I Give Up !!

Of course I’m not giving up painting !!!
shirley_williams_art_brushes

I’m giving up painting with brushes.

 

 

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Last December 2015, I participated in a life-altering painting retreat
totally off-grid in the seaside jungles near Sayulita, Mexico.
Read my Blog Post   HERE    
and   HERE

We were a small group of 15 committed artists, completely cut off from the outside world for 9 days. It was protected and totally safe.

The retreat was led by a fantastic abstract painter, Nicholas Wilton  who is based in San Francisco. He encouraged us to push ourselves and explore new creative directions in our painting.

I’ve been painting, exhibiting and supporting myself as an artist for over 20 years. But I admit, I felt a bit stale the past few years. As a career artist you need to shock your creative system every 10 years or so, in whatever way suits you. Otherwise painting can become a job.

Watching all the other artists painting with brushes inspired me. So I decided to hit the refresh button and learn to paint in a totally different way.

Until then, it had never been my approach to paint with brushes. Instead I always poured, painted with my hands, brayers and palette knives.

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These past 9 months I decided to learn to paint with brushes.

And what an incredibly frustrating and humbling experience it’s been !

It’s a bit embarrassing to admit.
I’ve been in the studio every day for 8 – 10 hours.
I’ve worked and re-worked dozens of paintings, and don’t have ONE painting that satisfies me.
In 9 MONTHS  !!!

A brush in my hand continues to feel foreign and restrictive.  And to my eye, the awkwardness I feel shows up in these paintings.

 

But at some point ENOUGH IS ENOUGH !

Yesterday was the final straw. I got so frustrated with re-painting the same large canvas for weeks with nothing good to show for it, that I threw my brushes in the sink. I grabbed a brayer and began covering everything up with large gestures. Suddenly the painting came alive and I was having a blast.

To be clear, I didn’t feel pressured or obligated these past 9 months, to learn to paint with brushes. And I wasn’t subjecting myself to unnecessary suffering.

Instead it was about opening myself to other ways of thinking and creating art. Working through the physical challenges of painting in an unfamiliar way has made me hyper-aware of how I paint best. It’s given me a heightened sensitivity to my materials and tools.  

In the long run, every frustrating moment taught me something. I even loved every minute in a weird sort of way.

Sometimes as artists, we MUST try new ways of working. It’s only by challenging ourselves that we keep moving forward.
But at the same time,  “we must be in touch with what our souls want to do”.

That’s why I’m declaring here and now. NO MORE BRUSHES for me.


New Small Encaustic Painting Series

 

encaustic on wood, 12 x 12 inches, float-framed

‘Beneath the Surface #S1605 © Shirley Williams $450.

 

 

 

Over the past year, I’ve been exploring new ideas using mixed media on small canvases and wood. 

What’s Mixed Media you might ask! 

In the arts, “mixed media” basically means anything goes.

However it’s not truly anything goes.  Professional artists always make sure the combinations are compatible and archival. This ensures the artwork doesn’t fall apart later on.

In my case, these little gems are created using a combination of encaustic wax, collaged papers, image transfers and oil sticks. – all archival of course !!

With this series, I just allowed images from my subconscious to bubble up. I called the series “Beneath the Surface”.

All these new pieces are 12 x 12 inches and smaller. 

They are float-framed and ready to hang. 

 

encaustic on wood, 12 x 12 inches, float-framed

‘Beneath the Surface #S1604 © Shirley Williams $450. 

encaustic on wood, 12 x 12 inches, float-framed $450

‘Beneath the Surface #S1606 © Shirley Williams $450

encaustic on wood, 9 x9  inches, float-framed

‘Beneath the Surface #S1610 © Shirley Williams $275.

encaustic on wood, 9 x9  inches, float-framed

‘Beneath the Surface #S1611 © Shirley Williams $275.

encaustic on wood, 9 x9  inches, float-framed

‘Beneath the Surface #S1605 © Shirley Williams $275

encaustic on wood, 9 x9  inches, float-framed

‘Beneath the Surface #S1609 © Shirley Williams $275.

