“Paint records the most delicate gesture and the most tense. It tells whether the painter sat, stood, or crouched in front of the canvas. Paint is a cast made of the painter’s movements, a portrait of the painter’s body and thoughts. …
“Painting is an unspoken and largely uncognized dialogue, where paint speaks silently in masses and colors and the artist responds in moods.
“All those meanings are intact in the paintings that hang in museums: they preserve the memory of the tired bodies that made them, the quick jabs, the exhausted truces, the careful nourishing gestures. Painters can sense those motions in the paint even before they notice what the paintings are about.
“Paint is water and stone, and it is also liquid thought. That is an essential fact that art history misses…”
I think it’s possible to identify painters in an art gallery. They’re the people who also step to one side to look at the painted surface from an angle, which makes brushmarks and layers clearer. And often clasp their hands behind their back so as not to give into the temptation to touch. Paint is a non-verbal language that speaks across time.
“… joy, humor, and overall goofiness are actually vital for creativity. They are the playful elements that lead to better creative thinking. …
“When teachers use humor (especially observational humor), they are modeling a certain kind of curiosity and a willingness to look at life from a different angle. While this might not seem like an inherently creative act, curiosity is often the starting point for creativity. At some point, you move from questioning and exploring into making.
” … play often inspires deeper creativity. … a relaxed, non-threatening way to question everything
“… if we choose to be creative in the small things — if we embrace the goofy and silly and ridiculous and humorous — we have embraced that mindset that allows us to be creative in the big things.”
“I believe that one of the greatest mistakes made by human beings is to want certainties when trying to understand something. The search for knowledge is not nourished by certainty: it is nourished by a radical absence of certainty.
“Thanks to the acute awareness of our ignorance, we are open to doubt and can continue to learn and to learn better. This has always been the strength of scientific thinking—thinking born of curiosity, revolt, change.”
Theoretical Physicist Carlo Rovelli, “Helgoland: Making Sense of the Quantum Revolution” (via Austin Kleon)
It may feel that knowing what the outcome will be before putting brush to paint to paper is the way to success, but it’s also the road to inhibition (hesitation in case you do it wrong), self-doubt (when you don’t get what you expected) and fear (of even trying).
With pencil, you can change your mind and erase, you can doubt yourself and do a light line first. Ink forces you to keep going forwards, to respond and adapt, to live with mistakes and inperfections. Counter-intuitively, drawing with ink is easier than with pencil because you’re instantly committed, it reduces choices.
Mention Van Gogh and sunflowers and you probably vidualise one of his still lifes of sunflowers in a vase (there were seven: five are in museums, one with a private collection, one lost in the Second World War). But there are other less-well-known, earlier paintings of his involving sunflowers:
The colours in Van Gogh’s famous still lifes have changed over time, “mainly caused by a certain type of red paint (geranium lake) fading and a certain type of yellow paint (chrome yellow) darkening” (source: Conservation treatment ‘Sunflowers‘, Van Gogh Museum). If you don’t see the video below, click here.
“The stupidest possible creative act is still a creative act. … And once they’ve done it, they can do it again, and they could work on getting it better.
“There is a spectrum between mediocre work and good work, and as anybody who’s worked as an artist or a creator knows, it’s a spectrum you’re constantly struggling to get on top of. The gap is between doing anything and doing nothing.”
“Empathy, like love, has a reputation for softness. It too often reads as compromise or pandering. But empathy, like love, can be radical. It asks everyone to give and see more than they may otherwise feel is possible …
“Art bends and distorts perceptions. It demands comfort with ambiguity, and in an ambiguous world, there may be no more valuable skill.”
There are no guarantees when you pick up a brush, yet we can do it with such hope, in anticipation of channelling our best version of our creative selves, this time. And the next, and the next. Hopes held together by threads of love and empathy for our creative selves .
“Rarely is a landscape painting simply a transcription of place, unmodified by any further element.
“In all representation of place there is an element of serious play with time. Either the depiction of a landscape as it was on one day incorporates elements of the changing patterns of light and weather all through the hours that were spent in the making of the painting, or the apparent capture of an instant appears to set time itself at defiance.”
Peter Davidson, introduction to exhibition catalogue “James Morrison: The Edge of Allegory“, July 2009
It’s not wasting paint, nor paper, nor time, nor opportunity. It’s using paint and paper and time to explore the unpredictable and unexpected, to let the materials lead you.
Knowing exactly how something is going to turn out is desirable when baking a cake. In painting the process can be more than enough of a reward in itself. A pleasing end result might happen, or it might not; that’s another chapter in the story.
“Unlike the horizontal or vertical format, which imparts its own directional energy to the composition, the square tends to exert a uniform pressure on all sides. To suggest movement, therefore, a painter must rely entirely on the internal elements of the composition.”
A horizontal format leads our eye sideways, a vertical up and down. In a square we bounce off the equal-length edges as if we were in a pinball machine. It’s our composition’s job to guide our eye around in a calmer, controlled, interesting journey.