Monday Motivator: Painting as a Process vs a Product

Monsieur P painting

“There’s ‘painting’, the noun, and there’s ‘painting’, the verb. As in all kinds of work, there is a distinction between between the painter’s process, and the products of her process.”
Austin Kleon, Show Your Work!, page 33

This quote brings to mind the concept of dancing a painting, which the artist Jerry Fresia introduced me to (it comes from Robert Henri) and I’ve never forgotten. You may well have heard me mention it before, a few times, but then it resonates so powerfully in me.

In a nutshell: the creation of a painting, the doing thereof, must be enjoyable in itself, separate from the end product, which is another thing entirely. Easier said than done, certainly, but not having an end product has never stopped you from dancing has it? (The quality of the dancing isn’t part of this either, it’s about the quality of the enjoyment.)

Be willing to change things, to try new approaches and techniques (and mediums and colours), risk ruining it … don’t always repeat what you know you can do and have done before. It may not work out, but what if it does?

4 Replies to “Monday Motivator: Painting as a Process vs a Product”

  1. Yes it is often easier said than done! Sometimes some paintings can be infuriating. The battle to make things work can be exhausting, but when it does start to work often those paintings are the ones you treasure most. You are right often it is being brave and be willing to change things and being open to new ideas that keeps art fresh.

    1. When I have a painting that’s refusing to get resolved, I try to tell myself to “do something dramatic”, but it’s hard because you can (need to) lose the bits you do like too. Sometimes time away from it helps — months turned to the wall!

  2. Hi, Marion! To get a special result in painting an artist imho has to enter “state of flow” aka dancing. Some times it needs not even months but years to akkumulate ideas skills and materials to resolve the task and to enter the state of flow again.
    It took several years to complete a portrait that started as one of your February assignments. But the very last dancing session brought it in the collection of National Museum of Fine Arts of Turkmenistan. Thank you Marion!

  3. Almost every painting that I do turns into a frustrating mess about one third of the way through the process. It usually happens after I have blocked in the main shapes and colours, and am beginning to refine the elements of the painting. At this point, I often seem to lose the thread of what I am trying to convey. This also is the point at which I notice drawing or composition errors that need to be fixed. I always persist, though, and try to leave the painting each time with something that I can work with at the next session. After awhile as the painting develops it becomes fun again – I get that sense of flow back.


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