The Influence of Friends

Succulence in the home

In 2006, I quit my day job to write and paint. Here is the kicker. Though I went to art school, I'd never been much of a painter. I had graduated with concentrations in fibers and metals. I didn't know what to paint, and every time I went to the art supply store or looked in a Dick Blick catalog, I became so overwhelmed with choices that I invariably bought nothing. Experimented with nothing. Did nothing-- but aspire to be a painter. Enter my dear friend and neighbor, Marsha. At the time, she was working as a high-end faux painter (meaning that she used the best materials, had taken classes, and worked in houses that were at the upper end of the housing market). She had a lot of leftover paints. These were latex paints with ceramics and metallics mixed in to provide tooth and luster. And she invited me to play with them. She had a limited palette. High-end houses tend toward restrained palettes. Lots of earth tones.But that was good for me. It turned out that by limiting my palette, I was able to open up to possibility. I freeze when given too much choice. This freed me from all of that. My painting took off. Since that time, I have been able to expand my palette and my ideas, but I needed a push, and I needed some outside help and influence. Though I have moved away from the 'hood, Marsha and I have remained friends. This winter, when she moved out of our old neighborhood and into a new house, she commissioned me to do a painting using her stock of paints. I was honored to do so. It had been some time since I used the old paints, but they were waiting for me.

Marsha asked me to paint succulents; their spiral nature was a break from the linear rhythms of the forest paintings I had been doing these last few years. I enjoyed it so much, it may inform my future art. So this post is two-fold in its heavy-handed advice. Number one: Don't be afraid to pare down your choices. You don't have to buy all the colors in the paint store. The palette doesn't have to conform to rules or make sense. With Marsha's paint, I painted skin tones with a yellow, a burnt orange, and an aubergine color. The result was moody and emotional and thrilling to me. And I sold my first painting which was a portrait using those skin tones to a moneyed collector. (The painting must have matched her understated decor.)  Number two: Look to your friends for advice and inspiration. YOU are the people with whom your surround yourself. Taken a step forward: YOUR ART is the people with whom you surround yourself.