Advice for a Career Change

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Do you ever feel bored by your current life or career and long for a more creative life?

A few days ago I received this email from one of my Newsletter subscribers. It’s a question I get asked a lot and my answer may surprise you.

Dear Shirley,
First, I absolutely love your work (and studio!).

I am wondering if you have a BFA and/or MFA in the visual arts or “only” took classes – I can’t tell from your resume. I ask because I am struggling personally on the need for formal training at a University for one to become a successful artist. I am a successful, tenured professor/scientist, but have realized at the age of 50 that my true passion in life is not science but the visual arts (photography, painting). I want to change careers and am wondering if I need to return to school to earn an MFA to be a successful artist. I already have a MS and PhD in the sciences and am very creative but have had no formal training in the arts to date.
Thank you.
Joe

This is the answer I wrote him.  What are your thoughts about my advice?

Hi Joe

Thanks for your wonderful comment.

To answer your question, I never did finish my BFA. After about half way through I realized I wasn’t learning anything that was useful to me personally – The curriculum mostly concentrated on Conceptualism, Critique writing, art-speak, Sculpture, Film Media etc.

I was interested in painting, which a BFA does not cover in depth.

I also noticed how unprepared for an art career graduates seemed to be. Many floundered after working so hard to earn their degrees. Some never created art again. The few who DID succeed were filled with a burning desire that would have brought them success regardless.  So I simply audited the courses I wanted to pursue such as painting, drawing, color theory, printmaking, design, art history, business, marketing  etc. 

Don’t get me wrong. You absolutely must have the knowledge. An artist never should stop learning and growing. Along the way I’ve personally continued to take residency and online workshops. Plus I read and research constantly to push myself in new directions. in addition I’m always looking at lots of other artists’ work.

Not having a BFA/ MFA will never really hold you back if you’re determined and work hard.

Personally If I were in your shoes, I’d rather spend the next 5 years  honing a personal style, creating a body of work, and polishing your business / marketing skills

WHAT YOU NEED MOST OF ALL IS ……

!!!!!! THE BURNING DESIRE TO CREATE ART AT ANY COST  !!!!!!!

shirley_williams_studio15

Not everyone wants an art career. But if you do, here’s  what you need to succeed as a career artist

1.   Art that is uniquely, authentically your voice.

2.   A body of about 20 compelling artworks in a similar style based on exploring a single idea or theme.

3.   Professionalism in every interaction – Website, Social, Photographs, Business Cards, Postcards, 

4    Track Record, even if it’s only the local coffee shop at first 

5    Data Base of Professional & Personal Contacts 

Just begin one step at a time.

  • ·      Make lots and lots of art, and take photos.
  • ·      Keep a sketchbook / journal of ideas, colors etc,
  • ·      Take lots of courses, 
  • ·      Start following other artists online that you like.
  • ·      Go to galleries, network
  • ·      Begin a data base of names of people you know and meet
  • ·      Never do it only for the money :) Always stay true to what you want to create.

Good luck and enjoy the creative journey.

Joe’s reply made my day. It’s always such a wonderful feeling to help someone who appreciates it !!

Thank you so much for replying  & sharing your wisdom with me. I sincerely appreciate that you took time away from your busy day to reply to me with such wonderful advice.  I don’t think my life will ever be the same. Your words of wisdom are worth more to me than an “Ivy league education”!

 

Painting Fnds a New Home

This painting was just sold  today to a new collector in Ontario.

‘Wish You Were Here”
4 x 6 feet,
acrylic on canvas.

'Wish You Were Here" 48 x 72 inches, © 2015 Shirley Williams SOLD

‘Wish You Were Here” 48 x 72 inches, © 2015 Shirley Williams SOLD

 

 

Ronald McDonald House Acquires Original Paintings

Signs of spring are everywhere which is putting a smile on everyone’s faces. The bright yellow of forsythia bushes always shocks me out of the winter doldrums and lightens my spirits.

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Spring especially jump-starts my creative juices. At this time of year there’s nothing I love more than to roll up the big garage door in my studio, find a fabulous music playlist and paint all day and evening.

