“…we know that an untroubled state of mind cannot last, so we say that inspiration comes and goes, but it is there all the time waiting for us to be untroubled again. We can therefore say that it is pervasive.”
— Agnes Martin
When things are hectic and an untroubled mind miles away, give yourself permission to try to think of nothing but painting for half an hour, pushing other thoughts aside with a “later” command. If not to actually paint then to doodle in a sketchbook. At the very least it exercises your fingers.
“Be a tiny bit brave on a regular basis – a few successes and failures will really help build your confidence. How does failure build confidence? It helps you clearly identify the things that don?t work so that you can discount them quickly and move on.”
—Pete Mosley, The Art of Shouting Quietly
With an amber-warning storm galloping and gasping past I’ve not been feeling brave enough to venture out to my studio, to face the wind full on when I round the corner of the house. Instead I’ve been reading The Art of Shouting Quietly: A Guide to Self-Promotion for Introverts and Other Quiet Souls.
It’s friendly and easy to read, full of useful tips and reassurances. Ultimately a book I wish I’d had much earlier on my journey; now it’s a motivator to keep at it and a revision list to check achievements and goals/dreams. Lists and plans to be made. Not the worst way to wait out a storm.
“[If] you’re interested in having us appreciate and understand what you’re up to, you better make it in ways that give us a fighting chance to figure it out. …
“Now the easiest way to do that is to work in series — to create unified, cohesive, coherent, related bodies of work. Many artists aren’t fully aware of the advantages to creating multiple works of art around the same idea, theme, philosophy, concept, topic or subject matter. Instead they produce what I call ‘onesies.'”
— Alan Bamberger, Reasons for Artists to Make Art in Series
One painting leads to another, and another, and another, I find when pursuing an idea. What if this and what if that? What if I used that blue rather than this blue as the mother colour? How the Minch (stretch of sea between Skye and the Outer Hebrides) looks like on sunny or snow-showers, day, calm or gale-force day,? midsummer or full moon night. I could paint the view directly across the Minch from my studio for the rest of my life (and hope to!) and never use up the inspiration.
“…’style’ is a sort of subject, a statement of your interests.”
— Frank Auerbach
I stopped reading last night when I got to this quote in Frank Auerbach: Speaking and Painting (by Catherine Lampert, page 42) as it sent my mind in circles. About how we struggle to find a style, yet it’s something that rather finds us. You can’t help but develop a style as you explore what interests you in terms of how you paint and what you use. The hard part is limiting yourself, sticking to the main path (medium) most of the time and not jogging off down every side track that presents itself, yet not merely repeating yourself.
If at first you don’t succeed at translating your idea into paint, try and try again. Keep at it because who knows where you might end up. It could just be an intriguing painting, or a piece of a painting you’ll use in your next painting.
“Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone,
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in your own.”
Adam Lindsay Gordon, Finis Exoptatus, 1867
How easy it is to become doubtful in the darkness of short winter days, in the depths of a wakeful night, in the midst of a multitude of brushmarks that seem to be going nowhere.
Lost courage and doubt are cousins to creative block. All come visiting uninvited and unwanted, hang around and make you question yourself, but do go away again. It’s hard to hear their footsteps as they approach so you might shut the door before they enter. Once they’re in, say hello, listen for as short a time as possible and show them the door by reminding yourself of what you have achieved and not focusing on where you haven’t gotten to yet.
I was browsing through Monet and Modernism for today’s quote but discovered I’d used my first and my second choices already, but kept coming back to them as they echo where I feel I am with my supersized daisies. So, here they are again:
“In order to truly see nature anew and not merely register it, habitual perception must be made more difficult… [by] merely suggesting rather than sharply delineating objects, emphasising ambiguity and openness, employing serial methods, and including the viewer in art [a painting] becomes an incarnation of the creative process.”
“… While the existing natural forms remain the same… their appearance changes with the time of day, light, and atmospheric conditions. Similar to the way memory takes things separate in time and assembles them into a new entity. …the actual subject of the art is not an event proceeding in linear fashion but multifarious simultaneousness of layers of time.“
— Art historian Karin Sagner-Duchting writing about Monet in “Monet and Modernism”, pages 29 and 46/7
I find myself entranced by the seemingly familiar; you think you know but, the more you look, the more you see and the more you realise there is too explore. Few are the subjects I can draw or paint once and then move on forever.
“The development of an imagined piece into an actual piece is a progression of decreasing possibilities, as each step in execution reduces further options by converting one — and only one — possibility into a reality. . . . the piece you make is always one step removed from what you imagined . . . after all, your imagination is free to race a hundred works ahead, conceiving pieces you could and perhaps should and maybe one day will execute — but not today, not in the piece at hand. All you can work on today is directly in front of you. . . . art materials seduce us with their potential.”
(Quote source: Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland)
At first this quote may not seem particularly motivational, saying our painting will never get where we see it as being, forever doomed to be “always one step removed“. But instead of fearing never achieving it, rather regard it as always having something to strive towards.
If every single painting turns out perfectly without effort, where’s the creative growth? But if every painting leaves you thinking there was something else you might have done (even though you know it’s not part of that painting, which is finished, really), you’re already painting the next one before there’s a mark on the canvas. You’ve already got the next step on the journey, and the step ahead of that shows a route onwards.