I’m not painting my paintings.  Really.  I know that sounds odd… and it is.  But it seems to be the case.  Let me try to explain.

I’ve been painting fine art for about seven months now.  As was the case in July when I first tried to paint an animal (my penguin painting, “Joe”), I often sit in front of a canvas with a painting in mind and think, “How in the heck am I going to DO this?”  It’s not a rhetorical question… I don’t have the education or the experience to rely on techniques.  I have a background in design and a lot of experience with color and decorative painting (Italian plasters and ornamental design murals, etc.), but I don’t have any real experience with figurative painting.  I usually have zero idea how I’m going to get what is in my head to come through my hands and onto the canvas.  I’m not kidding.

Take my elephant painting (“The Color of Elephants”), for example.  I had no freaking idea how I was going to paint it to look realistic – but also painterly.  Elephants have wrinkly skin… which requires a lot of detail work… but I also didn’t want to just paint photorealism; I wanted there to be brushstrokes and interpretation as well.

So how did I paint it?  Good question!  I don’t think I’m some kind of wunderkind painter (I know a lot of AMAZING painters… I have a LOT to learn…) – but I recognize that I’m able to paint animals way above my “pay grade.”  And as much as I don’t want to sound like a weirdo… it really does feel like the paintings come through me.  I buy the paints and canvases and brushes and I design the paintings… but when it comes to painting them, it’s almost like there’s a dark curtain in my brain and I don’t have access to that information.  

It can be really stressful, actually. I feel this pressure to get a painting done, but I feel completely unprepared to do it.   No, really – I feel COMPLETELY UNPREPARED to do it.  Luckily, so far, every time I go into the studio and start a painting, something else takes over and I figure out how to do what I need to do to end up with the painting I want.  Hopefully, this will continue over time and my repertoire of skills will continue to build until I have a skill set of my own that gives me a sense of confidence.  Hopefully!  

Until then, I’d like to give a big shout out to whatever, or whoever, is painting my animals!  I’m seriously grateful for them! I’m learning a ton – and immersing myself in painting gives me a bunch of joy.  So here’s to more fun, less stress, and a whole ton of gratitude.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go figure out how to paint a squirrel…

– Rachel