Demos & The Clouds I Saw 30 Years Ago

          Frustration and guilt fill me when I am asked to demo. I feel those who ask me to demo want to know how I work.  The way I work cannot be shown with a three-hour demo. My big paintings take hundreds of hours and so much involves gathering references and finding models. The models for the most recent painting are sunflowers, Mexican sunflowers, and an evening clearing sky. I used photos for this one, photos taken some time ago - like thirty-five years ago for the sky and five years ago for the sunflowers. I wanted something different for my sunflower painting, not a traditional arrangement of them in a vase. 
         Part of the process of developing an idea for this painting was sitting out in a country garden sketching sunflowers at sunrise, high noon and at sunset. Several trips to these gardens produced very little. The sky was the problem. A high noon sky created a sense of heat and great powerful colors. I wanted more action, a sense of nature, an edginess to add to the scene. 
         I remember my first photo I took for working from. Took a sunset in which the sky was just clearing after a real wild storm. I'd never seen such a sky and of course, I could not find that thirty-year-old photo, but it was well printed in my head so that would be how I'd have to work. I do not like making small studies, they are always better than the larger piece. Most small studies remain small paintings or sit somewhere in my studio till they are totally forgotten. I had to pull a mummified mouse off one the other day... 
         I sketched out my sunflowers onto my canvas. The composition and design were well developed in my head. The sunflowers I blocked in, bringing them to a near-finished stage, about forty hours of work over five days. I think of them as the main characters, They are my humans in this piece. My favorite subjects are people I think of trees, flowers and other subjects the same way as I think of people when painting I give these subject the same care I give all my people. I may even do a second painting of the sunflowers changing the sunflowers to a single .person.
        Flowers well established, I set about laying in the clouds using the colors I saw thirty years ago. I get quite excited as the piece takes on the look of the vision in my head. Two days of just capturing the sky then back to developing the sunflowers for a couple of days, building pigment, texture as I go. Brush work takes on an importance, color is brought out more and intensity is altered in places. Three bare spots play in my head as I see them as people in the distant. It's my love of people that causes my interpreting these smudges as people. Do I develop them as figures or stay with my original concept of sunflowers alone, waiting for full on darkness? I have to live with this painting for a week or two before deciding on letting the "people" stay. 
          How do I convey all this with a two-hour demo? I demo for my students every now and then, always telling them this is not how I create my art. It's more just entertainment for them. They like it as we exchange ideas about art. I feel guilty about taking their money when I demo, cause I am showing them how to paint - not create art.