My studio has been a busy beehive the past few months with studio visits and new paintings in the works. I’m thrilled to have some exciting news to share.

This week, Ronald McDonald House  opened a brand new, much anticipated 3700 square foot facility at Metropolitan Hospital. It’s a fully functional, virtual home with seven bedrooms, on the pediatric / neonatal floor, for the families of sick children. Ronald McDonald House Charities provides a valuable service for parents to stay close 24/7 for as long as they need to.

Sarah Beveridge of SB Contemporary Art was the art consultant on this project. They were searching for original artwork that would be both cheerful and calming. Numerous artists from Southwestern Ontario were considered.

To my delight and surprise, they selected me.  Eleven of my original paintings were acquired to be featured in every room.

Ronald McDonald House Charities Permanent Collection

“In the Wind” triptych © Shirley Williams

The triptych above, titled “In the Wind” are on the feature wall of the main family room. Each are matted and framed in white. © Shirley Williams

Ronald McDonald House has a special place in my heart. They were a godsend when our baby grandson spent a month at Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto. I am deeply honored to be see my paintings grace their walls and hopefully brighten someone’s day.

Ronald McDonald House Charities Permanent Collection

“Hidden Messages” Original Series © Shirley Williams Art

Each of the remaining original paintings are in the “Hidden Messages” series, and are featured in each of the bedrooms and hall. Everything was framed with white mats and white frames for a fresh look.  © Shirley Williams

Windsor Regional Hospital and their Metropolitan Hospital Campus celebrated the Grand Opening of Canada’s 15th Ronald McDonald House on May 6th, 2016. An Open House for the following two days gave eager members of the Windsor community the chance to see this spectacular new facility.

I am exceeding proud to have my paintings play such an integral part. The outpouring of gratitude from families who have had occasion to need Ronald McDonald House in other cities was really touching.

Thank you to everyone who was involved in making it happen !!!

Thinking about Climate Change

I’ve  been reading and thinking a lot about climate change this past winter.
Here’s my latest painting expressing those feelings.

‘Rising Tide’
acrylic on canvas,   20″ x 20″  
© Shirley Williams Art

'Rising Tide' 20" x 20" acrylic on canvas © Shirley Williams Art

‘Rising Tide’ 20″ x 20″ acrylic on canvas © Shirley Williams Art

Inspired by Spring

Spring is inspiring me. I’ve been pushing myself to experiment a bit and I like it !

Another one from my new series just completed today.

‘Nature’s Path’
20×20 inches, acrylic on canvas
© 2016 Shirley Williams Art

M-C1604-Shirley_Williams_Art-Natures_Path-sm

‘Nature’s Path’ acrylic on canvas 20 x 20 inches © 2016 Shirley Williams Art

Just Finished Paintings

Just finished a pair of new abstract paintings. I’m already beginning to loosen up with my new creative direction.  

With these I imagined myself walking through a neighborhood enjoying the day.

Meandering 1 & 2″   acrylic on canvas   12 x 36 inches each © 2016 Shirley Williams Art

M-C1602-Shirley_Williams_Art-Meandering1

‘Meandering 1’ acrylic on canvas, 12 x 36 inches © Shirley Williams Art

M-C1603-Shirley_Williams_Art-Meandering2

‘Meandering 2’ acrylic on canvas, 12 x 36 inches © Shirley Williams Art

The Evolution of a Painting

Lots of you are asking about the new canvas painting series I’ve been working on.

Well, to my surprise, changing gears in the studio is taking a bit more time than I’d imagined.



It takes time to establish a new rhythm with the technical side of things. There’s always the temptation to revert to my familiar palette colors, tools and techniques. 



But every artist needs to shake things up once in awhile, to stay fresh. We all know you can’t get different results using the same approach again and again. So I’m feeling my way along, one step at a time.

© Shirley Williams Art. The evolution of an abstract painting

© Shirley Williams abstract painting evolution

My three photos above show how a painting looked along the way to completion. It’s fun to compare.
Read below for a peek into my thinking and painting process.

Step One: PLANNING
The first thing I do before beginning a painting is answer three questions.

