Each year, I take stock of what I consider to be my "best of" paintings. This evaluation process helps me decide on what series I want to continue to work on, what I want to do less of, and where I ultimately want to focus my time and energy. To that end, I create a file folder on my PC, and drag images into that folder that I think were important to my artistic development. These images run the gamut from successful show paintings/award winners to humble experiments that didn't quite click, but still moved me in a new direction. I print out little thumbnail images, paste them into a notebook, and write a few sentences about *why* a particular painting is important to me, and what I learned from making it. It's a kind of personal "greatest hits" but it's also a distillation/concentration of where I'm at in my life and how that's reflected in the art I create.
One thing that moved me in a new artistic direction was rather unexpected. This past February, a friend told me about a free ZOOM mini course taught by CA artist/art coach Nancy Hillis. On a whim, I signed up. Hillis favors an abstract gestural style of painting and her mantra (which I embraced) is "surprise yourself every day in your studio". That one directive stuck with me. For a month, I dribbled acrylic inks over old paintings, and let things RUN amok! The results were, indeed, surprising and unlocked a new path for me: creating non-representational paintings! I started using this method whenever I got stuck or hung up on a painting that wasn't working, and I ended up with some surprisingly effective results.
Here's just one example of how I used this method to fix a painting that wasn't working. The painting on the left contained a figure that I wasn't particularly fond of (the head/hair wasn't quite right) but I still loved the yellow and green colors and knew I could capitalize on that. Once I started applying black acrylic ink with a brush, and adding some mid-tone purple, I was in the groove! I ended up with what I feel is a nice variety of shapes and harmonious colors in this small 11 x 14" painting "Down the Garden Path". At no point was I afraid of "ruining" this painting because I figured had nowhere to go but up! I've embraced that philosophy for the past decade or so, and it's resulted in some revived-from-the-dead paintings that exceeded all expectations and even SURPRISED ME!
All of these tasks are part of being an artist; they add rhythm and structure to my days, and keep me actively involved in the greater art community--for which I am extremely grateful.