Painting with Confidence

I am teaching a class at the Cedarburg Cultural Center right now on Alla Prima painting.  Alla Prima means, “at first attempt”.  This is a direct style of painting done in one sitting, where paint mixes with wet paint on the canvas.  This style of painting is recognized by a feeling of spontaneity, looseness, and confidence.  This class reminds me that confidence in painting is the hardest part to teach as well as the hardest part to learn.

In class we are doing exercises to help build confidence, but there is no substitute to repetition and practice.  The most seasoned artists likely still struggle with confidence at times.  Confidence (or lack of confidence) will come through in a painting.  The brushstrokes feel either labored or effortless.  The less afraid we are of painting, the better we paint.

I reflected today in my studio about my own work, asking myself which paintings felt more confident and which felt less confident.  Then, I painted.  Early in the painting I fell into a habit of over controlling the paint and meticulously trying to perfect every mark.  When this failed and I began to become frustrated, I took a large knife and smeared out all the paint.  Then I began again, already having decided the painting was a loss I though I might as well play a bit before cleaning up.  Within minutes, something began to happen.  Colors and marks magically fell into place.  It was only after giving up on the painting that I was able to enjoy painting it and paint it with confidence.


I just wrapped up a 3 week class on Impressionist style landscape painting at the Cedarburg Cultural Center.  Being on a bit of a break from my regular studio work, I felt like channeling my inner impressionist yesterday.  Working from photographs I took at Peninsula State Park earlier this month, I whipped up some autumn paintings in acrylic.  I tried to force myself to stay loose and intuitive with the paint.  I tried to relinquish some control of mixing and detail.   I had fun and  I know that this will certainly inform my work going forward.  The classes I teach inevitably change me as an artist for the better.

Cedarburg Plein Air Event

The Cedarburg Plein Air Painting Competition is taking place through June 24th.  Artists from all over the country have come to Cedarburg for an outdoor painting event.  Finished work will be delivered to the Cedarburg Cultural Center and will be put on display for a  reception and sale Friday, June 22 from 5-7:30pm.  Works will remain for sale throughout that weekend.

I had a nice morning painting in a park called Herman A. Zeunert Park, just off of Hamilton Rd.  The only downsides were a lack of shade and an excess of goose droppings.  The sight of a large rock cliff across the lagoon was too tempting a view.  I have driven past here numerous times and have wanted to paint it  I am drawn the the various textures and colors of sky, tree, rock, and water.  I enjoyed my painting time today and am rather satisfied with the final piece.  I think I wil try to get out there once or twice next week also.