One of the things that’s kept this art stuff so interesting to me over the years has been that there’s no end to where you can go with it. There are always new avenues to explore in approach, intent, subject matter, colors, edges, surfaces…drawing and painting can provide levels of depth only limited by an artist’s imagination.

It’s something that I’ve tried my best to keep in mind when I have spare time in between projects. I like to run little tests, incorporating new tools and materials and trying out less familiar subject matter. What’s become more and more apparent the older I’ve gotten is that there’s no often no set end goal in mind with this really. I’m not trying to find “the best” brush or support, because in art there are no absolutes. Something that works great to solve one problem likely won’t be as effective on a different one, and so on.These exercises are about being present and aware, paying close attention to whats happening and looking for for those little nuggets you can either use on other work or expand even further on.

I have this metal flat file thing in my studio where I keep my graveyard of experiments. Its stuffed with weird little pieces that I’ve tried out here and there. And it’s become pretty full over the years. I think it can be a good practice for artists to have a repository like this where they can keep and refer back to these types of experiments. It’s also just fun to going through after all this time as there are a lot of cool memories buried inside.

And it’s cool because its a never ending stream of new stuff being added. If I’ve got a free night, long weekend, or practically any time that I can dedicate to study, its a guarantee I’m going to be out here messing around. 90% of the time it ends in disappointment, but there are those rare moments where you find some new approach or situation where the materials behave in a slightly different way and it can set you off on a whole new train of thought and spark whole new branches of experimentation.

Here are a few things that i try to keep in mind when I’m exploring in the studio

Identify and then purposefully break your own habits and patterns.

If you’ve always performed a function certain way, don’t be afraid to try going about it a different route. Again this line of thinking can be applied to literally any step in the thousands of steps necessary to complete a picture. Never use black? Give it a try! Like painting on canvas? Give panel a go! Always painting girls? Try painting a guy! I’m CONSTANTLY doing this to keep things from becoming too routine and keep me on my toes. It’s breaking stuff like that where I’ve made little discoveries, many of which end up incorporated into the daily workflow on paid assignments..

Be alert and aware of the world around you

Look around! The world we live in contains this endless supply of ideas to be inspired by. Unless you live in a cave with no outside contact, there’s constantly new material being introduced all around us from which inspiration can be gleaned from. To use a current example I’m messing with, Melissa recently purchased these grow light bulbs that she’s placed near various house plants in darker areas of our home. They basically seem like red and blue colored LEDs arrayed throughout the bulb, and they combine to form this intense purple light. But because they are separate individual LEDS, the shadows do some crazy stuff where they’re slightly offset from each other. One night I snapped a few pictures of it, and after looking at them decided to try painting it. Not sure where its gonna go but its been an interesting journey so far. Can’t remember ever using so much dioxizine purple on anything ever. Really looking forward to sinking another pass into it next week.

Never lose that childlike play

It can be easy to get caught up in trying to find the best techniques and materials and forget about just making art for art’s sake. it’s not always about creating the tightest most realistically rendered things any more than its about big bravura brush strokes. yes, those are components within the suite of options available to the visual artist, but in my opinion they’re secondary to simply having that passion and sincere interest to play around and lose yourself in the process. thats where the real growth happens and the earliest foundations are laid for future endeavors.

Wanted end by saying that I’ve really enjoyed contributing to this blog for the past year. Its been a huge honor for me. Thanks so much to Dan, Lexie, our amazing lineup of contributors, and everyone else involved in MC that help make this site such a killer resource for all those with an interest in picture making. Wishing you all a happy holiday and the very best for 2018!!!