Stories or Statements


Waiting to Launch – one of the first pieces I painted from a photo I took.

I am not an accomplished artist, nor am I seeking renown.  This will not be a career for me.  This art exploration I am on is following its own meandering path, and a year and a half ago, the path diverged from decorative painting, to exploring subjects in more detail.

You seek, and get a lot of advice when you start this.  Youtube has been a font of tutorials, but I don’t want to slavishly copy them (as they advise you not to) because that is not my work.

The biggest and best advice – “You learn by doing.”  But after that it gets confusing.  Copy old masters; Don’t copy old masters; Paint from reference photos; Don’t paint from reference photos; It’s ok to trace  your reference sketch/photo; It’s not ok to trace  your reference sketch/photo.  You get the picture.


Frozen Ghost – combines three of my photos to tell a story.

Some of my favourite pieces come from photos I have taken.  Notice I say, “come from”.  I consider it my right to modify as necessary, or not.  And being a new painter, each time I tackle a photo, there is a challenge to present something on the support that I have not done before.  Each time, I am learning something that I can use in future paintings.  But when I showed some of my pieces to an artist and art teacher, who has had a decades long career and whom I respect, I was told that my work, while nice, lacked emotion.  That has niggled in my heart for months now.  There are all kinds of criticisms that I would have expected (on brushwork or perspective, colour or composition), but not that one.  And I have a problem with it.

Each painting I do from my photos evokes a memory for me, and/or tells a story.  Obviously, someone else will lack the frame of reference for the story, but I hope that the viewer can get some sense of it.  Perhaps one day I will evolve to the point of making strong statements with a brush, but at the moment I am giving more of a recitation.  And that is OK.

So if you are struggling with what should be the “right” way to paint – stop struggling.

If it speaks to you, that is the most important thing as you grow.  And try things outside your comfort zone, but not all the time.  Remember, you should be enjoying yourself.


First Freeze – an ATC I did from my photo of the pond where I live.  The challenge was to learn how to do ice.  But the story is of a particularly beautiful sunset in the place I grew up.  A moment in time that evokes the peace of this place when I was a child.  In this light you don’t see a lot of the changes “progress” has wrought.



6 thoughts on “Stories or Statements

  1. You point is spot on. We should always create from our heart. Do what you want to and have fun. Critique can be valuable, but also devastating. It’s important that we don’t get taken down. Keep doing what you are doing! I think these paintings are great.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That is a hard criticism. It’s so vague and unhelpful. I say keep working on your compositions. The first painting contains a couple tangents. The peak of the roof on the blue building and the middle of the boat both hit the edge of the canvas. This article explains it well In the second painting, the boat and the building look like they’re almost on the same plane. It’s either a huge boat or a tiny building. You can pull the boat forward by adding more detail in the boat and foreground and push the building back by using less detail in the building and path as it travels into the distance. The perspective link within the article has some good information. I mostly work from photos, but I frequently move things around, make adjustments, and combine multiple photos for a stronger composition. Lots of practice and a critical eye are the keys to improvement. You seem like you’re on the right track.


    • Thank you, Amber. I’ll look through the article and I’m sure it will have useful info in it for the future.

      The first painting was one of my earliest ones and that was pretty much how I wanted it to be. I might have considered doing something different with the blue house, but the boat was important to me that way when I took the photo. There were actually more houses and a road behind the ones that you see, and a pile of junk where you see rocks to the left of the boat.

      In terms of the second painting, yes, I know what you are saying. I originally did the whole thing as a monocolour value study and then added the colour in. The house is not as small as it should be, and detail is my bug-a-boo. I find it very difficult not to render relatively close to the detail I see. While I won’t change the dimensions anymore – I may add some washes of pale blue-white to sink the house into the mist.

      Thank you for the encouragement.

      Liked by 1 person

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