‘Slightly out of my depth’ – perspective of a contemporary portrait artist

01 Mar 2023   |  Journal

I generally prefer to feel slightly out of my depth when painting. I personally believe ‘art’ shouldn’t be a place to play it safe. I prefer for it to feel like a fight rather than something peaceful.

I dip in and out of ‘portraiture’ and find that my more abstract work inevitably informs my portrait practice and simultaneously/organically pushes it in more challenging directions. It all speaks to each other in one way or another. I guess it’s lineage. They all exist as one body. I don’t enjoy sticking to one approach/discipline and just tend to go wherever the moment wants me to. Each day has its own perspective. I like allowing the moment to decide where the day goes. My consequential ambition as a painter is to be able to make just one or two marks on a canvas (or any surface) and for it to obvious who made it. Which is probably the primary reason as to why I have a slight problem with the ‘requirement’ of signing a work (although I do still currently sign my work for the time being). The mark making fulfils that role wholeheartedly, in my opinion.

One way or another_James Green Artist

‘One way or another’
Oils and spray paint on oil paper
70 x 50cm

Why is it important to get out of your comfort zone, when it comes to painting?

Getting out of our comfort zone when painting, from my point of view, is crucial in any artistic pursuit; as it allows us to progress and expand our practice – particularly when it comes to expressionism. These are my thoughts anyway! This isn’t limited to art alone, of course. Getting out of our comfort zone as people on a broader level can help enable personal growth on a character-level too. When it comes to painting specifically, though, if we stick to what we’re comfortable with, there’s probably more likelihood of creating work – albeit a possibly beautiful visual outcome – that is safe, contrived, and perhaps limited to the surface-level.

By playing around with new techniques (art is play, after-all!), disciplines, subject matters, or styles that are outside of our usual go-to’s, we challenge ourselves to think differently and push the boundaries of what we’re capable of. This can aid the development of new skills/approaches that can enrich our creative output, and make it more challenging, emotive, and interesting. As an example… If Picasso didn’t push himself out of his comfort zone, he would have continued with the representational work he started out with, and we’d be deprived from the fascinating cubist work we’re all so familiar with today. I guess, in saying this, the purpose of getting out of our own comfort zone isn’t always limited to personal pursuits… In doing so we can also simultaneously help to influence & progress the wider art scene – just as the work of Picasso is still having a profound impact on the world of art today – just as it did when it first came about through the early Cubist movement.

Getting out of our comfort zone can be daunting and somewhat intimidating at first. However it can also be profoundly rewarding. It can help us to organically discover new sources of inspiration, and give us a magnified sense of accomplishment and pride when we create something that we never thought we would do. It can surprise the creator just as much as it fascinates the audience.

In my opinion, getting out of our comfort zone is crucial for artistic development. Nuff said!

One way or another_James Green Artist