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.