Monday, July 25, 2011

The Muse is Waiting

Number 2: The Presence of the Other. Acrylic on Wood.
24 x 24 inches. SOLD. ©2008 Mary A. Gravelle. To purchase
a giclee print, click here.
Recently I began painting again after almost nine months off. To my amazement, the Muse is still with me!

My dreams during the last two nights were about painting. In the first dream, I was the artist doing very cool paintings hanging out with very cool people (of course! ;-)). In last night's dream, I was asked to look over a stack of paintings by a retired painting professor who was preparing for his retrospective.

My excuse for not painting is that I have been in art school. It never felt like I had time to paint for myself given the myriad of school projects to complete. I managed to paint one painting for myself last year. That was Sir Kitty at Home, a 36 x 60 inch acrylic painting on canvas.

So, my inspiring message to you dear artist is that the Muse is waiting. She is waiting for you to show up to your process. She is never the one that forsakes us. No, we ignore her effectively shutting her out. How can we listen and hear her prodding when we don’t show up to our creative process?

My inspiring message to the art collectors out there is to keep doing your job of appreciating the artist's work. If you have a favorite artist that seems to be stuck, prod them to just show up. If you know an artist that does show up, pat them on the back and tell them to keep showing up.

Is this your experience too? Do you find that merely showing up invites the Muse into your creative process? If not, why? How do you invite her in

Monday, July 18, 2011

How Do You Give an Art Critique?

Is it appropriate to give an artist a critique on their work when they have not asked for it? If an artist asks you to critique their work, how do you go about critiquing it? Do you give negative feedback? Should you always give positive feedback? 

In my opinion, if an artist has not asked you to critique the work, then don't. There may be reasons why the artist has not asked. Maybe they have not reached the point where they feel strong enough in their artistic pursuit to take a critique. Maybe they are still experimenting with their artistic style and they may feel squashed creatively to hear a critique of their work. Or, conversely, the artist may have reached a point where they feel strong enough in their personal artistic expression that they might not feel a need for a critique.

However with all of that said, I have given unsolicited feedback in certain cases. I try not to be negative but constructive. I only give unsolicited feedback to a beginning or emerging artist whom I judge to have that "certain something" like talent or intent where I think my comment/feedback would be helpful to their artwork.

The feedback, whether solicited or not, that will be helpful to the artist comes from an art making standpoint (formal art elements) such as, "By using blue or purple instead of black in the shadow areas, a new life-force and vitality would come forth in the work." For unsolicited feedback, preface the comment with something like, "I know you did not ask for feedback so take whatever I say with a grain of salt…."

There are positive and negative ways to go about giving critiques. Whatever you do, stay away from negativity as that can have the effect of shutting down the creative spirit very quickly. Talk about the work of art and do not attack or judge the artist. Use what I said earlier about giving feedback in terms of formal art elements. This will help to depersonalize the critique.

The artist is always in control of how to use the feedback from the critique. The artist might decide that what has been said feels right and true for their art, or not. The bottom line lies with the artist and their particular work. Only the artist knows what they are trying to accomplish with their particular form of art.

I think if an artist is serious about improving their artwork, they will appreciate, welcome, and solicit critiques. Any artist who has been to art school knows that their art gets better through critiques. Always give positive and constructive comments if asked for feedback on the art.

When I began to paint my first landscape paintings, I sought out the critique from a local art professor. I cannot tell you how helpful this was. At times it felt mighty uncomfortable as well. Somehow, he maintained a position of balancing comments on my talent as an artist with the needed criticism of how I was going about my painting. We remain friends to this day and talk fondly of those times when I asked for his feedback and took it in, or not. My art has benefitted from positive and constructive feedback.

What is your opinion? When do you give a critique? And how do you go about it? Do you have a formula for critiquing an artist's work? I would love to hear from you.

Pictured above: Simplicity, oil on wood, diptych, 48 x 48 x 1 inches (two panels 24 x 48 x 1 inches each). ©2011 Mary A. Gravelle. Available. Contact Mary Gravelle at for purchase information.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Who are you as an artist?

This past weekend a friend called my reputation as being an artist into question. He told me that I am not up to his level as an artist. He informed me that I could never get into a high-end gallery like he has. Egotistical nastiness and comparison was in his voice. He continued to tell me that if I could not see that, then I had a problem.

Okaaaay……..   and Ouch!

So now I am questioning who I am as an artist. Why am I going to art school? What do I expect to achieve through my art and with my art? How far do I really want my art to go? What kind of deep commitment level am I really ready to give to my art?

Do I want to see my art in a museum? Do I want my art to be represented in Santa Fe, New York, Los Angeles, or any other hothouse of art activity?

Or do I just want to paint and not worry whether it sells or not? Is it important to convey some sort of meaning or message through my art? Am I doing art for my own sake and sanity? Does anyone else even care if I do my art?

In a way this is beneficial to where I am right now. It is always good to question who we are and what we are doing and why.

How about you? Who are you as an artist? Where do you want your art to take you? Where do you want to take your art? Do you want to be famous locally, at the state level, national or international level? Do you want to sell your art or just create it?

Above image: Triangle Fire, mixed media on wood, 36 x 36 inches. Available. Collectors and galleries, contact me if interested.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Is Creativity Learned?

Is creativity something you can call forth? Do you need to believe that you are creative to be creative? Is everyone creative or is it something that you are born with?

I believe that the creative spark can hit when we are receptive in some way. I seem to be most creative when I am full of wonder and curiosity. The questions that arise from this state seem to invite the bubbling forth of ideas. That seems to really get the creative process rolling.

When I begin a new painting or painting series, this is what happens. First, I begin noticing my current interests and intrigues. That leads me to curiosity and wonder about those subjects. I begin researching which leads to more questions. The process can be quite lengthy at times until the questions subside. Then there is an incubation period where all of this research and the answers coalesce. This is a space of the unknown or gestation. I just let ideas percolate and come to the surface. Then, these new ideas run through my filter of what I know about these subjects. The juxtaposition of what I know and what I just learned churn the creative process and bring forth something new.

What do you think about creativity? How do you get the juices rolling?

Image shown here: Number 3: Quintessential Creativity, 24" x 24", mixed-media on wood. ©2011 Mary A. Gravelle. Available. Email for more information on purchasing this original artwork.