Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Artist Forum: Winter Woods Inspiration

 Question: How do you decide what to paint?

This is something I've been asked a lot recently.  And I thought I'd share some of my thoughts as it's something every artist struggles with at some point.  

For my example, I will use my Winter Woods painting, which is posted in this blog.  This is a series I started a few years ago.  The dog was restless and I brought her outside to play for a little bit.  While she was running around, I thought the fresh snow was beautiful.  It was so fresh and powdery on the ground, the light coating floating on the branches, and the sun making everything shimmer.  That was the inspiration.

I went back to my studio and started sketching.  For me, it's all about finding the right balance.  I don't want something too realistic, otherwise I'd just use my camera.  But, if it's too abstracted, it tends to lose it's connection to our senses.  So, I try to find that place between the real and the abstracted that brings out the emotions of a piece.  The first piece that came out was a very simple gouache design on a greeting card.  It was a flat blue sky, multi-layers of white snow, dark brown trees with snow on each branch.

For me, that is just the start.  I read a Matisse quote that it took him 50 times painting a subject before he considered a piece "good."  That stuck in my head and, for me, that really is true.  When I complete a piece, it goes on my wall or somewhere that I will see it frequently.  I want to see it often and think, "I like that part, I wish I did that differently, and I will add that next time."  What I want to do is push each piece further toward my vision.  So, the Winter Woods piece evolved.  The hills of snow became less exaggerated.  The sky was amplified by various shades of blue.  I stagger the trees more to give it depth and a pattern like notes on a music sheet.  And finally, the trunks and branches are a mixture of black, brown, and metallic paint to give it shape and excitement.  Just like the previous pieces, this will be on my wall and I will think of ways to push this piece further next time.  And when I'm out of ideas then the series is complete.

But, I'm never our of ideas.  I have a list of 41 paintings I'd like to do.  Where do these ideas come from?  Everywhere.  They come from my patrons requesting commissions.  Maybe a discussion with a fellow artist.  A suggestion from a gallery owner.  Seeing something in a museum.  Maybe a random object caught my eye on TV.  To keep track of all this inspiration, I make a list and sketches so I'm always busy painting.

I hope this is helpful.  And please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like to discuss something.    

Winter Woods, 2017
acrylic paint on canvas
18" x 24" (45.7 cm x 61.0 cm)
© copyright Mike Kraus 

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It's a chilly late afternoon in the forest.  The snow glows on the creaking branches of the trees.  All I hear is the crunching of my boots down the icy path.  This is the season of hibernation.  A time of reflection and calm.

This painting would look best in a space that is green, red, yellow, dark blue, light blue, orange, violet, purple, green, brown  beige, white, black, or on wood.

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