Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Tuesday was an unusual day.  A huge mean burst of wind and rain came through, spawning tornado warnings (not watches but real warnings - meaning go to a safe place now).  Nothing bad happened in our area but some people in Indiana and Illinois didn't fare as well.  This storm rushed through the midwest like a fast-moving train.  At least we got some much needed rain.

I'm trying to paint today.  But I still seem out of sorts and easily discouraged.  You know, I think there was something in one of the latest Robert Genn newsletters that really scared me.  In response to an artist who is continually dissatisfied with his work, Mr. Genn said:

"...there are four main types of painterly dissatisfaction:

"Amateur epiphany" is where it dawns on the artist that the work is now and will probably remain substandard. The artist may still enjoy doing the work, even occasionally getting paid for it, but the possibility of stellar quality looms unlikely. The popular antidote is to fool oneself that the work is okay. Lots of unsatisfactory work is delivered with the benefit of this delusion. 

"Journeyman jading" is where the subject matter or manner of painting loses its initial luster and is seen as shallow, unworthy or problematical. When motifs or ideas start to become boring or tedious, the artist becomes chronically dissatisfied and it's time to think again and move on.

"Workman remorse" is where the artist has high standards that are very often achieved, and yet there is a genuine concern for particular surface quality, compositional problems, colour weaknesses, and so on--just the sort of thing you mention. Re-dedication, re-thinking and "back to basics" may be in order.

I'm hoping my current dissatisfaction with all my work lately due to number 3 - workman remorse, and not number 1 - amateur epiphany.  I assume I'll work it out in a few days...or weeks. 

How long does it take you to get out of a rut like this?  Do you jump into something else and change direction, thereby fooling your inner critique.  Or do you think about it, wrestle with the questions and try to come up with answers that re-energize you and make you want to pick up the brush with renewed hope? 

What I've been doing lately:

A small tomato study that is bad...

A landscape using more Yellowstone photos.  This one in watercolor and not very good.  But it's just the beginning stages.

And a watercolor started of some daturas growing in New Orleans one hot summer day.

I began with the darks first, in the foliage, then the middle greens.  Haven't touched the flowers yet.


Deb Léger said...

Hi Rhonda,

Hope your weather is getting better. We had high wind warnings and storm warnings but nothing really came of it. Hope it's better for you now.

The rut you are in - I'm just coming out of one very similar. The difference between us though, is that you are still painting while working through it. I stopped for quite a while and in the process became rusty, which means taking a lot of steps backwards. Don't stop. Keep thinking but most importantly, keep painting.

It can take a while but you yourself have to work through your thoughts and dissatifaction and questions. Don't try to "wrestle" with them - just let them flow through you and think about them. (Wrestling with them made me feel a lot worse.) Changing direction might help and give you a breath of fresh air, but it won't fool your inner critique and self-doubt. Nothing will fool that. The answers are there - just have patience and they'll come to you.

You have to come back to the real reasons you paint. I could list all sorts of questions that lead back to those reasons but I'm sure you've heard them.

When reading Robert Genn's words, just keep in mind that these are *his* ideas. I usually like his newsletter, but I didn't like the wording in this one. Don't let it hurt or scare you, okay?

Don't try to categorize yourself into Robert Genn's four types. Rhonda Carpenter has her own category and that's one of someone who loves to paint, who loves to learn about - and through - her painting, who loves to express herself in her painting, who loves to share with others. It's clear to see from your work that painting makes you HAPPY and that is what counts inside.

I'm looking at the comments you made for the first two paintings. "This is bad..." and "...and not very good." Why are you being so negative? (I love the first one, by the way! And especially the third one!) Did they not provide you with some kind of learning experience? We all know about "the uglies" in the first steps of w/c painting.

Everyone has ways of working through this and I hope that others will give you some of theirs. These are just a few of mine. When I read how terribly sad and dejected you sounded, I had to write something!


Gillian said...

Too much angst, Rhonda - the important question to ask yourself is - am I enjoying it?

I like to take a break and try different media - sometimes, colour pencil, sometimes digital art using Artrage, for instance. Then I find new ideas and inspiration to hook me back on painting.

I'm loving that 3rd painting by the way - beautifully loose and fresh!

debwardart said...

Soften a few hard edges of the straw around some of the tomatoes, then sharpen the stem of one for a focal point? The flowers are off to a very good start - after you put color into the blooms soften just a few edges. No comment on tree since you said it is in early stages.
You get too much "inside your head" - stop reading Robert Genn and overanalyzing - and just do your own thing!!!

jgr said...

Rhonda, First I'm glad you came through the storms unharmed. Second: You are too hard on yourself! We all have an inner critic whose mission in life is to discourage our efforts, squash our dreams and suck-the-life out of our success.
My favorite of the three paintings you shared is the third one of the flowers! Bravo my friend!

Ann Buckner said...

It's natural to question oneself or one's abilities,isn't it?? Through all this questioning you are still painting, still learning, still growing which is a positive direction. I'm enjoying your blog and your work so smile big, play hard, paint lots.

RHCarpenter said...

Deb, thanks so much for sharing this with me. I know your ruts are deeper and longer lasting than mine but I think we both know the pain that comes with them. What you said about Robert Genn is true - it's just one man's opinion, isn't it?

Gillian, thanks. Other media right now might help, perhaps go back to some drawing that I enjoy but don't do enough.

Deb, getting out of my head is something I try to do, but it's something I always carry around with me so it's hard to ignore!

Thanks, Jane. My inner critique has given me blue glasses to wear and I'd much rather wear rose-colored ones!

Ann, thanks so much. I hope I don't turn people off my blog by my latest questions and whining. I think all those your create come up against stumbling blocks. Knowing they will go away soon - or eventually - doesn't seem to help ease the doubt while one is inside the rut of negativity.

Pam Johnson Brickell said...

Glad to hear the storms didn't affect you. You've received some great advise for your inner storm. Do keep painting! Rust settles in fast.