Ask the Expert…Ann Larsen

Question: There are problems in my latest painting that I can’t seem to solve, what should I do?

Answer: Don’t Give Up on a Painting…it Might be a Winner!

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“Clear Sailing”

How many times have you worked and worked on a painting and then just quit out of frustration because parts of it you love and other parts you just can’t get to work. So, you let it dry thinking you will come back to it later just to see if you can save it. It might sit in the corner for months or even years.

Sometimes we can save a painting and sometimes it should just be scrapped down and set aside. Recently I had just such a painting. My photographer husband and I had taken a wonderful trip to Glacier National Park and up the Icefields Parkway into Baniff National Park. What a spectacular artists landscape! This is a area that was so wonderfully captured by the Canadian Group of Seven and Canadian artist Carl Rungius.

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“Bow Lake”

After returning from the trip with studies, photos and sketches I was energized to start some larger studio pieces while my memory was fresh from the field work I had done. I quickly got my composition worked out and started the painting. “Bow Lake” (16×20) started as one of those paintings that seems to paint itself. Everything was working so well and I continued to refine and tweak the painting for several days. But, I kept thinking so much of the painting was strong, but I felt I had hit a roadblock. Sometimes this happens if I am away from the subject for too long. So, after looking at the painting until I was so frustrated with not being able to resolve it, I put it facing the wall and started on something else.

Occasionally over the next several months I would bring it out and try and resolve what was bothering me. There seemed to be no ready solution.

Then the 2016 Oil Painters of America national exhibition was coming up and I wanted to enter, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to enter. Then I remembered the “Bow Lake” painting that I loved. So, once again I propped it on my easel and began to think critically about how to resolve the issue I was struggling with.

Sometimes in our artistic development we have to work through problems with composition, value or color harmony by just putting brush to canvas, by painting miles and miles of canvas, working through problems on our own until we can do what we couldn’t do before. Sometimes we have to keep reminding ourselves that we are creating works of art and not being slaves to a scene or idea. This is what had happened with this painting. I began to give myself permission to create a piece of art. I now knew how to resolve the problem!

In my studies and photos there really was no foreground, only water with beautiful reflections. Those were the elements that had attracted me to the scene in the first place. But, the painting needed weight and to be grounded so to speak. So, I added more color, reflections and downed logs that pointed into the painting and towards my focal point. Now I was happy and felt it was worthy of entering the Oil Painters of America exhibition.

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“Fading Light”

Let me deviate a moment and talk about altering a scene to create a stronger painting. There is a wonderful painting of Bow Lake in the National Wildlife Museum in Jackson Hole, WY done by Carl Rungius. Now I can’t be certain of this, but after having stood virtually on the same spot Rungius stood to capture one of my studies, his painting has a grove of trees in the foreground. But, there aren’t any there. I believe he put those trees in, or emphasized them, in order to ground his painting, to create a better composition. Altering nature for this purpose is perfectly alright. Also, this is a good reminder that we are creating a painting, a work of art, we aren’t just recording. That is what we have our cameras for.

So, back to the subject of not giving up on a painting. Getting into an OPA National is no easy feat. They have many, many entries to go through and their shows are top notch to say the least, but low and behold the painting got in! An award in itself from my perspective. It was a great honor to have my painting hanging with such wonderful artists’ work.

Now to make my argument about not giving up on a painting because it might be a winner, I needed a piece to send to the American Women Artists National exhibition in Bennington, Vermont. To my absolute surprise and it won Best Landscape!! One of the jurors wrote me a nice note to say “… I was proud to be a part of the jury and pick your piece. It really stood above most every other landscape in the show with it’s strong design, color and in the confident brushwork. Loved it.” What better testament to not giving up on a painting than that!

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Ann Larsen, AWAM, AIS, OPS

To learn more about Ann and her beautiful artwork CLICK HERE.

 

 

 

 

 


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