"Mood" at Assiniboia Gallery, Regina - June 7-30, 2018: This is my first solo show in a private gallery! Join me for the opening reception on Thursday, June 7th from 5-8 p.m. You can find the Asiniboia Gallery at 2266 Smith Street, Regina.

New Representation:
my art is now available at the Assiniboia Gallery in Regina! They are located at 2266 Smith Street, a vibrant, bustling part of town.

Ongoing: my 8x8" original oil paintings are available exclusively at Darrell Bell Gallery located in the Canada Building in downtown Saskatoon. As well, some of my large oil paintings are now available in this beautiful local gallery.

November 10, 2016: I was interviewed by Daily Paintworks as their Spotlight Artist for a week! Read my interview on the DPW News blog!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Chartreuse Or Not Chartreuse?

all images, © Nicki Ault 

I just got myself a cafe mocha, my boys are watching the football game (go Riders) and now I am going to elaborate on my last post.

I have gone through a year of growth in several ways, many of which are art related. I am consciously and actively working at getting my art and my name (in relation to my art) "out there", but I have so much to learn that at times I am overwhelmed. That niggling feeling of self doubt creeps in and whacks me over the head when I least expect it! That is what happened to me recently. Usually it happens when I read something or have a conversation that causes me to call into question my choices, ideas or intentions. Don't get me wrong- it actually isn't a bad thing to go through this once in a while because hopefully I either end up stronger in my convictions or realize I need to make an adjustment. The problem is that these self-examination periods usually start with a plunge in confidence; with me feeling like I've put the cart before the horse and should paint like a real artist with real training and real skills and real vision before putting myself "out there"...   sigh... yes, I find this mind-set exhausting, too. I am coming to realize that there are many artists, writers, musicians who are worried about being "found out"; that they are a sham and no one has figured it out yet. Which of course they are not. After the initial panic at the start of these self-examination periods, I calm down and try to gain perspective. It's a time to sort out what I actually believe; to sort out the facts from the opinions. Once that is done, with any luck, I have grown and can move forward.

So about two weeks ago I followed a link to a blog that I have looked at before, but hadn't visited in awhile. It is the blog of a very knowledgeable and successful artist, Stapleton Kearns. On his blog he shares a great deal of experience, discusses work he admires, answers questions of his readers, etc. He is extremely generous in sharing what he knows, and you can't say that about all artists. I came across his post "A Tool For Smuggling Red" and whack! self doubt right upside the head! He knows colour theory inside and out and when he talked about not wanting chartreuse in his paintings I thought, "Well, that's it for me! I'm out!" For several days after reading that post I kept thinking how much Stapleton Kearns would hate my work. It really bothered me. I love chartreuse (as you can tell by the above paintings). Then I decided to re-examine his post and I realized for the most part I agree with what he says, I just happen to think this bright yellow-green colour is A-OK to put in my paintings. It's there in nature- especially in the sunlit moss beds of the Boreal forest. I want to incorporate it because it tells part of the story. In fact, often it's the reason I am telling the story in the first place. I think chartreuse is a glorious, joyful colour.

Upon reading Mr. Kearns' post again I realized he was talking about his opinion of what he wants in his paintings and not stating a fact. He doesn't know me from a hole in the ground and so, although his words hit me personally, they were certainly not directed at me. However, if he actually saw my paintings he just might direct them towards me, and that is where my self confidence button got pushed. He says, "Sometimes I want my paintings to be the color of 500 dollar suits. High key lemon greens are not something I would want in my suits".  I get that- I wouldn't want my husband to show up wearing a chartreuse suit, however, if he wore a classy black suit with a chartreuse handkerchief poking out of the pocket I would think he was smokin' hot! And therein lies the difference between me and Stape!

