December 8, 2020

Moving Away From Our Comfort Zone

painted several months ago

Over a year ago, I wrote about attempting to paint. For some reason, I found myself doing something I had never tried before. For years, I had told myself I had no ability in this area. Even with a ruler, I had trouble drawing a straight line. 

Then I stumbled across a few paintings my father had completed during the last several years of his life. He had never demonstrated any interest in putting brush to canvas. But, something motivated him to give it a try; his works were quite attractive. He experimented with oils, acrylics, and even watercolor while taking classes and practicing in an art studio near my parent's retirement home.

I guess that was the moment when I thought, "If he could give it a try, then so could I." Searching the Internet, I ran across the Bob Ross channel. Famous for a technique of oil painting known as wet-on-wet, his silky smooth, calm voice promised that anyone could paint. As he said, "There are no mistakes, just happy accidents." 

Even though he passed away in 1995, his "Joy of Painting" television series continues on many PBS stations. Every one of his episodes over a 31 season period is available on YouTube. With artist wife, Betty, urging me to give it a try, I stepped bravely into the world of painting. 

Bob Ross makes it all look much easier than his technique really is for someone with zero experience. My accidents weren't all that happy. A range of mountains one time would look OK. The next time, they resembled an undulating brown blob with some white streaks that were supposed to be snow. My trees had very odd-looking branches. A cabin? It seemed about ready to topple over.

I stuck with it, partly because I had invested several hundred dollars in supplies, and mostly because I actually enjoyed the process. The completion of a painting might be met with disappointment at the outcome, but I found myself anxious to pick up a fresh canvas (or canvas board) and go at it again.

Over time, there was improvement. I allowed family members to see what had been created. To their credit, support was what I received, even if the end result was marginal. I knew there was some progress when Betty suggested (allowed?) that I frame a few and mount them in the living room.

About 15 months later, I can report the experience is still frustrating because my paintings have parts that look OK, coupled with sections that don't. Yet, I continue to look forward to picking up the brushes and trying another.

I have moved beyond just trying to mimic Bob Ross's style. Using the wet-on-wet approach for part of the painting, then switching to applying oil paint directly to a dry canvas gives me better control of the final look I want. So, I guess my technique is Bob Ross-Lowry. There is no Youtube channel yet, but I am having fun.

A few readers have asked if I am still painting, and would I consent to exposing a few of the more recent ones here. At the risk of public embarrassment, I am doing so. Not because any of these paintings are great, or even all that good. But, if I am to fully embrace the idea that a comfort zone needs to be ignored now and then, a demonstration is necessary.









Studio set up

The point of this post is really to emphasize my contention that retirement offers us the chance to take a chance....on almost anything. A lifestyle change, a new hobby, different use of our time, learning a new language, a renewed dedication to fitness...whatever we think we might like to try, we can. For me, it has been painting. For you?

A comfort zone is a good thing for many parts of our life, but not all. If we allow ourselves to only stay comfortable in everything, how will we discover something that turns us on, something that brings satisfaction?


34 comments:

  1. Bob, as someone who has been painting for less than two years and who claimed little artistic ability I think you sell yourself short. A cafe in town displays the work of local artists for sale and your paintings are as good or better than much of what we've seen there. Take pride in your accomplishments because your dedication to pursuing a new hobby has definitely led to success. That dramatic first painting captured my heart. Since I know you're a humble guy, I won't embarrass you further.

    After years of using our holiday newsletter as an outlet for my creative writing and receiving a lot of positive feedback from family and friends, I decided to take the plunge into blogging about a year after I escaped from the workforce. It was frightening to me - would I be able to successfully tackle the technical aspects, would I have the discipline to produce posts on a regular basis, would anyone actually be interested in reading what I wrote - I struggled with these issues for months before realizing that I wasn't making a lifetime commitment and I could always choose to walk away if the experience wasn't a satisfying one. The uncomfortable eventually became comfortable and, if I hadn't taken that chance, I know I wouldn't have stretched my skills or developed the delightful relationships I now enjoy with some of my readers and fellow bloggers. When we challenge ourselves we find out what could be - which has a much more positive impact on our lives than wondering what could have been.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your blogging experience is an excellent example of what this post is about...not my paintings but what happens when you push beyond any preconceived notions about yourself. In your case, your ability to combine your love of the outdoors with blogging is the perfect blend.

      Thank you for the compliment. I tend to be pleased with progress in part of one painting and then part of another. Once I can consistently produce a full painting that I am totally happy with, I will ask for the name of that cafe! I'm not local, but who knows.

