Instagram as Accountability Tool

While I use social media to promote my art, my snobby side tends to feel the marketing work is “beneath me”– a waste of good old fashioned easel time!

The thing I often fail to recognize, is the absolute exhilarating benefit of the accountability social media lends me.

I do not require an audience to paint. In fact, I would be quite content to paint alone in a room where no person ever trod and no eyes ever ventured. Yet, the fear of failing can quite dampen and slow my productivity on a regular basis. As I have gained a small group of friends and followers on Instagram and Facebook, I feel the weight of their expectations and also their joy at seeing art magically appear in their feed.

While I struggle to see anything but the failings of my work, genuine viewers greet my work with eagerness, and it lends me a burst of giddiness that helps to propel me to greater productivity.

It’s refreshing to see my work with new eyes, and I am so grateful for the love and support I receive. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Follow Me: @hhighfield

 

hhighfield

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Quick Sketch in the nude… Wait no- OF! Of the nude.

The human figure is generally considered the most difficult things to paint and draw. Many representational artists study anatomy as a scientist or doctor might, and it has been a practice used for centuries. A couple of months ago I was doing a LOT of drawing and anatomy sketching and decided one day I just could not pick up the pencil one more time. Paint won’t let me ignore it for very long- it gets impatient, jealous even! So  that eventually, I’m obliged to indulge it.

So I sat down and did two quick figure studies in paint. It felt so easy and so natural after all that drawing. Maybe I should remember to make paint wait every so often….

 

*Reference photos courtesy of the amazing New Masters Academy image library!

 

figure1

 

figure2

Kicking it up a notch

Things are settling into place now. Unpacking and setting up the new home is essentially done. It’s been 5 moves in the past 3 years, and I must say I’m loving the warm fuzzy feeling of a year-long lease.

The studio space is set up. I’ve unpacked all my supplies and flipped through old paintings (some worse than I remember, some better). I’ve cut back my day job hours to the bare minimum, and I’ve signed up for a weekend workshop with Sean Cheetham at BACAA (Bay Area Classical Artist Atelier) in April. I feel like a total ass-kicking artist ready to take things to the next level.

Mostly.

The rest of my brain swings wildly between “THIS IS TOO MUCH. I CAN’T DO IT. I’ll just stick with the day job, thankyouverymuch.” and “AAHHHHH!!!” (*AAHHHHH roughly translates to: extreme fits of excitement akin to the ravings of a three year old on a sugar high). Both make it very difficult for me to get shit done.

So I’ve chosen a fun experimental painting to work on for the next day or so (pictures to come). And I take little breaks to calm my crazy-self down before getting back to business. Because my crazy self isn’t a great painter, let me tell ya.

In other news, if you’re in the bay area make sure to stop by the 56th Annual Lodi Community Spring Art Show at the Woodbridge Winery April 15-17 where several of my paintings will be on display. Including these two:

 

A Move & a Masters’ Study

I just moved (from LA to the San Francisco area) and boy did that slow down my art-making! It’s not a good excuse but it happens to me every time. As a way to make painting seem fun and manageable after the emotional and physical ordeal that is moving, I pulled out a little series of masters studies that I started ages ago.

The best things about this project:

-I already started it (there was less to do)

-They are tiny (and seem less scary)

-As masters studies they don’t require a high degree of creativity

-The excitement of looking at Masters to choose from is highly motivating

-As a selection of different artists, the project allows me to switch rapidly between styles (which keeps me excited)

And it worked! I feel enthused about finding my own style and growing as an artist. And I’m excited to visit new galleries and meet the local artists I might learn from!

Here’s my little master’s study sampling project so far (Masters: Sargent, Liepke, Sargent, Burdick, Anderson, and Zorn) I still need to add that little Sargent face on the upper left. Compositionally this was a weird way to lay it out, but I have a better idea of how to handle that next time. And the important thing is… I painted!

IMG_6812

Another Workshop

I recently had the great joy of attending a 5-day portrait painting workshop in Encinitas, with the amazing artist, Meadow Gist. I love portraiture, and I have had several classes with Meadow in the past, so I knew it was gonna be good. Some teachers really resonate with me when they explain things (and others sound like they’re speaking a foreign language). Meadow is one of those teachers who speaks a language I understand, and I feel like my growth during this workshop was largely due to her skill as a teacher. Here are two of my more successful pieces from the workshop.

Portrait1(GistWorkshop2014)

Portrait2(GistWorkshop2014)

Beginner’s Mind

Wow. I am facing some serious “not good enough” stuff this week! It seemed to crop up after getting a spot in the (much coveted) Morgan Weistling painting workshop in Pasadena. At first I was just on the waiting list… which felt safe. But suddenly I get the email: “We’ve got a spot for you!”. And then… panic set in. And this is what it sounds like in my brain:

“Oh no. The website said this workshop isn’t appropriate for beginners… am I a beginner? My drawing skills still need serious work. But… I’ve been working on art for the last 5 years– I must not be a ‘beginner’ anymore!… Puh-leeze, you’re so lazy, you basically did nothing to improve your art in that time.”

And the voice goes on……. and on….. and on………….

The thing is, I want to be an artist because I love to make art. And (call me crazy) my self imposed emotional beatings makes the whole process a hole heck of a lot less fun.

I recently watched this video about that uncomfortable place just outside of comfortable where all the learning happens. But the scared part of my brain says “beginner” like it’s a bad thing. Because I want to be there, in that uncertain place where I am eagerly trying and failing with such gusto that I’m always moving forward.

So essentially, I am still a “beginner.” But always want to be a beginner, even if I become the cat’s pajamas, I want to think like a beginner. Always risking, stepping into the unknown, moving forward. I always want to be the worst artist in a classroom so that I have huge leaps to grow before moving to the next level.

Here’s some Morgan Weistling work to blow your socks off:

from: morganweistling.com

from: morganweisling.com

Masters’ Study Series

Master Study

Here’s the beginning of a series of six small (oil) portrait master’s studies. (Left: John Singer Sargent, Right: Malcom Liepke). Masters’ studies are an amazing way to analyze how an artist works. By attempting to recreate great works you add to your toolbox of problem solving in paint.

(I’m going to go back and finish the Sargeant on the left… there’s going to be a second head in there. So really, this is 7 portraits!)