and draining, energizing and exciting emotional experience of my life.  It was like discovering that a passionate lover lives next door and it only took 37 years to notice how attractive that person is!

The brass tacks of painting will never be the same for me.  I have a profoundly intimate relationship with something of beauty and delicate substance, if I chose to honor it with my love.  And I do.