For the past 20 years or so, I've been painting my version of the human form (made up from my imagination most of the time), and I love this subject matter more than any other (even birds, which I paint a lot of!). Lately, though, I've been shaking things up a bit by working on a new series of abstract, non-representational paintings.
It all began in February when I attended a ZOOM lecture by artist Nancy Hillis in which she encouraged artists to "surprise yourself" every time you begin/create a painting. It was an "ah-hah" moment for me because I'd gotten into a bit of rut with my work--resolving each painting in a similar way. Boredom was looming on the horizon, so her online lecture was just the motivation I needed to change my approach.
I adopted a "what have I got to lose?" attitude and pulled out all the half-baked paintings that were lying around my studio (we're talking double digits here). I realized that however much I stared at these paintings (many of them were started 6 months ago) I had lost interest in finishing them in my usual manner. So I did what Nancy had suggested: I surprised myself! I found my stash of Daler Rowney acrylic inks (in little glass bottles with droppers) and started dripping, spraying, and generally working without a paintbrush in hand to rework these old paintings and transform them into something completely different---abstracts!
I must have done a dozen of these in a day---filled with joy at the many possibilities in store, I squeezed out ink, sprayed with water, and let things run and blend on my paper. I followed Nancy's advice: don't judge or assess the work right away, but rather, let the painting sit and then revisit it later. One by one, I set to work on each painting and by the end of day, I was tired but happy---I had repurposed all of these "dud" paintings and surprised myself in the process.
I used this new approach for a month, and though I have gone back to painting my figurative works, my approach to HOW I paint and resolve each painting has become more free and open-ended.