      Delete
    2. Two additional comments . . . First, I need to correct myself. The painting that captured my heart is actually the second one, not the first, although it's the first in the later grouping which is what I had been looking at. There is something about that winding road leading off into the magnificent mountains that appeals to the outdoor enthusiast in me. Secondly, here's something to think about: Our local library is an integral part of the small, rural community in which we live. The library staff occasionally hosts a showing of the works of local artists. Many people come to just wander through the gallery, but there's no reason the artwork can't be sold. Since you have an in at your local library (wink, wink), maybe this is something you'd consider proposing in the future. A gallery showing would provide validation for amateur artists and an entertainment option for members of the community. Alan's sister, a self-taught artist, has also exhibited at colleges local to her. Food for thought, Bob, food for thought.

      Delete
  2. Thanks for sharing your artistic endeavors....the painting are inspired!! You capture the nuances of the sky and the shadows, and the colors are so vibrant.. you definitely are onto something Bob!! Of course, a hobby is so different than our “work” used to be..we’re “allowed” to make boo boos, eschew “perfection” and just relax into the experience.. I have no doubt this is an adventure you’ll continue!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am learning to accept "failures" with grace. I store a less-than-satisfactory canvas in the garage and use it for some other attempt down the road. Paint covers a multitude of sins.

      Delete
  3. Beautiful paintings! Many thanks to your father for passing on the courage to take the step to 'try your brush' at it! Very happy you put yourself out there and we, your readers, are enjoying the beauty of your work. Happy painting!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My dad was an electrical engineer. Everything for him was very ordered and precise. That is why his painting was so out of the blue for him and us.

      Delete
    2. At my (preCovid) art class one lady produced wonderful paintings. They were very precise and she liked measuring everything out with a ruler first. I was admiring her technique and in doing so commented that she must have been an engineer in a previous life. Turned out, pre-retirement, that is exactly what she was!

      Delete
  4. Those are all good. Funny thing is, I too started painting about a year or so ago. I use acrylics and mostly copy either a photograph or a painting I see on Pinterest. There are hundreds. I don’t sell them...just flood the walls in my home to where it’s ridiculous, but hey, it’s my home.
    I really enjoy it and I have gotten better over time. I’ve also discovered you can paint over a paint any times and the layers below just add texture.
    I also get cheap frames at thrift stores for them..
    I enjoyed seeing your work...keep it up

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the encouraging words, Mary. I often use canvas board instead of canvas, particularly if I am trying something I have never painted before. But, yes, I have used gesso to cover a previous painting on a canvas and then try something else.

      Between my stuff and my wife's flow art, we need more walls.

      Delete
  5. Hi Bob! I think you and I might be on the same wave-length these days. My current blog post is all about Seth Godin's new book and how he believes we are all "creative." Of course he doesn't mean we are all painters but that we all have ways to try something new and contribute it to the world--be it cooking something new, trying new things and sharing them with others. Good for you for being willing to keep doing something that "stretches" you....I've always believed in the crude saying, "Grow or die" and it looks to me like you are willing to grow. And if you have any interest in a small mastermind around that idea...let me know :-) ~Kathy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have enjoyed Mr. Godin's take on many subjects. As you know, he was one of the first bloggers to really strike it rich and expand beyond his original niche.

      Grow or die...at least grow or stagnate and become bored.

      Delete
  6. My husband started drawing classes 8 weeks ago.The course is drawing and painting but they start with charcoal.His drawings are up and down too but he is so happy doing something he always wanted to learn. Enjoy the process, next up for him are pastels.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A virtual high five for your husband. Learning something new can be a real boost.

      Delete
  7. I love this post. I have wondered if you stuck to your painting and I'm glad to see you ventured past the Bob Ross style to do your own thing. That's real progress. Next I hope you'll try working from your own photos or live scenes instead of copying other people's paintings or photographs which I'm guessing you're still doing, based on the images you've posted here. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    By this time next year I hope to take up painting again. My thing was portrait painting but it's been years since I've produced anything I'd show in public, so it will be like starting over again. You are inspiring me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The mountain range and autumn lake scene are both from photos we took at various places. Using pictures taken from our vacations gives me endless subject matter.

      I have painted several that were strictly oil on dry canvas. It is a different process and produces a different end product than all wet-on-wet. Betty is urging me to try acrylic next. Cleanup is easier and colors are more vivid.

      Go for it, Jean. Get out your easel and try some fresh portraits!

      Delete
  8. Thank you so much for sharing your paintings! I've been dabbling in watercolor over the last year but I don't think I'm brave enough to show others... yet. I really think that it's important to explore areas that are challenging and out of your normal "box" (like your engineer dad did by exploring his creative side). Between writing (and now dabbling in short stories and poetry), photography, and painting, there truly isn't enough time in the day... and I wouldn't have it any other way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Every one if us has creativity inside that is just waiting to be explored. We usually think in terms of artistic endevors, but creativity can be expressed in virtually any thing and any way. I read somewhere once that even organizing a room can be considered creative: using space and materials in ways that solve a problem.

