Does your artistic life show signs of growing pains?

As is natural for this time of year, my mind is focused a lot on planning a process. I’ve been thinking about my creative path so far and looking to see if I need to readjust course or pay more attention to not only my creative yearnings but also things that are starting to loose their spark. I’ve been thinking about ways to keep my art fresh and not look or feel stale or forced. This all prompted a conversation with a good friend of mine, Angela, who happens to be photographer and writer.

She knew how I had started portrait for my brother and his fiancé as a gift for their in June and that since I had time, I wanted to have fun and play with a few styles since playing and exploring are some of my goals for the year. Angela asked me what kept me inspired when I was in the process of doing a commissioned portrait for someone I didn’t know especially since the pressure to get the likeness and feel for the personality was so great.

I explained that I typically ask some questions or have the client write a description of the personality and general life of the person that I am to draw. But then I made the mistake of telling her that I sorta have this narrative that goes through my head that starts to wonder about this person and what kind of person they are and what their life is like and I guess you could say my mind kinda fills in the blanks for itself. Of course telling this to a gifted writer who passes her time on the train making up detailed character profiles of other passengers sent this conversation into a really outlandishly funny left turn and we had a good laugh. Honestly though, I love peoples stories and that is why drawing people is one of my passions. I love telling their story even if it is just a snippet of everyday life.


Chad and Amanda – work in progress – charcoal drawing on 100 year old antique ledger paper.

Part of what prompted this conversation was my sensing that there was a shift starting in how I wanted to approach my portrait work. All artist’s styles grow and mature and I could feel the growing pains in this area of my work. I don’t have the same excitement I used to feel in the process of a pencil drawing. I sorta feel like it wants more… more energy, more something.

As I have said, I have decided to take the opportunity to spend some time playing with this current portrait project since I had the time. This really is a special project because it is a gift for my baby brother (11 years younger) and his fiancé who I love. I have watched him grow up and become an amazing man despite the torchures of a three older siblings lead by yours truly.

For this portrait, I hope to really mix it up a little and try some mixed media in different styles and see where this goes.  This current piece is on a sheet of 100 year old antique ledger paper and is started in charcoal. I may add some gouache highlights. I will see where it goes and decide later.

In the end of this process, I should have a series of portraits, the choice will be theirs. They can pick whichever they like (or all) and hopefully I will have some clarification (clarify is my intention word this year) in terms of what my portrait art feels it needs to grow into. I plan on posting my progress on this blog and maybe a few funny stories that come to mind as I work through these so please come back and give me your feedback. I love talking with everyone. The online artist community is such a great support.

4 thoughts on “Does your artistic life show signs of growing pains?

  1. Yes my life does always show growing pains, sometimes the most painful is to see what others are doing and feel I need to do more. I enjoyed your posting, especially the part about creating a narrative…. that is the most interesting and important part of art. I don’t do much portraiture, although landscape and city scape is a portrait of our habitats, as well as still life paintings are a frame for who we are without being in the picture. Your friend on the train and the left turn in story creation is very interesting, as it helps to remove things you really don’t want in the picture by forcing you to think of them as a non-fit for your work. That is really how we see truth in our creations, by adding story elements until we can’t support them, shows us who we are really portraying. When done we have a truth in the work that would not exist with out the unpainted narrative we went through. To me that is growing!
    Good post.


    • I love your comments, very well said. It is interesting that you mention some of your growing pains from seeing what others are doing and feeling you need to do more. For myself, I sometimes feel like a kid in a candy store and want to try and do everything and as you say when I look at the work of others who have perfected a style that I love but isn’t part of my own artistic vocabulary it does create a yearning in me. It is hard not to compare to others and I have to remind myself that my own natural style is unique to me as well.


      • Yes it is so tempting to become “like” others in style, yet it is impossible. Over time a style of our own does emerge, but it still pulls at us every time we see and appreciate the work of others, isn’t the internet interesting?
        Thanks for your comments andreplying.


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