Matt Chinian’s lonesome setup

Matt Chinian isn’t anti-social, he just likes the meditative feel of painting alone. Yet he still competes in plein air events. Why? 

The New York State artist recently posted an entry on his blog discussing his seemingly contradictory thoughts on plein air competitions. He mentions that the idea of competitions in art seems a bit “absurd,” and he acknowledges that painting contests are out of his “comfort zone.” So why do it?

“I would say the prize money, and/or the opportunity to exhibit and sell a painting, meet other painters and ‘networking,'” he writes. “All good reasons.” But later in the post, he notices that something else happens in the heat of the competition. “In this particular group of painters I felt a bit different, maybe it’s just my view of it, but ultimately I could see how the focus of my work differed from my comrades, and it clarified for me what that focus was,” he writes. “I’m going to keep the paint loose, and the brushstrokes visible. I’m going to find compositions in nature and let nature reveal its symmetry to me. I’m going to focus on getting the light with color that I see. I have to work fast, the light is fleeting, and I must see it and it must be in front of me, because if I can’t remember what I went into a room to get, how will I remember the subtle changes in tone between the rock and the water? These convictions are for me — for now, and I can change them at will anytime for any reason. Each and every artist needs to decide what they do for themselves, what works or doesn’t, and I feel that this competition helped me clarify this.” 

Later, Chinian summed up his point. “Competitions are beneficial if done on your own terms, and you know what you want to get out of them,” he tells us. “For me, I like the challenge — to push myself to do the best painting in an environment that encourages me to do so. Everything else is gravy.”


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