This is where the growth comes in after a period of self doubt. I have shifted my mind-set because the reality is I am an artist. I have real training. Maybe not a degree, but still, real training from excellent teachers. I have real skills and I have a vision for my own art. Will it appeal to everyone. Nope. Is that okay? Yup. Do I want to paint like anyone but me? Nope. (Well, maybe Tom Thomson). Am I done learning? Nope, not even close. In fact, I am excited to see what I will learn with the next painting. I have re-written my blog profile to reflect this growth. I am hoping that by sharing my insecurities I haven't come across as unprofessional. I hope you will take my words for what they are; the sharing of this leg of my journey. Maybe you will even be able to relate in some way. The real growth here is that in the future I am going to try to be kinder to myself. I don't want to be my own worst enemy anymore.

P.S. The Riders won!


Barbara M. said...

Hi Nicki,

Here I am looking at your paintings, the bright green in one after the other absolutely flooring me with joy. So incredibly lovely. I hopped over to Stapes site too, and the guy is good. You are great and he is also pretty good. It is possible. Van Gogh and Ingres -- try that on for size. Mary Pratt and Georgia O'Keefe. We are allowed to be equal and unique. Glad you decided that and let yourself off the "got to do what someone else says" hook.
Plus many great artists are not educated.

Whew. I'm tired writing this, but really glad you shared it, because everyone goes through this time and time again. Hold on to your greatness. You deserve the acclaim you are receiving. There must have been a mean art teacher back there somewhere.

XO Barbara

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Nicki - thank you for sharing your 'growing pains' so honestly. I think there are many of us who will identify with and be encouraged by much of what you've written!

BTW, it's not only artists who fear being 'found out' - it has a name, Imposter Syndrome, and, of course it's mainly women who suffer from it. I certainly have, with my art but also with my literacy teaching.

Anonymous said...

hi Nicki, i'm glad to hear you have found your balance as it can take some time to get back on the tightrope of painting especially when you've taken something to heart from an artist whose painting and knowledge you respect. we are all on our own personal journeys and we tend to be quite alone at each particular stage. i also follow Stape's blog as i find many of the articles fascinating to read. i like his idea of using reds in greens and it definitely works in his palette. not being a landscape artist and using greens rarely, i cannot speak from experience. however, i think you have worked it out: it may not work in your palette which is a more vibrant one. perhaps it would be out of place... but you could give it a try on a trial canvas and see what happens. it is something i often do and then play around with the new idea to suit my colour choices. anyway good to hear you are back, face to the wind and a skip in your step;) best wishes r.

Pierre Raby said...

Wow Nicki, what a great post. Thanks for sharing these uncomfortable thoughts in which we can all relate no matter our artistic background and education. Beautiful selection of works too, inspiring.

cohen labelle said...

Nicki, not everyone can be a poet with colour (in this case the colour green) but you are!!! - as you are with all colour and shape. You are fearless with the use of colour - eloquent and magnificent!
It is a gift - you are lucky!

xo, Marcia

Kim said...

Nicki, thanks for your honesty and I have to say, I think you are right on in your thoughts about insecurities... and most all of us have 'em! ; ) The arts are a tough gig. As for Stape, he is knowledgeable and also, like you say, it is *his* opinion. I had to laugh about the whole chartreuse issue - check out my post from Sept. 1. Hopper worked it!! I am not quite at your point of feeling secure in your painting style - I see all this beautiful work and think: *That's* how I want to paint. And then the next day I see an exhibit or something and want to paint *that* way. I have to carve my path but sometimes it proves difficult. You've been inspirational though. I'm going to try and catch your self-assuredness ; )

Janie B said...

Great post! I love how you overcame your self-doubt. Your paintings are always motivating and beautiful to me. The colors are so rich and bountiful. Your work is your own and his is his. There are admirers enough for all.

suzanneberry said...

Beautifully put nicki!!! it's amazing that we all, or most of us anyway, share the same fears. i feel like a fraud almost every day. we have our reasons...using photographs, using colors "REAL" artists wouldn't use...for a while i thought my palette garish and harsh and thought every "REAL" artist was laughing behind my back. i thought that if i didn't paint alla prima from life i was a failure. it's all in OUR heads. someone once told me not to worry, the folks we want approval from are too busy working through their own insecurities and thinking too much about themselves to give a tinkers damn about moi! beautifully written and very helpful. it's time to embrace who we are, nurture it, love it, be confident in it.bravo!!! and thank you!

suzanneberry said...

