Two weeks ago I painted a decent size piece (24 x 32) and the whole thing flowed. I felt good about it from beginning to end, and still do, which is rare – frequently it takes me some distance of time to like a painting. The new image is now gracing my website homepage. (It needs a title – suggestions??)

This past week I painted another largish piece, and it was a struggle the whole way through – the image kept needing adjustments in proportions and relationships. By Friday afternoon I was just slapping the paint on to ‘complete’ it, tired of the fight I was having with the damn thing.

My husband came up to see the painting and raved about it. It’s nice that someone else likes it, but I doubt it’ll ever see a frame and gallery. A week of painting with nothing to show for it. Howzcum I can do something that works so well and turn right around and fall off the horse?

It’s weeks like this that make me think life would be so much easier if I were flipping burgers or washing cars or doing some other kind of honest labor.

15 Responses to “Struggle / flow”
  1. Yvonne Todd says:

    OMG! You do that too? Sometimes I just want to pull my hair out but I don’t think I’d ever want to go to flipping burgers unless I was absolutely starving. How boring that would be! You know as well as I do that every piece can’t be easy or a masterpiece. How else would you know that one was really flowing? The flowing ones are gifts that make me happy all over again that I am doing what I am doing. I turn the struggles to the wall for a week or so. When I turn them around I know instantly if it is a frisbie or usable with tweaks.

  2. Larry Jewett says:

    It’s because art is 99% inspiration.

    Perspiration just makes it all wet — and stained, like a T-shirt after a day in the hot summer sun.

    …and maybe you should call the painting “Double Teaming”.

  3. Suzanne Ellis says:

    Love the painting! ‘Storm Chaser’?

  4. Julie Chapman says:

    You folks are great! I’m chuckling at the comments – Yvonne, a “frisbee” painting? That’s a new one! but what great advice. On the paintings I’m unsure of (which is more of them than I’d like, dammit) I put them aside and then I’ll look at them again later. Sometimes I think “not bad!”. Other times I think “yecch”, and they go in the trash pile for sure.

    Suzanne, I like the “Storm Chaser” suggestion – I might take that and run with it. For some reason I’m running out of creativity on titling these rodeo pieces; eg, the best I could think of was “Catching the Bronc #2” (and how original is THAT, not).

    Larry, what can I say. Every comment is worth a grin (or grimace).

  5. Larry Jewett says:

    I’ll try to keep the comments “grimace-free” , but based on my admittedly limited experience, I’d have to say that the paintings that are going to “work” do so from the start, and with the ones that don’t work, it doesn’t matter how much you put into them. So you may as well just scrape them off and start again — or with acrylic, just paint over ( perhaps the main reason I like painting with acrylic better than oil.).

    Forcing a painting is like forcing a relationship. Better to just trash it. (just kidding, about the relationships, at least)

    Hey, by the way, are you going down the Middle Fork again this year?

    I did that trip in early June once. Man, the water was cold. Like ice. but it was a good time to go because it was before the river running season really got going and we had the hot springs all to ourselves.

    I like the “Storm chaser” title. I guess you have to be a horse person to really read what is going on in the picture. Maybe even “Shelter from the Storm” would make sense.

  6. Julie Chapman says:

    Larry – the grimaces and grins are all good (sometimes they come together). I like your original comment about art being 99% inspiration and 1% perspiration…but I also make myself go on with pieces that are a struggle, so I can take away some lessons about what not to do the next time. Whether I actually learn those lessons is another question altogether.

    No Middle Fork this year; instead, we’re doing a week-long spot pack into the Wind Rivers in late August with a collector of mine and at least one other artist (the collector did all the inviting) and some other folks. I’m looking forward to it – we’re using horses and mules to haul our lazy asses and all our gear in about 15 miles, and I plan to bring plein-aire painting kit of some sort, especially since John Potter, the other artist, is also a friend and we’ll be kicking each other’s butts around to paint. Before then I’ll be at 600 agility trials and rodeos. It’s amazing how everything in MT/WY/etc. happens between May and October – we try to cram a year’s worth of stuff into a few months.

  7. Larry Jewett says:

    Wind Rivers sounds great.

    I’m jealous (about that too!)

    Here in the east, we don’t have Wind(y) Rivers. Just “Airy Seacoasts”.

    back when I lived in utah, I got up to the “Winds” numerous times (almost every summer for over ten years). my favorite was the Titcomb basin area, not far from Wyoming’s highest peak (Gannett), but any place in the Winds is pretty fantastic (if you can stand the mosquito hoards, that is)

    And horses are very good! Of all my trips, I only “used” horses the last time. I kind of frowned on it in my younger days** (see below) — to pack my stuff in, but not back out, unfortunately. I must admit, it sure beats packing the stone, but to this day, i still feel sorry for that poor horse, carrying all my beer, steaks and assorted snacks as it were.

    **Some fellow alpinists (kinda like “pianists” but different) and I actually composed a song about the “Flesh Riders” (ie, Horse Riders). We composed the song on a moonlit night near “island lake” in the Wind rivers. There may have been a little alcohol involved, but I can’t quite remember, since it was so long ago…

    “Flesh Riders in the Winds” (Sung to the tune of “Ghost Riders in the Sky”

    Their legs are long
    Their backs are strong,
    Their hooves are made of steal…

    They’re riding hard,
    They’re traveling far,
    They’re tearing up the trail….

