Recently my students were discussing why an artist would want to paint a subject more than once. One said that once she had painted it, that was it; she didn’t want to paint it again.
I have to admit to being guilty of painting it again. Any number of little phrases come to mind to explain why this might be so – “practice makes perfect”, “third time’s a charm”, “because it is there”, “try, try again”. When I was younger, poorer, and before the advent of digital cameras, I did on-site watercolour paintings which I used as the basis for bigger studio oil paintings. It was a necessity, the only way I could capture my source material. Sometimes when I am working on the first painting, I get an idea for a different way to paint the subject matter, and if that idea is good, I paint it again. Occasionally, the first painting just does not capture what I had in my mind’s eye, and that painting becomes a practice piece. Or, like the Impressionists, I paint the same plein air scene over and over again because it is there where I am, and every time the light is slightly different.
In the examples I’ve included, I painted the first one on-site in very bright, almost blinding light and when I got back to the studio I did not like the colours and some of the trees were falling off the page. So, I painted it again but I am not sure yet if this one captures my vision, so I just might have to paint it again….
This entry was first posted on June 21, 2013.
“It’s all about problem solving”, one of the students in the mentored class said to me and another student standing nearby. How often I have had this thought as I started a new painting. There are the basic problems to solve: Can I paint the picture with just these colours? Should this be a big or a small painting? What is the focal point and is the composition interesting? Can I use this particular technique to get the effect that I want?
Then there are the more complex questions that arise from what the painting is all about. Is the painting a metaphor for something, and if so how do I make that a visual image? Or is the very premise of the painting a question to be answered? I find that this is very often the case when I want to abstract the subject matter that I begin with. For example, in “Poise” I asked the question: “If I only paint the negative spaces will viewers still be able to tell what the subject matter is? In “Fuchsia” I asked: “What will happen if I put the canvas under the fuchsia and just paint the shadows as the sun moves across the sky?” What kind of questions or problems do you pose and try to answer in your paintings?
Recently a local art store has been producing a series of videos to inspire creativity entitled “By all means create.” It is based upon Vincent Van Gogh’s famous quote: “If you hear a voice within you saying, ‘You are not a painter’, then by all means paint…and that voice will be silenced….”
But that voice of the inner critic is a strong one. Even with some aptitude, experience, and expertise it is there. Even when the courage to create is found, it twists itself into a new questions: “Why?”
Why paint? Why create? Why make things? Why fill the world with more things when the world is overloaded with things? Why make things that possibly no one else will value?
A deep breathe and the exhalation: “Because it is our nature to create.” It is fundamental to our state of being to make things. Creating takes us to that initial creative spark. It is joyful, uplifting, and deep down inside, we yearn to do it.
Often the voice of the inner critic threatens to silence me, to stop me from creating. But then another voice wonders: “Why not?”
The voices debate. Each “you are not” argument is countered, and in the end there is no good reason not too. So I’ll continue to paint, to create, for now.
This entry was first posted on November 8, 2014.
One day I was thinking a lot about relationships. It was the anniversary of my marriage, when one naturally thinks about the relationship one has with one’s partner. Also that morning I had taught a lesson on composition focusing on the relationship between objects in a painting. With these thoughts about relationships still swirling in my head, I rounded the corner of my usual walk to see the lesson made visually real.
I have many favourite trees, and many of them have inspired paintings. On this particular day, one of the trees that had inspired the painting “Embrace” was now in pieces in the back of a truck. As I considered this change to the composition, Henri Matisse’s words came to mind: “Composition is the art of arranging…the diverse elements at the painter’s command to express his feelings.”
Indeed! As there were no longer two trees, the intimate conversation between two forms had ceased to exist. Without that compositional (physical) push-pull relationship between objects (or elements), there can be no expression of the painter’s emotions.
This entry was first posted on October 13, 2014.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1, KJV)
Often when I paint in watercolours, I start with no idea of what the painting will be about. I trust, and I hope, that its substance will be revealed. I clear my mind and let the paint work across the paper. It is only the paint that matters. If I try to impose my will upon the paint, the image is untrue. But if I give it freedom and the marks are freed from my consciousness, then the evidence of things unseen emerges. I often feel that painting is an act of faith, a total surrender to that dab of paint on the end of the brush and to the unselfconscious marks that will reveal the things not seen.
This entry was first posted on February 10, 2013.