Painting Without Purpose

By Thomas Jefferson Kitts

Gull Cove (watercolor and ink)

There will always be days when you don’t feel like painting. Don’t let that stop you. Once you begin, the inspiration will follow.

 

Wreck of the DT Sheridan (watercolor and ink)

Last October I did something I rarely do. I booked two plein air events almost back-to-back — one on Cape Ann, above Boston, and the other in San Angelo, Texas, with one week in between. Although I enjoy these types of competitions, where I can paint a lot of work within a short period, there are times I want to jump off the merry-go-round and be less mercenary. Why? Because art is not about producing product on demand. At its finest, it is about capturing life as directly as possible, and sometimes I lose sight of that. I decided to refresh myself between my trips to Cape Ann and San Angelo by visiting Monhegan Island. The tourist season would be over, and I could paint for five days without an agenda. Alone. I could walk around and serendipitously discover subjects to paint — like I did back in the day.

    Laundry Day (watercolor and ink)

If a student asks me how I compose, I quote Sorolla: “Go to nature without parti pris (preconception). You should not know what your picture is going to look like until it is done. Just see the picture that is coming.” Buddhists call it “No Mind,” a state in which your conscious self fades and the painting takes over. I call it the flow. I know I am in the flow when time stops and the painting just happens.

 

Three Boats (watercolor and ink)

It is important to make space for yourself. Sometimes this means going far away from the maddening crowd; other times it simply means closing the door to your studio. If you feel constantly subject to demands and distractions, then screw a bolt on your door and lock it from the inside. Tell everyone to go away; you are at the office. Carve out the time you need.

Thomas Jefferson Kitts was featured in the February-March issue of PleinAir Magazine.

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Kelly Kane
PleinAir Magazine and American Watercolor Weekly Editor-in-Chief With more than 20 years experience in art publishing, Kelly Kane has served previously as Editor-in-Chief of Watercolor Artist magazine and Content Director for The Artist’s Magazine, Drawing, Acrylic Artist, and Pastel Journal. She has interviewed many of the preeminent artists of our time and written numerous articles about painting, drawing, art education and art history. She is now the Editor-in-Chief of PleinAir Magazine and the American Watercolor Weekly newsletter. Click here to send her an email.

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