“A scene before me is information, and my thoughts about it is imagination. Those two are negotiated throughout the session.
“But I try never to forget that I’m making an interpretation called a painting first, then a record of what is there. As a result, I take great liberties with the scene. … It would be a shock to some to see where some of my best paintings were done.”
A painting needs poetry, a selection from the options presented. Convey the subject through your eyes, the artist’s eyes, rather than reproducing ‘everything you see’ on the canvas. (Think: a few words that say more than several long sentences, and engage your mind more too than long passages of descriptive prose.)
How do you decide what to include and what to exclude, what to emphasise, what colours to enhance? By trying and trying again, seeing how you feel about the result. By reducing detail, dancing between representation and suggestion, realism and abstract. By being willing to change things as you paint, rather than setting out everything rigidly before you pick up a brush. Judge the results from up close and from several metres away, as from a distance brushstrokes merge together and edges/shapes become more defined. Repeat.
Think about how tantalizing the smell of toast is, how a whiff sends your mind on a journey. Colour, tone and shape can do the same.
If it’s a landscape, we interpret what we see in the painting through our memories and favourite locations. It becomes different places to different people, and where exactly inspired the artist is of interest but ultimately less relevant.
Depicting rather than describing. Portraying rather than delineating. Suggesting rather than telling. Leaving things unsaid and unseen, except in the viewer’s eyes.
“…the sea offers …the chance to beat witness to the immemorial rhythms of the world” Sax Impey, “The Power of the Sea“, page 129
“Where sea and land meet, begin there.
The ampersand, the join, is a fault
which caused…” Punctuation Marks by Philip Nanton
Staring out the window as I write this, the sea is a series of horizontal stripes of steely blues and bluey greys, with a dark band on the horizon where it touches the grey-white of the sky. Last night the setting sun dressed it in pinks, purples and oranges. The sea offers the chance to bear witness to colour, and definitely not only blues. The sea offers an excuse reason to have tubes of all the different blue pigments, plus a few yellows, not to forget a magenta for beautiful mixed purples. My favourite ‘recipe’ for mixing “sea greys” was Prussian blue + burnt umber + titanium white, but I’m growing increasingly fond of blue + orange + white.
“The secret to continued improvement, it turns out, isn’t the amount of time invested but the quality of that time.
“… the main predictor of success is deliberate practice — persistent training to which you give your full concentration rather than just your time, often guided by a skilled expert, coach, or mentor. It’s a qualitative difference in how you pay attention, not a quantitative measure of clocking in the hours.
“A characteristic of great works of art is that they persistently catch our attention and beckon us. It is like a piece of music we want to listen to ad infinitum or a book that we love re-reading — because one never exhausts what a great work has to give, whether it’s in the detail or the whole.”
Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum in New York from 1977 to 2008, in Rendez-Vous with Art, page 31
“If we are to see beyond the periphery, we must first learn to let go of self-seriousness and relearn the art of play. … If you can learn to tap into your true motivations and passions, then your creative drive will automatically follow. But to find those driving forces you’ll need to loosen the reins and take on the mantle of mischief.”
Talking to a craftmaker yesterday, she expressed envy at kids playing amongst some trees with their dogs, saying she wished she could still play. When I asked why she’d stopped, she thought then said she didn’t know. My guess was someone probably told her it was time she became a “responsible adult” (along with the impact of making your own way in the world, earning a living).
Why is being “adult” is interpreted by so many as meaning you need to be weighed down by life, never expecting it to be otherwise? You can be responsible and serious while remaining playful, curious, joyful, creative, whimsical.
It’s not about having a “sense of humour”, it’s about taking delight in everyday things, about following the “what if I…” impulses, poking at buttons to see what they do before reading the instructions manual, not knowing the outcome before you start, colouring-in outside the lines.
Let your aim be to choose to laugh rather than to cry, not only in public but when you’re by yourself too. And suppress the expectation that it ought to be easy.
The sea makes a tired sound
That’s always stopping though it never stops. “Fetching Cows” by Norman MacCaig
I’ve been exploring an idea related to the incoming tide, those tentacles of water that slither up the beach reaching further and further while simultaneously always sliding back. Always stopping but never stopped. Paint that is always drying but never dry if I keep adding to a painting.
These four related studies are now at Skyeworks sold.