      Being married to a wildly creative woman has been important in my own pursuits.

      Delete
  9. It's important for some people to have a creative outlet. I've taken up fly fishing after watching the movie "A River Runs Through It" - I've taken some fly casting lessons which proved I have no rhythm but I'm working away at it. Also bought some books on Atlantic salmon fishing so I can learn more during the winter months. I also express myself through my blog writing which is a work in progress but hopefully I'm not going anywhere for awhile.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can relate: Betty became interested in fly fishing after watching that movie, too. We don't live in a place where she has ever had the chance to follow through, but is still fascinates her. It is beautiful to watch someone cast their line into the water, particularly if the sun reflects off the water.

      Delete
  10. Good for you, Bob.

    I need to take your advice to heart. One of my retirement goals has long been to write a book. While I have done some shorter form writing, like journaling and a blog that no one else sees, I have lacked the confidence to tackle a bigger project like a book. When I read a book I think there is no way I would have the imagination, organization or discipline to do that. But with a long winter of very few options for entertainment ahead, this might be the perfect time to just figure it out and try it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely, Dave. Writing is tremendous exercise for the brain. And, the nice thing is the end product can be as private or public as you choose. With darkness, cold temperatures, and Covid keeping everyone close to home, now is the time. You will probably surprise yourself once you get started.

      Delete
  11. I like your paintings very much. Never in my life did I think I would experiment with art, yet I now take pieces of scrap wood and transform them into wall hangings using a woodburning tool, colored pencils and acrylic paint. Although I was not afraid to show them off in my blog gallery, it was a huge challenge for me to give some away...that whole judgment thing, I guess. But I've done it now, so there's no turning back.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As I well know, getting past the embarrassment or "I am unworthy" stage is not easy. I have found that most people will encourage and support you. That doesn't mean the hesitancy disappears, but it is easier to overcome.

      Delete
  12. You have made great progress from your original work. And it does take courage to expose ourselves publicly when we take up a new venture.

    One of my DDs has taken up drawing as a pastime in the pandemic, and she's requested a table easel for Christmas. I think the one in your photo looks ideal. Do you like it? Can you share where you found it? I know nothing about them, but that looks adjustable, portable and not oversized. (She lives in a studio apt.) Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I purchased that easel at Michaels. It is a good for any size canvas and the slant is adjustable. It can be flatted completely for easy storage.

      Delete
  13. Bob, you definitely are talented. I enjoyed looking at all the paintings you posted but I especially like the one with the long mountain range and winding road. There's something so compelling and vibrant about it; it pulls the viewer in. There's so much visual energy that I can almost smell the cool crispness of the mountain air!

    Years ago, I tried my hand at oil painting. After I retired I started exploring watercolor painting. I will be honest, my first love is oils and probably always will be. They are so creamy, so forgiving, and so much texture. Unfortunately, I don't have anywhere in my current home for pace to set up a studio, not even a corner. Watercolor painting is easily portable (in my opinion), but is also less forgiving than oil paints. But hey, at least I found a creative outlet.

    Bob, I thoroughly enjoy your posts! I always look forward to them in my inbox. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! That painting is from a photo of the Grand Tetons we took during a visit several years ago.

      At some point I will try using acrylic paint instead of oil. They are much easier to clean up, but acrylics dry very quickly. Oils can remain wet enough to fix or add something days later. I don't know if I am brave enough for watercolor.

      Delete
  14. Keep painting! There are lots of "second-act" artists who have found a calling just when others lose their way. Here are the stories of four: https://www.nextavenue.org/4-second-act-artists-picturing-success/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tomorrow morning (Saturday) I start a new one...something I have tried yet: waves crashing on a tropical beach with palm trees.

      Delete
  15. I especially love the painting with the fall foliage along the shore; it speaks to my New England aesthetic sensibilities. I could not agree more with your main point here: Retirement allows us freedom to fail and an opportunity to grow in ways that would have been too risky during a career-building phase of life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Does the autumn scene remind you even just a little bit of Maine in September or October?

      Freedom to fail is something most of us didn't experience when earning a living. So, now is our time!

      Delete
  16. Bob, your painting is really coming along! In that top painting, I really like the way you have layered the oranges and reds over greens. And in the second one down, your snowy Grand Tetons look very rugged and craggy. I find that when I paint, my mind goes to a whole different place. It’s like taking a holiday!

    Jude

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I find the process of painting even more rewarding than any finished product. Just the time of choosing and mixing colors, putting it on the canvas, adding more, letting parts dry and adding more...that is fun. Even learning what effects different brushes have is enjoyable.

      Delete

This blog has ceased publication of fresh content. Comments are no longer being accepted.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.