Friday, September 10, 2010


"The Desert Rose" © J. Licsko '10   oil on canvas

I have often said I prefer people look at what I paint rather than how I paint. Frequently, the curse of the realist painter is observers notice the craftsmanship over the content. 

When I started painting many years ago, my first objective was to try to recreate what I saw. There is no better way to develop painting and drawing skills than copying an image from life or from photographs. The goal is to teach oneself to see, while simultaneously developing eye-hand coordination. I chose subjects that had some appeal to me and naively thought that I was making art. It wasn't until much later that I was told by a trusted authority that I had to find my own voice.

That comment threw me into a creative tailspin. We all know that the harder one looks for something the more elusive it becomes. After four years of earnest searching, I started to understand the difference between what I had thought was art, and what my authentic creative self could make as a unique contribution to the general stream of art. Looking back, I now have a respect for the frustratingly painful years of self exploration and doubt, because all the while the craft progressed. When I finally recognized my own voice, I had better skills to express it.

Knowing what to paint starts with knowing oneself. In earlier posts,  Fifteen Rules for Courting the Artist's Muse, The Reluctant Muse, and a Lesson From My MuseI have given methods and examples of how I recognized genuine inspiration that was uniquely important to me. By listening to our inner selves, we find the universal truths that can be appreciated by others, and also the fuel for creativity.

My painting "The Desert Rose" was inspired by a vacation I took earlier this year with my mother. She, being from a northern climate, was searching for warmth and sun. Palm Desert was the place she yearned for. While lounging around the pool, sipping Margaritas, I couldn't help but notice the contrast between the younger and the older woman. Making no conscious attempt, asleep, and oblivious to the attention she was getting from the men at the bar, the young woman was the focal point. At the same time, I admired the mature woman who has made a life long commitment to her femininity. The advantage of fresh skin has been replaced with jewelry, symbols of her lifetime of accumulated personal power. While I am not actually in the image, I discovered while painting it that I am caught somewhere in between my two subjects. I am reminded that the road between the two is a short one.