P.S. me again, forgot to say...I LOVE THE CHARTREUSE!! in point of fact that is one of the things i love most about your work!

My Sweet Prairie said...

I hear you! Oh I hear you! P.s. I heart chartreuse!

-Don said...

Personally, I think you should paint like me...

Just kidding!!!

This is a great post, Nicki. I can relate to the self-doubts that can occur from what may be the most innocuous of statements or observations. We are all continually growing and evolving which is often uncomfortable and sometimes quite painful.

I think the most important word in your entire post is "opinion". We must always keep in mind that what someone states as fact is often just opinion, and the only one of those that should really matter when it comes to our work is our own.

Now, I have to admit that I have never used chartreuse in any of my paintings. Mainly because I don't know what color that is. You'll find that I'm not afraid to use yellow-green, though, when I feel like it's needed... :-)


Nicki said...

Hi Barbara,
Thanks for your supportive words- you are so good at that. I like your statement that "we are allowed to be equal and unique". Food for thought. I can't think of a mean art teacher, really I am just fighting my own demons... lack of confidence being the biggest one.
XO Nicki

Hi Judy,
Calling my foibles "growing pains" is accurate. Thank you. And yes, it is true, I know of professionals that feel like frauds and of course they aren't. I had no idea there was a name for it! I feel validated!
:o) Nicki

Hi Rahina,
Yes, I think you are right, overall my palette is more vibrant than S.K.'s, so this tip perhaps is not relevant to me. I have already played around with the "smuggling reds" idea and I will try it in the future. I'm totally cool with having plenty of tools in my toolbox. I didn't mind the effect, but I am not sure the rest of my palette made sense with that change. I have more experimenting to do...
Thanks for your encouragement.

Nicki said...

Hi Pierre,
I appreciate that you took the time to read this post! I got a bit long winded. Thank you for your generous and supportive words. You are an inspiration to me. Your work always takes my breath away.

Marcia, you are making me blush! You are too kind, thank you. And wow right back at you! I can't get enough of your figures and the way you use your pastel colours so sparingly, but perfectly when you draw.
XO Nicki

Hi Kim,
I got a kick out of seeing the Hopper piece on your blog... and since I wrote this post about chartreuse I feel like I am seeing it everywhere I look! I think we are all afflicted with bouts of self doubt at some point or another; maybe it comes with the territory? I always think of you as being very secure in your work and you really seem to have a knack and the guts to try different things. I admire that. I am getting better at accepting myself in the way I paint, but I'm not all the way there yet (I really would like to paint like Tom Thomson! I wasn't joking!)
Thanks for your words,

Nicki said...

Hi Janie,
So good to hear from you again! I'm glad you liked this post. And it makes me more than happy that you enjoy looking at my paintings. That truly makes my day. It would be awfully boring if we all did the same thing and everyone agreed.
Take care,

Hi Suzanne,
I love your comment so much. When I read it I thought, "She is me! She really gets it!" I'm pleased you found my words helpful and yes! Let's embrace who we are! And you, by the way, are one fantastic artist.
Hugs, Nicki
(and I'm glad you love the chartreuse :o) )

Hi Monika,
Chartreuse is lover-ly, isn't it?
I heart My Sweet Prairie.

Nicki said...

Hi Don,

I think I should paint like you too!

It is a lesson that has been a long time in the making, but I am slowly getting there: my opinion matters (to me) and it is okay for me to have one. I think I spend a lot of time and energy being agreeable, not rocking the boat and thinking others know more than me (which they just might, but when it comes to MY art ultimately that doesn't matter).

Po-ta-to, po-tah-to; to-ma-to, to-mah-to... I think I've seen chartreuse in your work!