Tag Archives: painterly

Why Does the Birdie Show Up?



They bring me joy. They are all done in a notebook, simply for my pleasure. So why?

In part because I so strongly believe we need to do things just for us, things that bring us joy.

The birds that visit my bird feeders outside my studio window bring me great, great joy.

My Papa gave me a “Birds of North America” book because I kept calling him to ask what this bird and that bird was. My Papa always knows, just by my description. I love this about him. He’s such a committed nature lover.


One day, I just started to draw a chickadee from the book, then another, and so on. Here’s the thing: I don’t particularly like “realistic” art. I’m of that school that thinks I’d simply take a picture if I wanted to view or paint realism. For me, the joy of painting come from the creativity involved in being “painterly.” Painterly is a term I learned in college that means what it sounds like: that the brushwork and paint take importance over the subject. That a painting show you it is, indeed, a painting. It’s the color pushing into color, the movement of the paint. The way something made me feel versus a rendering of the visual information before you.

These birds have become simple meditations.  And they let me keep up on my skill to represent reality. It is true, you do need to know the rules to break them. Art is such a delicious exercise in breaking the rules, when done properly. But mostly, it’s a meditation. I don’t have to be creative, I don’t have to think; the information is already there. I can have a seat and simply draw.


When I paint, my soul goes into the work. I paint standing up because I like the energy it brings to my work. I like the physicality of my work. But sometimes it’s nice to just relax, have a seat and just make little birdies. Let my body, mind and soul relax without thoughts of selling; just something for me. I think we all need a notebook that is just for us, just a guilty little pleasure to stoke the bigger works, just a place all your own.

The by-product of drawing or painting anything is it makes me appreciate the subject more. So my birdies are even more special to me.



The feeders outside my studio sometimes get more visitors than just birds…

Florence, Day 23: Picasso and Being “Painterly”



I stayed in a Florence a extra day to see this exhibit, Picasso at the Palazzo Strozzi. I love Picasso’s work. You either do or you don’t, but in my world, you must, either way, recognize his place in history, his impact. He influenced entire movements in art, and through his innovation, handed out permission slips to others to pave their own way.

So here I am in the land of the Renaissance, and what makes my heart leap? Picasso. Likewise, when I asked my love today which was his favorite piece of art in Florence, he said, “The Picassos,” and I smiled, knowing his point.

I look at all these Renaissance giants and I’m in awe. I cry over the beauty. But my heart has not leapt in sheer joy until Picasso.

I became a painter so I would no longer be bound to the confines of my camera. My camera did not tell (though I know some whose cameras can) how I felt about a place. It did not convey the relationship I had with that moment. In my mind, I never see a stop sign, a power line, or any obstructions to my view. Angels occasionally sigh from the sheer beauty, if only in my mind. My eye captures what I want to see; my camera captured everything.

So for me, the most important part of my art is to be “painterly”; that means that I want to see the paint, feel the hand of the artist. I do not wish to see the artist’s brush disappear. I desire to see it — better yet, feel it.

So after all of the angelic faces, halos and versions of “Madonna and Child” — while I adore these — Picasso was a breath of fresh air.

Two inventions made being painterly possible: the camera and tube paint. Imagine the possibilities. Picasso, though he came after these inventions, also valued being painterly, and this is why his work excited me. He says every painting is not about the subject (nor is it ever finished), but rather, it’s a way to explore what a painting can do. His brush work is strong and fast and without attention to all that detail. It’s not that he was careless, just more interested in the process than tiny brushes would allow.

It was my last day in Florence, and what a perfect way to end it, for the Renaissance paved way for everything that came after. Think of it as the foundation upon which others could build. Jump ahead 400 years or so and you have Picasso yielding his brush as if he were a swordsman. That would not be possible without a strong foundation.

There was also some food that I could indeed write home about as well as some wine from the region and some amazing scenery to round out my “studies.”

Next stop: the Dolomites. It’s been on my hot list for almost 20 years. I’ll let you know if it was worth the wait!


Note: Top three pics are courtesy of the Internet — no cameras allowed at the Picasso exhibit, unfortunately!