|Orlemann Art - the artwork of Valerie Orlemann|
|Orlemann Art - the artwork of Valerie Orlemann|
You might think that a landscape painting is just a record of what was there--That a painter finds a beautiful place and tells you all about it. But that isn’t the case. Reality is big and a painting is small. Every painting ever made represents a choice made by the painter to tell you about something in particular. Painters are devious people. Even me. I see something that touches my heart and that seems important to me, then I create a composition that highlights that thing. It isn’t a broad sum of facts, it’s a process of focusing in on something--on the shapes, movement, or the moment of light-- that has inspired me. There are many ways to do that. Value, line, placement, color, can all direct your eyes to what the artist wants you to see. Other features can be altered to play supporting roles for that main idea. Like Mr. Coelho (see below), I am attempting to build a bridge. To share my story, my vision, with you.
“...it is within our power to build a bridge to be crossed. Even if my neighbor doesn’t understand my religion or my politics, he can understand my story. If he can understand my story, then he is never too far from me. I can always build a bridge.” -- Paul Coelho, introduction to the 25th anniversary edition of The Alchemist.
I have been reading books from PBS’s Great American Read," and Paul Coelho’s, “The Alchemist” is one of them . I loved this quote from the introduction because I think it expresses the core of art-making—-connection with others. It seems to me that all art seeks to communicate and build the kind of bridge Coelho describes--a bridge that can span theological, cultural and ideological differences and create a shared human place in which we can understand each other. For an artist like me, painting landscapes, that means having another person feel the thrill I felt in the presence of beauty. A fairly small bridge! For someone like Shakespeare, it meant communicating the joy, pain and misunderstanding of young love, or the tragedy of betrayal. Coelho says he builds bridges so that he will never be alone. That might be why art is created.
This week a friend emailed to ask me about developing a personal style. How can an artist just learning to paint with oils outdoors have their own style rather than mimicking the style of their teachers? I don't think of myself as a Wise Woman, but I sent my friend an answer and I think it's true, so I thought I'd share it here.
I think style results from persistence. You paint until you like what you've got. Maybe even go back another day with fresh eyes and improve on it. Then apply what you have learned to your next painting. The solutions you find in one painting show up in the next. The sum of your solutions, carried over into a body of work, develops into a recognizable style. You may get some of your solutions from your mentors, but the more you paint, the more your preferences and problem solving will create a unique style.
Part of the look of my work comes from the type of brushes I like to use. Part comes from my choice of colors to mix (Cerulean and Yellow Ochre for sage brush). Part comes from my compositional choices. All of those developed through trial and error, and they continue to evolve. The sum of them makes a painting that looks like one of mine.
Artist and art guru Mary Gilkerson recently sent around an email regarding the importance of identifying one’s creative purpose. Or, as she put it, “Finding your Why.” Gilkerson reasons that an artist’s purpose will attract fans both to their work and their reason for making it. Plus, it will make it easy to write an artist’s statement. All good things.
At first this seemed simple. I’m motivated to make art as a response to the beauty I see around me. For me, part of that response is spiritual, and part is a practical desire to share with others (Look! Beauty!!). But then I get stuck. Why does that response result in a painting? Why not take a picture? Compose music? Do interpretive dance?
I think it must be the way I’m wired. The beauty that catches my attention is most often visual—colors, forms, backlit edges. And I feel most able to communicate by painting—I don’t want to tell you what I see, I want to show you. Plus, painting is really fun.
That’s not a compelling artist’s statement, but maybe it’s a start.
People are easily offended. My mother recently groused at me all afternoon because I wasn't ready to eat lunch at eleven (I never said she couldn’t). But that’s nothing compared with the ire generated by differing political and religious views. So I am usually very quiet. Like a rabbit hiding from a hunter, I freeze when opinions are being aired. I show sympathy, but keep quiet.
So, you might not have heard me say that I’m a believer. As the Nicene Creed puts it, “I believe in God, the father almighty, maker of heaven and earth; of all that is seen and unseen.” (I love the whole Creed, but we don't have to talk about that here).
That belief is relevant to a blog about art because it impacts how I see the world. My art is all about seeing. I see beauty in colors, lines, and shapes, and it takes my breath away. But behind the Wow! of it I feel that I’m seeing the passion, creativity and joy of a Person. Seeing beauty brings me joy, but also feels like communion.