  1. What is my Intention for this painting?
  2. What is my Color Combination?
  3. What is the Composition?
  • In this case my Intention was to paint a lively but quiet abstract conversation between colors.
  • My Color Combination was the three primaries, Dominant Blue, Red & Yellow.
  • My Composition choice was the Grid

M-C1601-Process1-Shirley_Williams_Art

© Shirley Williams – Abstract painting one third finished

Step Two: GETTING STARTED

After the first few days, this 20″ x 20″ canvas was developing but looking flat and very unfinished.

So far I had ….
– Primed and roughly textured the surface
– Done some preliminary blocking and drawing
– Added various layers of collaged paper
– Intuitively painted colors, shapes and values
– Stopped working to study it and decide where to take it next

 

 Step Three: CREATING STRUCTURE & BALANCE

© Shirley Williams - Unfinished abstract painting two thirds completed

© Shirley Williams – Unfinished abstract painting two thirds completed

 

After studying the last version, I could see it needed a more comfortable structure for the “conversation” to take place. 

Unlike a computer, areas that don’t work can’t be deleted. They can only be painted over.

With acrylic paint, graphite and oil pastels, I adjusted the darks and lights to make it more cohesive.

Although this is now closer to finished, the painting is still flat. The blocky shapes are too similar. And there’s no sense of engagement.

 Step Four: REFINING TO FINISH


This is where changes need to be thoughtful without overthinking.

'Quiet Conversation' © Shirley Williams 2016, acrylic on canvas 20" x 20"

‘Quiet Conversation’ © Shirley Williams 2016, acrylic on canvas 20″ x 20″

  • Notice How:
  • Each of the colors , reds, yellows and blues are now talking to each other.
  • The variety in shape, texture and color is more interesting.
  • The the dark and light areas create a sense of open space and direction.

I hope you enjoyed seeing the evolution of this painting.

Until next time, remember…..
If there’s anything in your life you want to change,

It’s impossible to have a different result while repeating what was done before. 

Wishing you a life seen through fresh eyes every day.

Shirley

Natural Inspiration

My recent painting retreat in the seacoast jungles of Mexico, was truly transformational. Yes, there have been lots of adventurous trips in my past, but nothing quite like this.

Artist Shirley Williams at Haramara, painting workshop in Mexico

“Life is Beautiful in the jungle.”

Working with other artists, sharing ideas and experimenting was so exhilarating. Painting days were long and intense.

Some of us even painted late into the night, wearing headlamps. We looked like weird aliens, but it worked. 

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The winding path carved through the mountain-side, offered surprising variety and breathtaking views at every turn.

Maneuvering this path at least five or six times a day, never got boring. Each time, I would notice some new plant, flower, bird or butterfly and the feeling of connectedness to the earth. 

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The variety of shapes, colors & textures of the natural surroundings was astounding.

I took hundreds of photos during the week as inspirational reference.

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“How exactly did this experience transform my art?”

FIRST   ……  after getting home

I pulled out all my older paintings and studied them with a critical eye. Some still spoke to me, but many others didn’t make the grade. 

Rather than agonize over my old “failures” I simply slapped a coat of gesso over them. Letting go of the old and deciding to begin anew with a fresh perspective is always extremely liberating.

SECOND 

I decided I want to use more collage and mixed media in my paintings. I scoured my sketchbooks for old drawings and sorted through the various specialty papers I have on hand.

Then I began the process of enhancing these papers with drawing and paint to make them more interesting to use.

THIRD 

I prepared brand new canvases in small, medium and large sizes and reorganized all my paint and materials. 

Shirley Williams Art Studio FOURTH 

I dove right into a new series, starting with eight canvases of various sizes.

As you can see above right, the first active layer of collage, paint and imagery was intuitively added to these canvases. 

Of course there will be many more layers to come.

My biggest creative breakthrough has been in my approach. 

Before it was:
“Think first – paint second.”

Now it’s the reverse:  
“Paint first – think second”

Sounds simple. But it makes all the difference in the world.

Until next time, keep your eyes open to the beauty of nature in the world around you.

 Shirley