Monday Motivator: No Empty Spaces

Art motivational quote

“The cubists arrived at the idea that there is a continuum between something solid and the surrounding space, so to treat the ’empty’ space as though it too were ‘solid’ would open up a new way of seeing.

“…A river, with such presuppositions, connects rather than separates the two banks, and through its quality of reflection it connects the sky and the earth.”
Wolf Kahn, Wolf Kahn’s America, page 128

The ’emptiness’ in the space between the ground and clouds in a landscape contains the oxygen we breathe, pollen particles, insects flittering, leaves dropping, birds hovering on the invisible, and the list goes on. If you’re painting, how inadequate isn’t a single wash of a single blue for the complexity of what’s there in this ’empty space’? How much more enjoyable the challenge of painting a “sky that tastes of rain” (poet Douglas Dunn) than a “clear blue sky”? But how do you know what to include, what colours and mark making to use? There isn’t a simple recipe, it’s something to experiment with, to explore and develop.

Take that the single “sky blue”, but apply it with a brush that leaves marks. Yes, create streaks in your paint. Embrace the overt mark making rather than fight it or blending it into smoothness. Use streaks convey a sense of movement in the air, or flightpath of a bird. Swirl the brush, don’t go side to side. Then you might let it dry and repeat with a different blue to add variation, to suggest rather than tell. Or before it’s dry dab at it with a scrunched up bit of paper towel or rag to remove random bits of paint to create “clouds”. If you think you’ve removed too much paint, then add some more and do it again. All gone horribly wrong, then wipe most of it off or if it’s dry, glaze over with a semi-opaque pale blue (mix in a bit of titanium white or use white gouache for watercolour) and try again.

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