Monday Art Motivator: Create a Tangle of Line and Colour

Art motivational quote

“I realized, as time went on, that I would have a reasonable chance of creating something that is alive if I did not see water, mountains, and sky.

“If, on the other hand, I only saw what was before me as a tangle of line and color only, I might just get excited, as a visual artist, by what I saw.

“And if I got excited, some of that excitement, that life, might find its way to the canvas.”

— Contemporary Impressionist Jerry Fresia, “Get Past The Facts”

How do you stop seeing water, mountains and sky? Like so much else, through deliberate practice.

Take a small section of a subject and try to visualise it as a jigsaw of colour shapes, like a paint-by-numbers outline. You’re ultimately not aiming to create a drawing which you then colour in, but to hold these shapes in your mind’s eye while you paint them. The good news: it does get easier. The bad news: it doesn’t get easier as fast as you’d wish.

How do you not get small sections of white canvas or paper peeking out between colour shapes? By painting on a coloured ground, or by painting large shapes of colour first (blocking in) and then working on top of these. If you do end up with some white, glaze over areas rather than doing some fiddly colouring in with a tiny brush.

Photos: Summer Colours of Skye

Royal Mail Van Skye Scotland

An assortment of photos, of things that have caught my eye recently. Lots of foxgloves this year; apparently cold weather helps this profusion.

Monday Motivation: Information + Imagination

Art motivational quote

“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.”

— Artist Lynn Boggess, from Interview with Lynn Boggess by Brad Teare

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.

Detail from Storm Warning painting

Minch Seascape Painting: Storm Warming
“Storm Warning”
Acrylic on canvas

Monday Motivator: On the Edge of Painting Abstraction

Art motivational quote

“I was always on the edge of abstraction without being an abstract painter. I was always interested in the brushstroke and the way different forms appeared on the surface.”

“People think that I’m painting Vermont, but I keep saying I’m painting paintings.”

Wolf Kahn: Excerpts from a Conversation with Christopher Volpe

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.

Monday Motivator: The Sea Offers the Artist…

Art motivational quote

“…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.
Sunset on Skye July 2015

Monday Motivator: The 10,000 Hours Myth

Art motivational quote

“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.

“… If you;re going for genius, you need to continually shift away from autopilot and back into active, corrective attention…”
Maria Popova, Debunking the Myth of the 10,000-Hours Rule, on BrainPickings

I apply the same principle to chocolate: quality not quantity.

Monday Motivator: Paper Notebooks Don’t Require Learning Curves

Art motivational quote

The “easiest and most ubiquitous way to get stuff out of your head is pen and paper.”

“… A paper notebook… is a walled garden, free from detours (except doodling), and requiring no learning curve.

“A growing body of research supports the idea that taking notes works better on paper than on laptops, in terms of comprehension, memorization, and other cognitive benefits.

Source: Why Startups Love Moleskines, New Yorker

Or put another way, sketch and make notes in your sketchbook, don’t only take reference photos.

Monday Motivator: Great Art Always Has Something to Give

Art motivational quote

“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

Monday Motivator: Relearn the Art of Play

Monsieur P painting

Art motivational quote

“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.”

Nick Bantock, “The Trickster’s Hat”, page 6

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.