I paint more or less full time now. So if giving the majority of your time to earn an income through an endeavour makes you a professional, then you could say I’m a professional artist… go on then, I will, I’m a professional artist… still getting used to that.
However, it’s been such a short time since I made the transition to full time (except Friday mornings) that I’m still very much feeling my way. Most of the big issues are slowly but resolutely being settled. Like, what surface do I prefer to paint on? It seems I prefer panel. What paint do I use? Well, oil colour. As to what brand? The answer to that one is: whatever is cheapest for the quality I need. So I might have a very expensive red that I can’t get elsewhere for the chroma and quality, but I might also use student quality Burnt Umber because it’s no different to more expensive brands I’ve tried.
The biggest question at the moment is, what do you paint? That one’s a toughie. You see. most artists are known for painting a particular subject or for a broader style, like abstract, photo-real, (etc.) and any combination of subjects and styles. So you might get a photo-real portrait artist, or a photo-real still life painter, or an abstract version of both of these. For the record, I’m not a huge fan of paintings that are so like their photographic reference that you can’t tell the difference. Some people love it, but it’s not for me. Anyway, there are many styles and many subjects and endless combinations of the two and to me, that is wonderful! Long may it continue thus.
But what do I do? I think I just “do”. I paint every day, any subject I find fascinating or beautiful and hope that others might find it beautiful or interesting too. Isn’t that what an artist does? Doesn’t he or she effectively say, through their work, “Hey, check this out. Don’t you think it’s cool?” Obviously not everyone says it that way – I might – but whatever words one use, the sentiment is the same.
As I work I learn. I learn what colours I love to use, what colours I don’t. What lighting I prefer and what lighting I try to avoid, what subject matter appeals and what really doesn’t. Slowly but, hopefully, surely I’m developing a style. There is a saying that dates back to at least the Renaissance, that has been used by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, Picasso, Lucian Freud and many others; it is “every painter paints himself (or herself of course)” and that is what I’m learning to do.
With that in mind, here’s a study I’ve just finished, from a photo’ I snapped on my phone a year or two ago, at great risk to my well being (wasps get nasty when they’re tipsy). It’s oil on panel (my preferred medium and surface), in red (my favourite colour) and browns (also a favourite) and has a subject I found interesting and a little unusual (my favourite subject matter… interesting and unusual).