Friday, September 30, 2011

It's about the work....

"Last Days of Summer:West Fork"; 8x10; oil on panel
click here to view auction on this painting
"The Park House"; 8x10; oil on panel
A friend watching me finish a study the other day commented "I don't know how you do it....amazing..." To my amusement, they were referring to the fact that I try to finish at least a small study every day (I don't always post them because...well, frankly...some just aren't any good, and therefore are only for me as information about what didn't work).

In all honesty, I feel like a slouch many days. One of my favorite "big-name" painters, when he started out, did five studies a day -- small, 6x8, etc -- but still, five?! Another fellow painter that I greatly admire averages a 16x20 a day. And yet another one that I follow did 21 paintings (medium size), plein air, in seven days....while fighting the elements at the Grand Canyon....and 20 of them made it into a show with the likes of Curt Walters, P.A. Nisbet, and Scott Jennings (for those of you who don't carry those names around in your head everyday....these guys have about fifteen Prix de West awards between them).

What I'm getting at is, for most of the painters out there, this is not an idle pursuit. Not a relaxing distraction to wile away the hours. It's work, pure and simple. And like anything else, those who want to do it well work....very, very hard. That isn't to say that they don't enjoy every moment at some level while they're doing it -- only a masochist would pummel away at something eight or ten hours a day, if they didn't. But there are days when you realize that things aren't going the best they can. The pain isn't moving, your brushwork looks like a highway map of Los Angeles, the drawing is off....whatever. That's when you pick up the brush and say, "It's about the work. Let's try and get one thing to work today and I can sleep tonight."

Incidentally, music is exactly the same. The number of days in my previous life (and still current), I would shake my head and tell myself, "today, it's just about putting in the work..."

This is the answer that so many people look for when they take a class of a workshop in anything; they just don't know it. They think there is some little secret that will be imparted them in the class, and "poof" they'll be brilliant at whatever they're dabbling with. The vast majority of them (those that profess to be VERY serious about painting or flute playing or whatever) don't want to hear that the reality's work and lots of it. Some days it's going to be bad.....heroically, tragically bad. Most days it will be okay. And some days, that moment will happen, the heavens open up, the adrenaline rushes, and you realize that something worked that didn't work before......and nothing is the same after that. Those are the days you work for.....

"West Fork"; 8x10; oil on panel
"The Park House"; 8x10; oil on panel


  1. Hi William, Dawn here. You are right, it IS work, indeed. And what an astute observation on when it's bad, it's very, very bad and when it's good, it's transcendent! I'm off to my class with G.Russell Case this week. I'll let you know how it goes.

  2. his work. Anxious to hear how it goes....

  3. Hi Bill,

    Really nice to meet you at Moab as well, and thanks for getting in touch.

    This is a great post, really, and so true. On days when the painting just isn't working, I remind myself it's all part of the process and that even these "failures" have value. As I like to say: "a bad day painting is better than no painting at all".

    I'm definitely up for painting together at some point.

    Keep enjoying the process,