“It is important to allow a painting to speak for themselves in terms of balance of mark, gesture, colour and compositional balance…
“I am not particularly interested in illustrating a particular scene with every blade of grass, nor do I want location to be particularly obvious. I want the paintings to speak for themselves as entity.”
What do you see? Make a list of at least six things. Do not use single words such as “washing”, “bus stop”, “road”, “clouds”, or “grass”.
How about “sun burning through the billowing clouds”, “wind catching the sheets on the line”, “shadow pattern of the wooden fence posts on the road with counterpoint played by white road markings”, and a “seat for Godot in the bus shelter”?
Did I think all this when I stopped to take this photo? No, I was out taking photos for my new reference book for my next Higham Hall workshop. I’d been hoping to find some laundry, as a reference for elements to include in a painting, and that’s what caught my eye, then the pattern on the road. The sun and clouds had been with me all afternoon, so I noticed it only in terms of not looking directly into it. Godot and the bus shelter, that came to me as I was looking at the photo to write this.
What are the thoughts on your list? Post a comment and let me know!
[Edited to add comments from Facebook]
Lyn Asselta: This is a fabulous exercise! Brilliant! I am always asking my students to stop looking for “nouns” (or objects, things).
Julie Rysdale: Smudgy bus stop windows telling the story of who waited; fenced fingers waiting to trip the unwary; green inky grass to smear on the evidence; alphabet shirts flapping their code to whoever will listen; sunshine fleeing the scene of time; the mysterious clouds the only witness to the drama unfolding!
Kit Wells: Refraction of light, bubbling clouds, stark shadow, moisture in air, contre jour washing, division of observed field into classic parts.
Maddy Buckman: Smeary windows, marching pickets in a fence, a peek at fields beyond through the gaps, billowing clouds on the move, lonely chairs in the empty space, soft but definite shadows, washing lifting in a breeze.
The second-century slave-turned-teacher Epictetus admonished his students in this way: “Stand by a rock and insult it, and what have you accomplished? If someone responds to insult like a rock, what has the abuser gained with his invective?”
Anger is so easy to get caught up in. Instead of finding something definite to do in response to what angers us, we marinate ourselves in our anger. A little marinating adds flavour, but it isn’t the end point.
[There are] two mind-sets. One is a “fixed theory of interests” — the idea that core interests are there from birth, just waiting to be discovered — and the other is a “growth theory,” the idea that interests are something anyone can cultivate over time.
…the fixed theory [can] cause people to give up too easily. If something becomes difficult, it’s easy to assume that it simply must not have been your passion, after all.
Put aside the expectation that learning to paint and draw should be easy and fast simply because you’ve finally decided now is the time to do it. Give yourself permission to spend the time, however long that turns out to be. Besides, the goalposts move as you learn.
If you’re looking for October’s word prompt chart, you can download it to print here.
You can be passionate about something but not competent at it (such as me on piano) and you can be competent at something but not passionate about it (accountancy was an easy A for me at high school). It’s a mistake to believe that we should prioritize something solely because we’re good at it.
Likewise to insist that something is worth continuing to do only if we get better at it over time.
The joy in the doing is sufficient.
If I encounter a piano and there’s no-one watching I will be unable to resist. I can no longer torment the instrument with all of Für Elise from memory, so usually it’s subjected to scales. Particularly contrary-motion E scale with its “E, two blacks, two whites, two blacks, E” rhythm. The sound may not be joyous to musical ears, but the playing is joyful to me.
There’s a line in the film “Room with a View” I’ve never forgotten. Lucy Honeychurch (the heroine) is playing Beethoven on the piano and Mr Beeb (the minister) says: “If Miss Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays, it will be very exciting, both for us and for her.” (Clip on YouTube.)
Aim to narrow the gap between what we’re passionate about and what we allow others to see.
“The decline of our personal momentum might be the great untold story of our time. That electronic media, incoming, ‘breaking’, please reply, didn’t you see that, react right now, click here… this has a cost. And the cost is our internal drive to initiate instead of to just react.” — Seth Godin, “The Motor“, 1/8/18
The Muse doesn’t so much whisper in your ear as illuminate the possibilities around you, and that comes only because she is entranced by what you are currently trying to accomplish. The Muse has to arrive to find you painting or drawing, not passively waiting for inspiration to hit.
For Kathleen who asked to see a photo, here are the three paintings I put into this year’s Lochalsh Art Fair (held in the community hall across from Eilean Donan Castle), my little red tractor painting and two of my new mountainscapes (mentally turn the one on the right 90 degrees anticlockwise):
“‘Repetition’ is about chasing something again, whereas ‘reproduction’ is about leading something forth again.
“In the former you’re always going after some unachievable idea: the resulting ‘things’ only approximating that ideal. Reproducing implies bringing out the identical thing again and again.
“… As an artist I’m attempting to use [pottery and calligraphy] to point out the sublime joy of ever deeper interaction with the earthy world precisely by never being able nor willing to make the same thing twice.”
Repetition, not reproduction. Working in a series, chasing an idea, chasing the “what if?”.
Using painting techniques that embrace “happy accidents” as an key element means you can’t do identical no matter how hard or long you try. Similar, yes, in terms of composition and colour. Identical, no, because drips and blended-together colour-runs are serendipitous. That lack of absolute control is what makes it so much fun.