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An Evolving Artist is a Perpetual Student

An evolving artist is a perpetual student, always searching for the best way to create a visual statement. I think that to just paint the same thing over and over is to stagnate. Some would argue with me, those who have a schtick, perhaps, a motif that sells. I would argue in return, that the artist who does that, may be selling, but is not evolving.

So I study. Every Wednesday morning will find me out painting with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, a practice which immerses me in the creative, decision-making artistic process like none other.

Sometimes I feel “behind”, knowing that many of my peers have been actively producing art during the 35 years that I pursued a non-art career. So I study. I study great artists through their books and photos of the masters, I attend workshops by contemporary artists, and I study subjects by painting what I have photographed. Mostly I study on site, en plein air.

This week I studied the light on a barn at a state park, a feat of patience as the sun hid behind the clouds most of the morning, giving me mere glimpses of the structure in full light. I did not finish the painting, content with what I learned by studying only the lit side, the unlit side, and the shadow under the roof.

Later that same day I painted a pelican from photos I had taken. Studies from photos don’t have to be photos I have taken, but on the off-chance that I might keep one of the studies for showing, then I like to use my own photos so the work is all my original artwork. I think it is unethical to paint someone else’s photo and call it your own original art, so I paint from my own photos if I plan to show my work to anyone. When I practice from the masters, I don’t post my practice pieces. Here’s a video of me at work on my pelican, where I was painting at the 30A Art Market at the Shops at the Hub, in Seacrest, Florida.

My finished pelican turned out to be a “keeper”! Since this was the first time I’ve painted a pelican, and pelicans are such a common bird here where I live, I expect there are many more pelican studies in my future!

NOTE: I have since discovered that I actually have painted a pelican once before, 4 years ago, after a trip to the Turks and Caicos Islands, but since I had forgotten it, I’m going to stick with the story that this was my first pelican!

Oil painting of a pelican with pink background

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