Soup Prep - Chef Dean
oil on board, 6 x 8" framed in silver and gold tone frame
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Often times I tell my art students to "trust in the process" and not to judge their painting too soon, especially while they are in the midst of creating it. I’ve said in the past it’s like baking a cake and trying to eat it when it’s half baked - it doesn’t taste good.
It’s easier for us to understand the cooking process when it comes to creating a meal. Planning the menu, buy the ingredients, prep the food, cook or bake, waiting time and then knowing when it’s done. And then.... yes enjoy eating it!
There are many similar steps and stages when it comes to creating a painting with the exception of one. The "Cook Time" or the "Create Time". For instance, you do have to plan and purchase materials. Find a place to create, whether a studio or a kitchen table. You'll also need some instruction, even the basics like mixing and applying paints. And surely what would be helpful, like in a recipe you are given the time it takes to prep and the time it takes to cook or bake. But that's not the case when it comes to creating art.
"Create Time" is the one mystery element. It's the one ingredient that is truly different for every artist. How can I tell my students that an exercise will take exactly one hour. Sometimes I'll try to set time limits and on occasion it will work but for the most part, I've come to the conclusion - a painting will get done on it's own time. We truly don't know how long it’s going to take to create a piece of art. For some it could be thrown together in minutes and called finished for others the "cook time" could take hours, days maybe even years.
But what if we savored and embraced that "time of simmer" - the "process time". What if, with patience and with a listening heart, we lean more into the method than the end result. I mean we aren't planning to eat our painting like we would a meal, so why can't we just take the time to listen to our heart not a grumbling stomach. What if we apply the phrase "Trust the process" to mean both trusting you will be satisfied with the end result AND enjoyment while in the midst of creating it.
So perhaps the next time you are in the middle of painting a painting whisper to yourself “ embrace the simmer” .....and I will do the same.
"Tomatoes on the Vine - Kitchen Prep - Chef Dean"
oil, 16 x 20" -
Winner: Honorable Mention 2017 Biannual Juried Exhibition at
Wethersfield Academy for the Arts, Wethersfield, CT
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For an experienced chef who knows just the right time to add the ingredients to a soup or a sauce, he begins by activating all his senses. He smells, sees and hears the sounds during the cooking process and knows exactly when to move to the next step. At first it could be the sound of the onion coming in contact with the heated oil - he listens for the sizzle or the pop. Or perhaps he’s waiting for the stock to reach a slow boil before adding in the seasoning.
As students of art our senses need to be engaged too. Of course we don’t take this literally when it comes to tasting our paints - we aren’t tasting anything - that would be gross! But when it comes to creating art "switching on" your senses is part of the creative experience. Sight is the obvious one, but how about smell, touch and hear?
To this day I can still remember so clearly the smell of the wet watercolor paper when I first learned how to paint. During my college years my instructor had us wet the entire sheet of paper in the sink, place it on a board, staple and tape it down. As the paper dried the smell would disappeared and then I knew it was time to start painting. Some say it smells like wet dog, others say glue or adhesive, even unbaked bread - yeasty smell - for me it I can't really describe the smell but what I did know is that it triggered an internal sense of "NOW. Now it's time to create!".
Recalling an instructor's exercise at the Yale British Art Center for art educators, the facilitator placed several pieces of fruit on the table and asked us to create a still life using the art materials supplied. I thought to myself - I got this.. But it wasn't until she had us close our eyes for a minute and she cut open the orange and asked "can you paint what you smell?" Just being more aware of the smells around us can influence our work. The orange sphere on the paper just became juicier, the lemon yellow made you pucker your lips and yes .. just about taste it.
I believe our sensory awareness plays a key roll in our artistic growth and development and the more we paying closer attention to the ordinary things around us in our everyday environment the more we connect more deeply through the expression of our art.
Back in the kitchen with Chef Dean as he's preparing a meal or getting ready for a cooking class all the senses are awakened. The sweet aroma of the hand-picked basil drifts through the air, the freshly cut onions releases an all too familiar odor and maybe a tear or two, and the vine ripened tomatoes, still warm to the touch from the afternoon sun. As Chef Dean incorporates these ingredients into a stainless steel pot over high heat, is when your mouth begins to water as you breathe in sweet aroma of an Italian kitchen ... in essence, he just creates a masterpiece for the palate!
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