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Category: process

Not so precious

In my second sitting with this painting I brought in the sky and sea, and I have to say that it was thoroughly enjoyable and I like the outcome. In particular, I love this section of the shoreline. I’m making a conscious effort to evoke the essence of the scene without getting too precious.

sea detail. this part is my favorite so far
2. sky and sea
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New Beginning

Started a new painting last night. I had intended to do the same scene again but after making that little waterfall painting the other night, I changed my mind. Gotta move on. I’ll be painting more loosely and following my intuition.

1. undersketch and some greens
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Setting aside “Balance” in favor of self-awareness

I’ve decided that I’m going to blow up my freshly created 2020 goals, and tighten them up so that this year I strive for immersive/passionate focus into just a couple of things, rather than pushing a number of larger goals forward incrementally.

The main driver for this change was reading Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness‘s excellent book, “The Passion Paradox” One of the main concepts in the book is that balance and passionate pursuit do not coexist.

“Balance” is more often than not an illustion, especially for someone who is wholly absorbed in a passion. Instead of striving for balance, then, the passionate person should stribe to be self-aware. Self-awareness … is the only force strong enough to counter passion’s overwhelming inertia.

The Passion Paradox, p. 163, Stulberg & Magness

It’s with this in mind that I’ve decided to put a passionate focus into self-awareness this year. Meditation and mindfulness training will be my biggest area of personal focus this year, because I’ve come to believe that this learning and growing is foundational for every other part of my life.

In January of 2019 I started a humble practice using Sam Harris’ meditation app – Waking Up. For the first half of the year I was doing a 10min guided meditation nearly daily, and for the last half I’ve been getting in a few sessions a week. Even with this minimal investment of time and attention, I’ve seen a remarkable change occur in my daily experience. I’m able to be less reactive, more calm, and generally more engaged with the present moment. More importantly, I am able to see that these changes are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s possible in meditation practice.

What does this mean for me, practically? For now, it means that I’m committing to daily meditations and studying meditation beyond what’s included in Waking Up.

I’ve started Jack Kornfield’s free guided meditation course, “Mindfulness Daily” and will continue that for the full 40 sessions.

I’ve started reading “The Craving Mind“, wherein (from the jacket) “Judson Brewer, M.D., Ph.D., a leading neuroscientist who has studied addictions for twenty years explores how bad habits are formed, why they are so tenacious, and how the practice of mindfulness can help us to conquer the most stubborn addictions and step into a new way of being.which covers using meditation practice to break addiction and bad habits.” So far it’s incredibly insightful.

Next on the shelf is D.E. Harding’s “On Having No Head.” After that is Jon Kabat-Zinn’s “Full Catastrophe Living.”

See what i just did there?

Undoubtedly, as i move forward in this pursuit my plans will shift and change, but I’m committed to making this year one of huge growth in self-awareness.

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What am I trying to achieve?

As I was reflecting on the work I’m doing right now and my painting plans for this year, I became very certain that my primary goal is this: I want to learn to make mid-scale acrylic landscape paintings with a process and outcome that represent my sensibility.

The most important thing about framing the goal this way is that it prioritizes exploration, experimentation, and learning over outcomes. In other words, this is not strictly about making landscape paintings that Ben likes, or somebody else likes or wants in their home or whatever—this is about making paintings in service of discovering how Ben makes landscape paintings.

I want to learn to make mid-scale acrylic landscape paintings with a process and outcome that represent my sensibility.

In light of this realization, I’ve decided to spend one or two more sittings with the current painting and call it “done” because i’ve learned about everything I am going to learn from that painting. My next plan was to do a different scene with the same process, but I’ve changed my mind. My next painting will be the same scene, but with different constraints:

  • shorter painting sessions
  • limited overall time
  • limited brush sizes (not too small)
  • paint direct from photo source (as opposed to painting source)

Know what? I’m excited.

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Tree woes

One of the challenges in making this painting based upon the 7x7cm landscape I painted is that there are times when I need to use my imagination to add detail in service of the painting, rather than solely base my painting from the small source. I went into this tree with some measure of caution, but quickly got wrapped up in the detail and went way overboard. In the second image below you can see that the bare tree in the foreground lost it’s definition, particularly where it overlapped with the green tree behind it. As much as i would like each painting session to perfectly portray my vision, this didn’t. So late last night I went back in and started blocking out limbs and putting definition back into the tree. The trickiest parts will be cleaning up limbs that intersect the sky—i’m going to do as little of that as possible. The next pass will be focused on the underpainting of the green tree, then repainting the black limbs where they need to be cleaned up.

7. improvements
6. tree limbs and general overworking
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Larger landscapes (process)

I’ve been planning to do larger, acrylic on wood versions of some of the smaller landscapes I did earlier last year. The idea is to use the small painting as the source rather than the original photograph. Below are the first three sittings. I like where it’s headed.

1: sky and reflection underpainting
2: tree and tree reflection
3: bringing more color into sky and reflection
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