Freedom From, so called, Facts.



"Tic, Tac, Toe" 12"x12" $900

The very best days I spend in my studio are the days I paint without a thought as to how to paint. Several days ago, after having one of these magical studio days, Diane and I were sharing our usual adult beverage time, when I said to her, “you should not have to be 68 years old to realize that the real art is made without rules and conventions.”  I was looking at several paintings I had just finished. What is unique about these images is that I never had a thought as to why or how when making them. I picked the simple subject of everyday tools I use. The process was make a mark respond to the mark, apply a lump of color and respond to that color. Every decision was made without preparatory analysis ( I was working in watercolor making this thinking the equivalent of heresy).

It appears that there is a conspiracy designed to encumber creativity and destroy personal taste. The conspiracy is disguised in rules, principles, traditions, and conventions. This list is convenient and  powerful to those of us who teach as they are easily identified  as strengths or weaknesses in the work of students. The ability to point to the absence or  the omission of one or more of these rules make teachers appear knowledgeable and trustworthy. The fact is that these rules keep us from becoming the grandest version of our greatest self.

Almost every artist wants to consider themselves to be CREATIVE while most work hard to conform to styles and techniques of yesterdays heros.

Finding personal freedom in your own work is challenging and while I cannot give you the answer here are a few suggestions that may help in your quest.

1. First identify who you are PAINTING FOR or PAINTING LIKE. And then change your answer to ME.

2. Use you painting time as experiments in observation and experimentation. Observe the stuff happening on the surface of your work and experiment with new decisions (I am not referring only  to materials).

3. Expand your visits to art exhibits to include “Outsider Art” and any art that you have ignored. If in Baltimore go to the Visionary Arts

4. Know that every artist and “ism” we most admire pushed out of the status quo was once considered revolutionary, including the Impressionists.

5. Work in a series of 20 images and force yourself to keep pushing the subject to places you have never considered.  This may lead to the need to change media to include sculpture and even  installations.

6. Judge your work by it’s honesty not by sales, friends and family praise, awards, or inclusion in shows.

The image posted can be purchased $900.




  • diane santarella

    Feb 28, 2012 at 4:59 pm Reply

    Wise words from my favorite teacher.
    Folks: This is from a painter who actually walks the walk. He challenges himself and he challenges his students. A rare thing to find.
    Thanks Jedi Master!

  • Norman Robertson

    Feb 29, 2012 at 5:06 pm Reply

    I shall try to bear your remarks in mind when painting tomorrow. I know mine cannot get worse and so hope for the best. I visited a gallery only two days ago where a friend of yours has his most recent exhibition and WOW!!!!

  • Meera Rao

    Mar 12, 2012 at 7:22 am Reply

    I do paint for me (most of the time!) -but to “Judge your work by it’s honesty not by sales, friends and family praise, awards, or inclusion in shows.” thats the hard part – faith in myself gets shaky when I get one too many rejection from shows 🙂 This is my first visit to your blog –will surely be back regularly! Thanks for what you are sharing here.

    • Skip Lawrence

      Mar 12, 2012 at 8:04 am Reply

      I do understand. It is human to seek approval, and there are so many people willing to share their opinions. We have to be dedicated to what we are doing and that is usually a barometer of how honest the work is. Keep up the good work and trust you.

  • Cathy

    Mar 12, 2012 at 9:33 pm Reply

    I can get so caught up in painting something that I can “show off” to prove that I can paint. It is a breath of fresh air to read your blog Skip. Maybe I will never really paint the winning masterpiece but I will have given a voice to that artistic spirt that wants to be expressed.

  • Linda Slattery Sherman

    Mar 28, 2012 at 3:16 pm Reply

    Excellent post. I’m sorry I couldn’t sign up for the workshop you’re doing at the Delaplaine this week. Love the direction that you are going in with the abstracts. Next year! Am doing a startup business with my son and have to go to Allentown, PA tomorrow. Woo hoo!

    I was just juried into the Baltimore Watercolor Society with 4 small acrylic abstracts! Quite a surprise given the realistic makeup of the latest Delaplaine show. Your clothespin piece was my favorite!

  • Eva Macie

    Apr 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm Reply

    I so agree with your post. It nice to have someone whose opinion I respect in agreement with me. However, it took retiring for me to realize that art evolves and what I was taught as the “rules” no longer apply. I will be glad when all of the art critics, judges, teachers, etc., wake up too.

  • John Cotterell

    Apr 26, 2012 at 1:23 pm Reply

    So true. As artists, our focus is too often the end point… a sale. This can be a dead end of creativity. I think that we can only grow and advance while we continually push our designs, techniques and question our personal tastes or judgements.

  • Peggy Sampogna

    May 14, 2012 at 6:46 pm Reply

    Hey Skip! It’s me, Peggy Sampogna. Remember the nice place I got for you at the Dunes in Ocean City, Md when you did a workshop for the O.C. art league? Your abstracts are stunning. I’m still painting and lovin’ every minute.

    • Skip Lawrence

      May 14, 2012 at 7:20 pm Reply

      HI Peggy,
      Happy to hear of your continued love of abstractions.

  • Nancy Perry

    Aug 24, 2012 at 8:27 am Reply

    Hi, Skip, I just found your post about not following the rules and defining why you paint, and it is exactly what I need at the moment. I love painting in the abstract style and going with what happens in the painting, but I am finding it hard not to get approval from friends etc. It is tempting to go back to what is comfortable, but your words have encouraged me. Thanks!

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