Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Artistic Goals

This posting strays from my usual subject matter, yet might be of interest to those who are making resolutions at this time of year. It is intended as only a temporary detour from my normal nature writings.

For those of you who have been watching my progress at you have probably noticed I’m nearing my goal, i.e. 100 quick paintings in a 12 month period. I started January 30 of this year, so I’m on target. Sometimes it has been a challenge to keep up, but I have learned a lot in the process. It has been well worth the effort. I realize that often a quick sketch is more alive than something I’ve slaved over. Light and mood do wonders for a piece of art. I’ve learned a lot about new materials and realize I need to learn a lot more. Part of me will be sad when I finish my 100th painting, and part of me will take a deep breath and be glad. I’ll feel I have time to do a few serious works of art along with my writing and sketching.

Meanwhile, Laure Ferlita, who manages the Challenge ,wrote a nice posting on her blog ( -- Dec. 28 post) challenging artists to put some thought into what they want to accomplish in the coming year. …. And to post it on our blog. She nudged me to go beyond my comfort zone. Ouch!
I chewed on the idea for awhile. At first I drew a blank as to what new goal I wanted to set. Then, while I was sketching last night, it came to me. I had just finished the Clark’s grebe with chicks. I don’t fault how well it is drawn, but I did feel disappointed in myself that I had picked such a static pose. A drawing becomes a work of art when it has life. ‘Life’ doesn’t necessarily mean action. There can be life in something that is sound asleep. There can be life in just a few squiggly lines. ‘Life’ happens when there is a little extra sparkle in there which makes the subject alive. I feel sometimes I get it, and sometimes I don’t. But I should always be aiming for it! Sometimes I need to let loose a little, and not get hung up in detail and accuracy. The aim is to capture both life and accuracy … and to do that I need to practice drawing, …..practice….. practice, but not just practice. Stretch my limits. Try for mood, action, light; whatever will give the drawing life. Feel O.K. about the failures. Be one of those artists who believes it takes 10,000 mistakes to really learn …. And start sticking my neck out far enough to make more of those mistakes. My early journals are full of what I call ‘encyclopedia drawings.’ The drawings in my later journals are much more interesting. Drawing is my fundamental building block. There is a lot more for me to learn. … so my goal is to draw regularly (I do already), but to do more of it and to put more thought into what I want to accomplish.

That means more field sketching .... more drawing from our wonderful collection of photographs .... and I can even draw from published photographs 'just for practice.'

And so I drew the dancing grebes today……. Both grebe drawings are from our photos taken during our day with them in Klamath Falls early last summer.


  1. Yes, that Laure does get one stirred up. It is that time of year when we have a little more time to "think" about what we want and need to do. I like your grebes splashing over the top of the water. I also like the first sketch though. It seems calm and quiet.

  2. Dear Elva,
    Your two sketches are so lovely. I admire your hard work. 100 challenge that encourages me so much. Please keep up and enjoy sketching.
    Kind regards,

  3. This is gonna be fun!! Being willing to fail for the sake of learning is a huge step, Elva, and I for one look forward to seeing where this take you as you "hone" your skills and craft.

    And, I'll be right there beside you cheering! 2011 is going to be awesome!

    I also happen to think both sketches have life and are well done. Maybe not as much as you'd like but life none the less. Not being so hard on ourselves can also be a goal.....

  4. Dancing Grebs are beautifully done. Congratulations on your near end of 100 paintings. I have to check out this challenge.

  5. I don't understand very well english, but I like very much your sketches!!So freshes!
    Complimenti from Italy

  6. One of the things I like best about your work is that each line is so descriptive and lively. Both sketches have that quality (to me).

    I find it frustrating though, too, because the experience of my subject always falls short of what I see on paper afterwards. so I keep trying...

    Your words are so true. As artists we need to be engage in more risky undertakings, and embrace the apparent "failures." They are our true teachers. It takes courage to step out there!