Learning to Paint

Over the last year or so, I've been slowly getting back into painting. I enjoy it tremendously, but I don't have the skill level I'd like. I can needle felt a wool painting with my eyes shut and I can paint jewelry all day long, but a traditional painting on canvas is, for some reason, really daunting to me.

  "The Foothills on a Cloudy Day"  by Sarah Mandell (January 27th, 2018)

"The Foothills on a Cloudy Day" by Sarah Mandell (January 27th, 2018)

I enjoy viewing and collecting paintings by other artists and often wonder how they developed that distinct style which makes them so unique. I wish I had a distinct style like Annie Koelle, Charles Gatewood, or Jessica Fields. They're each so talented and I enjoy their work personally in my home, but I also stand and stare at their pieces (up close, far away) and try to figure out exactly which details make it perfect, and try to guess at what colors they mixed or which brushes they used. I enjoy art but I also analyze the heck out of it!

Each of these painters knows exactly what they're doing with colors, textures, light, and composition, but there's a raw skill that goes into the mix too. I don't think I have that particular skill, but I'm willing to put in the time to try and develop it anyway. Only recently has it occurred to me that these artists, in addition to their raw talent, probably have years and years of practice behind them. If I want to improve, a good deal of that will be my responsibility. 

Painting was the one course I was required to take at Maryland Institute College of Art that single handedly pulled down my GPA. I sucked at painting, and when you suck at something at one of the top art schools in the country, they give you C's. I told myself that it didn't matter at the time, I hustled and still graduated with honors despite my sad C's in painting because I was majoring in Environmental Design and wouldn't need to paint again, but the problem was I desperately wanted to paint, regardless of my career path. 

So here I am, almost 15 years later. I'm painting again. No grades, no real assignments or deadlines, just me and my desire to improve my skills and enjoy myself in the process.

  "Young Raven"  by Sarah Mandell (January 30th, 2018)

"Young Raven" by Sarah Mandell (January 30th, 2018)

In October of 2016 I participated in a 30 day challenge called Creative Sprint, and one of the assignments was to create something with your non-dominant hand, so I painted an abstract painting with my left hand. It was my first painting since graduating from MICA. Oddly enough, I really liked how it turned out! From there, I tried small scale landscapes as pendants and needle felted wool landscapes. Those two series are my best sellers now, and I can't help but find myself thinking the missing link between the two is painting. 

 "Left-handed Landscape" by Sarah Mandell (April 15th, 2016)

"Left-handed Landscape" by Sarah Mandell (April 15th, 2016)

Fast forward to last summer when I took a fun pet painting course at Greenville Center for Creative Arts. I captured my sugar gliders Sid & Sophie in acrylic, and I'm seriously considering signing up for additional courses. I enjoyed it so much!

 "Sid & Sophie" by Sarah Mandell (July 23rd, 2017)

"Sid & Sophie" by Sarah Mandell (July 23rd, 2017)

I don't know what I want to paint or how I want to paint yet, I just want to paint. Right now, I'm all over the place. There's no common thread, no cohesive technique, no regular schedule for practice, but I'm getting there. This year, I'm putting aside a few hours each week to paint purely for fun, something I often forget to do when I'm in the studio making orders. 

Here's to learning, making time to improve, and creating art just for my own satisfaction! 

  "The Ridge at Dusk"  by Sarah Mandell (January 21st, 2018)

"The Ridge at Dusk" by Sarah Mandell (January 21st, 2018)

Checkout my new Maker's Eye View time lapse video on YouTube showing the process of a recent landscape painting.