    And when you see them coming,
    You’ll know to step aside,

    Flesh Riders in..,
    Flesh Riders in the Winds.

    Upon their backs,
    They carry packs,
    Aladen down with tar*

    Their rider’s fat,
    he’s drinking beer,
    You’ll hear him from afar.

    You know they’re in the meadows,
    You’ve seen them at the car.

    Flesh Riders in,
    Flesh Riders in the Winds.

    Their s**t (sounds like spit) is green,
    Their rider’s mean,
    They travel far and wide.

    They like the sights,
    They like the sounds
    And yet they ALWAYS ride.

    And when you drink the water,
    You’ll know that they’ve been by.

    Flesh Riders in…
    Flesh Riders in the Winds.

    We’ve hiked all day,
    We’ve made some way,
    We think we’re gonna die.

    They started hours later,
    And still they pass us by.

    We think we’ve finally lost them,
    And then we hear their cry ….. [shrill whinnying sounds here]

    Flesh Riders in…
    Flesh Riders in the Winds.

    PS. There is (at least) one more verse, but after 25 years, it escapes me for some reason (I know what you are thinking, but just keep the thought to yourself, if you please)

    *”tar” as used here has a non-literal meaning something like “amenities of modern life” — ie, everything including the kitchen sink (with many cases of beer, of course). The term derives from “petroleum-based” recreation “Tar heads” are those who partake of “tar” on a regular basis. (ie, drive big cars, big boats, etc) and generally burn up lots of oil — and tires.

    I can’t claim to have originated the term (unfortunately). That dubious distinction goes to a friend of mine (whose name i will not divulge, lest i ruin his career), but there is a whole “tar scale” 1-10 that denotes how “tar headed” a person actually is. For example, if one takes a trip driving a Winnebago pulling a boat trailer, pulling a trailer with two jet skis, pulling yet a third trailer with a jeep on it, then one has “achieved” about a 9.8 on the tar scale (if i recall correctly. It’s been a long time since i looked at the scale and i think it was originally just jotted down on the back of an oatmeal package or seomthing which i glanced at once twenty five years ago. I do remember that it is quite nonlinear and approaches 10 asymptotically). For comparison (if my memory serves me), walking (with no shoes) is a 1 and bicycling is a 5, and anything involving RV’s is at least a 9, but beyond that, your guess is probably as good as mine at this point.

  8. Susan Fox says:

    Ok, two cents worth for a title- “Gotcha!”

    Two more cents on inspiration/perspiration- The first gets us started on a painting, the second is what gets us through to a good end. Sometimes this is damn hard work, but it makes paintings that flow like the first one you described all the sweeter. Kevin Macpherson comments in one of his books that a painting is really a series of corrections and how true is that!?

  9. larry jewett says:

    a painting is really a series of corrections

    … or one big correction.

  10. Julie Chapman says:

    Susan – great suggestion! but unfortunately, I’ve already used “Gotcha” for a roping piece (, dammit. I need LOTS more titles along the lines of “gotcha!”, since there will be more roping paintings, more bronc pieces, etc…

    As far as corrections – I agree, to a point. I put a stroke down and decide if it’s the right shape/color/value/edge, adjust if necessary, and keep going. Sometimes a stroke has to be revisited as other strokes go on. If I have to correct – especially shape and drawing – continually or in a big way, the painting starts to feel like it’s falling apart. Maybe I’m just not committed enough…or maybe I need to BE committed…

    April 23rd, and as I look out the window it’s snowing hard and accumulating, dammit. Spring? HA.

  11. Susan Fox says:

    How about “Come with me, please.” ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. Susan Fox says:

    And, oh yeah, I know that falling apart part too. Seems to usually happen somewhere in the middle. One way I get out of it is to start with a part I’m sure of and build from there. That usually gets things flowing again.

  13. Shawn Meisl says:

    Okay Ms. Julie…some from the English major (gawd, what good are them diploma thangs if you can’t dream up a few other references to Gotcha). Here goes:

    Catch of the Day, Nabbed, Freeze Frame, Striding Tandem, Two fer One, Walk This Way, Two-Timing, Rope Burn, Built for Two, Sharp Reflexes, A Blonde AND a Brunette, Double Dating, All I Need is a Wagon…okay, now I’m getting silly.

    Call me fercryin’ outloud. I miss your voice!!

  14. Nnacy Verschoor says:

    I love the painting! Shawn has a bunch of great ideas for the title. I was also thinking about something with “Tandem”. But the idea I thought of that I liked the best was: “Saddle Bronc – Job Done!” “Catch of the Day” is pretty creative, too.

    I’ve re-worked a couple of paintings this week and like them better. I was sick for a couple of weeks and am finally getting my strength back. I have started two new paintings – one of a snow leopard [those spots are driving me crazy!] and a paint foal – I love how this one is working.

    You continue to inspire us. Keep up the great work!

  15. Julie Chapman says:

    Nancy, great to hear from you! I went with Shawn’s “Nabbed”, though I need to update my website home page to show the title. Y’all will probably see the piece again, since it’s most likely the image I’ll give Legacy for advertising our August western show.

    You have more patience than I do if you’re reworking paintings. I just throw them away and start something else – somehow when they’re not working I HATE them and don’t want to deal with them anymore, and really really want to go on to the next idea. With respect to cat spots, Bob Kuhn said once that if he could hire someone to paint all the damn spots on a leopard he would. So you’re in good company!

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