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Fascinating Discomfort

en plein air plein air painting the artist's journey Mar 17, 2024

I thought the last several months of automatic drawing would prepare me a bit better for the Hans Hofmann Challenge I presented in The Artist's Journey Community. The challenge is to paint en plein air a la Hans Hofmann ... the goal being to paint my experience of the landscape and my emotional response triggered by the landscape rather than the visual aspects that would render the painting as a representation of how the landscape looks.

I wasn't surprised at how uncomfortable I felt as I carried my art supplies to the backyard. The sun was already low in the sky; it had taken longer than expected to gather my plein air equipment for painting in oil.

For the last few years I've been focused on training my brain to be able to shift back and forth between eye/hand and eye/heart coordination. Progress has been extremely slow. I spent so many years honing my eye/hand coordination that it's difficult for me to hijack my brain and have my hand connect to my emotions and physical senses when I'm referencing "reality" as I do when plein air painting and urban sketching. In the studio, however, I'm not referencing reality or photographs and my hand/heart connection works extremely well. 

For twenty minutes I was filled with frustration and self-criticism. I felt I was depicting the blueberry bushes more realistically than I thought appropriate for the challenge. The sun sunk lower and the branches lost their orange glow. In the dimming light, my brain calmed and became distracted by memories of abundant blueberries in summer and the joy of making raw blueberry pie and sprinkling delicious blueberries on my morning granola. A conversation began between the canvas and my inner artist. I felt awkward, and I felt connected.

Odd how satisfying discomfort can be. It will be months before there are blueberries on the bushes. Yet, it's the small violet circles in the painting that make my heart sing and my mouth smile. I don't think I will be nearly so uncomfortable the next time I give this a try.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Chris Carter

For members of The Artist's Journey Community: Don't forget that Art Book Club meets live online tomorrow (March 18, 2024) at 2pm Eastern Time.  We'll be discussing automatic and intuitive drawing as well as introducing the work of Arshile Gorky and Hundertwasser. 


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