61 Mental preparation

LIKE an athlete preparing for a major marathon I have been getting ready for the plein air festival on the peninsula of Door County, Wisconsin. And like many athletes I discovered that the most important preparation is mental. After getting myself worked into a frenzy, worrying about all the incredible artists I would be painting with, some of whom undoubtably paint entirely en plein air, I decided I needed to go back to basics, simplify my process, and stop worrying about competition. Above all I realized that given the highly personal nature of art the only competition is with myself.

Last Wednesday I picked up my painting Road to Eden (see entry 29 Advanced Underpainting 1 of 5) from the Springville Art Museum. As I looked to see if my painting had been included in the catalog I discovered that not only was it included but it had won a merit award as well. It was a well timed confidence booster.

As I went painting last night and came home with a perfectly acceptable painting I noted the changes that occurred in my thinking. First I realized that excessive dependence on formula can cause creative paralysis. Sure, it is good to know certain principles, but there comes a time when these have to be lightly held and not hovering in the forefront of the mind. Second, I have to simplify my process, not make things more complicated in the field. Hone complex painting procedures in the studio, then simplify them, and practice them intuitively in the field. Fourth, there is no substitute for getting the color right. By right I mean achieving a complex and nearly indescribable relationship between value and hue that reflects the color you see but, most importantly, replicates the color relationships seen in the motif. In other words, it is the relationship of color rather than absolute accuracy (which is impossible anyway given the limited nature of paint versus the nearly unlimited nature of light).

Mentally preparing myself was an interesting process, even though I thought I was preparing myself technically. Of course, it had a great deal to do with the fortuitous merit award for which I am grateful, but maybe next time I will understand that the greatest challenges in painting happen within the walls of our own mind.

I will be giving a demonstration of my painting techniques at the Door County Plein Air Festival (July 19-24, 2010). The exact time is yet to be determined but if you are in the area be sure to drop by. For more info call 920-868-3455 or email info@doorcountypleinair.com.

Brad Teare © 2010

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Updated: 26th September 2023
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