I thought it would be intriguing to ask painters this simple yet complex question. This query comes with no ground rules—it’s up to each individual artist to find their own approach and direction.
This project will be an ongoing exploration … let’s see where it takes us.
What is Painting?
Featuring Tracy Ostmann Haschke
One of three feelings comes over an artist when they enter their studio to work; an exhilarating, happy feeling about the prospects of the day’s work; a dreadful, forlorn feeling toward the day’s productive outcome; and what is my least favorite, the feeling of nothingness. On those days, I can’t help but remember a quote made by almost every art teacher, “If you continue to stare at a blank surface, you get a blank surface.”
As annoying as I found that proverb the first time I heard it, I believe there is truth in this statement. If I waited for the desire to create to come to me solely by the force of nature, I would be in deep shit. So, no matter how I feel in the morning at 8:30, I go, and I stay, no matter what. I force myself to paint because this regiment is how I developed my skills and what I’ve learned after 25 years is that it all matters. Every mark on my canvas is a step, a visual cue that alters my thoughts after each stroke. The physical back and forth movement of the brush and the relentless free-flowing thoughts is a methodical assemblage that moves me toward a finished painting. Throughout this state of mind and body, choices are made regarding subject, color, tool, thickness, and placement. After an hour or two, notice the time has gone by and in front of me is a good start to a painting and even better, a euphoric state of peace that carry through the rest of my day.
Does this make painting my ultimate “passion”? I have a love/hate relationship with painting. Days when I am least interested in pursuing my craft, days when I sure as hell don’t feel like looking at a blank canvas, are the days I make fantastic paintings.
All the mental and emotional distress over decisions regarding subject matter, color scheme, brush stroke sheen, and knowing WHEN TO STOP all systematically feed one another. As a result, it is important for me to not take it all too seriously. What I mean is, it is important for me to keep myself in check regarding what I am actually doing here in this large room, freezing my ass off, breathing in toxic fumes. If I want to achieve the image I can already halfway visualize in my mind I need to make good decisions but remain “light minded” at the same time. This is not always an easy feat. At times, it’s like walking a tightrope while trying to envision my “happy place.”
Why do I endure the torment of painting? Painting can be an aerobic workout or a quiet meditation. Every day I see remnants of the brush strokes I made on the first day and on the second, third and fourth days. When I reach a point in the process where I can see the finish line? THAT is the reason I paint. Making the final marks on a painting pulling together all the loose ends is pure joy.
And in the moments following a finished painting? I do what I bet all artists do; sit and stare at it. If I smoked, I’d light up like the end of great sex. I will keep my wet brushes nearby in case I feel the urge to tweak the final outcome. But most of all, I try to make the very important decision to leave the painting alone. Knowing when to say when is the final decision a painter makes.
So, What is Painting? Painting is hard work. It is often misconstrued as a fun and pleasurable hobby, and while there are moments of elation, they are but a miniscule part of the painstaking process. A successful painting results from diligence, mental fortitude and stamina, patience, resourcefulness, endurance, and the strength to say “enough” and genuinely feel good about that decision.
Tracy Ostmann Haschke, Bath Time, oil on canvas, 15″ by 15″, 2015
As a native of rural Missouri, my artistic roots grew from a family of craftsmen and artisans—wood workers, clockmakers, furniture builders, potters and painters. I have followed the same path in making art as my ancestors before me.
After getting my B.F.A from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, I received a Post Baccalaureate certificate from The Art Institute of Chicago. I stayed in Chicago to pursue my art career. I started exhibiting in coffee shops, restaurants bars, and art festivals. I’ve participated in several gallery exhibits throughout the past twenty years, but still welcome public space venues. My work is included in several private residences throughout the United States including South Africa, Argentina, and Cuba. In 1998 I started my own decorative painting business called Studi-O to support my art. My services included: painted murals, decorative wall and furniture finishes, designing and constructing sculpture, and mosaics for businesses, residences and museums, including The John G. Shedd Aquarium, The field museum, The Chicago Historical Society, as well as Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Jelly Belly Candy Co., Warner Brothers, The University of Pennsylvania, Art and Soul restaurant in Washington D.C., and Harvest Manor Nut Company. Today, I continue to create new work and am constantly seeking out venues for shows as well as commission opportunities. Most of my work is somewhat representational, but not always. I mainly work in oil but stray from that often to explore other avenues to being creative. I have resided in E. Garfield Park for fifteen years with my husband and two children.
The What Is Painting? Project – More Featured Artists