You, the art appreciator, are welcome to come as you are, feel whatever you feel and cherish your own beliefs. That’s fine with me. But I wanted to tell you where I’m coming from. Because it beats hiding.
Wow, I've been gone a while. Since my last post I did a lot of painting. And several shows. But then I was diagnosed with cancer, had major surgery, and radiation treatments. Somehow the desire to blog evaporated. Well. Here I am again.
In the aftermath of treatment, I was a wreck. Tired, in pain. And painting badly. A kindly friend made it her mission to get me out painting again. It was hard. It hurt. Still does, some. But after a couple of months I started being able to turn out a good painting or two. Then I did a solo exhibit featuring my new work. It went really well. Then weariness set in. I've been through a few cycles of post surgical depression, so I assume it was more of the same. My kind friend has moved on, so this time I have allowed myself to relax. I paint a little--I have a huge supply of unfinished plein air paintings to clean up--but I'm also enjoying time with my husband and daughter, biking, hiking, cooking, doing a little gardening. I'm doing a lot of thinking, trying to recover my sense of joy and purpose in life and in art. Some of those thoughts may make it into this blog.
My husband (an active blogger) warned me that I shouldn't start a blog unless I meant to keep it up. Otherwise my readers would think I'd died. Well, it's been a while since my last post, but I'm alive and well. And painting. I felt derailed over the holidays. Too much to do, making and mailing gifts, baking, traveling. Then the new year brought the flu. Dang. Art resumed slowly. A little plein air here, a little studio work there. My latest work celebrates spring in my garden. Available at Artisans Gallery.
The Cedar Breaks paintout ended with just enough time for an end-of-summer road trip. We went to Colorado Springs to visit our friends the Bensons. Ellen and I hit the road with plenty of junk food. When we got to the Springs, the Bensons entertained Ellen while I explored and painted the beautiful Garden of the Gods, some ten minutes away from our hosts' home. The Garden involves rows of huge sandstone ridges, jutting like sharks' fins from the foothills below Pikes' Peak. They are crazy-looking, lovely pieces of rock and are beloved by the people of Colorado Springs. So beloved that it's hard finding a place to park if you want to get out and paint them. I tried early (plenty of parking), mid-day (no luck) and late (some spaces opening up). This is an afternoon painting from the east side. Reflected light makes the shadows hot with color, and the westering sun still lights up the edges.
Cedar Breaks National Monument is having its first plein air (outdoor) painting event. I'm one of the painters chosen to be up there painting for the month of July, along with J. Brad Holt and Mary Jabens. Good company! Yay! Please come to the art exhibit and sale July 31 and August 1 at the Giant Steps Lodge in Brian Head. No purchase necessary, just come and see the art. It should be great.
Now for the adventure. Cedar Breaks is beautiful, so painting up there seems reasonable. However, there have been complications. Like the altitude---10,000 feet. Think of normal weather in July in Utah--monsoons, wind, thunderstorms, hail. Then picture that weather up there. It's been a little violent. Painting halted abruptly on the fourth of July when an epic deluge hit. Painters, bikers, hikers--pretty much everybody---dashed for whatever cover they could find. It took two trips to get my gear to the car, and I was soaked through before I could drive away. Then there was the time I was painting on the Ramparts Trail one fine, somewhat windy morning when I turned my back for a moment. In that moment, my easel---complete with paint thinner, brushes and a couple tubes of paint----was blown over the edge. I watched in horror as the easel launched and jar of thinner rolled down the vertiginous slope, bouncing gaily over small cliff bands. It just kept going. It may be washed down to Cedar City some day. Fortunately for me, I was able to reach a leg of the easel and haul it up. A passing hiker with a good head for heights edged down a slope that made my knees weak and retrieved my paints and brushes. I was profoundly grateful, but still a mile from the parking lot with no paint thinner. Darn it. I found a more sheltered spot a bit farther from the edge and painted un-thinned.
The Sears Museum Gallery at Dixie State University is running an exhibit of square artwork, measuring 12"x12". The exhibit is entitled " 1x1". I have spent most of my art life working on a rectangle, so square-ness seemed like a worthy challenge. Here is one of my entries.