Saturday, July 30, 2016

New Ideas

There's nothing new under the sun.  We've heard that often enough and maybe it's true.  Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote The Big Magic and Eat, Pray, Love, contends that ideas are out there as part of the universe just trying to find a human to bring them to fruition if we would only pay attention and recognize them when they find us.  Ideas move among us, are part of us, are shared by us.  This is certainly true in any of the sciences where researchers create ideas, share them in their field where other researchers pick up their work to carry it forward with more research either proving or disproving their hypothesis and moving the knowledge forward.  Why would we think this wouldn't happen in the arts as well? Eugene Delacroix said, "What moves those of genius, what inspires their work is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough."   If that's true for geniuses then it must apply to the rest of us as well!

As Pablo Picasso explained, “I don’t have a clue. Ideas are simply starting points. I can rarely set them down as they come to my mind. As soon as I start to work, others well up in my pen. To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing… When I find myself facing a blank page, that’s always going through my head. What I capture in spite of myself interests me more than my own ideas.”   For Picasso, the key was getting started before he knew exactly what he was doing. Doing the work in spite of yourself.  Inspiration, then, comes not from the original idea — but from what happens when you allow yourself to start working without restriction or fear of “messing up.” In order to find a great idea, you have to start backwards: First start working.

I don't recall where I read this, but if you ever wanted to know what a creative person’s mind feels like, imagine a browser with 2,857 tabs open.  ALL.  THE.  TIME.

On Being An Artist

The first biggie is that being an artist is easy.  If that were so then everyone would be doing it, or at least continuing once they try it out.  Even most art school students are no longer producing art about three years after graduation.  When I look at all the great art being produced today around the world it does actually look as if everyone is doing it, but the truth is there is more education to make it possible for many to learn how to fulfill their need to create and information out there to help all work their way through the fears as it turns out being an artist is not easy at all!

While I believe everyone is born with creativity pulsing through their veins and that most humans have or feel the need to make things of one sort or another, this type of creativity occurs in every field.  For serious artists, simply put, there is a driven need to create art. Kimon Nicolaides said, "You cannot govern the creative impulse; all you can do is to eliminate obstacles and smooth the way for it." When not making art we're thinking, dreaming, obsessing about it.  I did that for about fifteen years when I gave up producing art to go to graduate school and develop careers for my day job, but a day didn't go by when I didn't wake up or think about art throughout the day.  I managed to incorporate it into my jobs occasionally creating some art on the computer, but that wasn't sufficient for me since I love the tactile and olfactory natures of painting.

But, the actual act of coming up with an idea and being compelled to turn it into reality is not easy in any field.  It is the act of creating something out of nothing.  Turning the ethereal into something tangible.  Taking something in your head and putting it out into the world for others to enjoy or use. It is often a struggle, but that's where the 'driven need to create art' comes in for artists.  Manet once said that "90% of painting is without a brush in your hand."  Chuck Close adds "The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who'll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration.  Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.  If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work."

I don't recall the artist who said "if I didn't paint, what else would I do?" or as Edward Hopper said, "If I could say it in words, there would be no need to paint."

Myths and Reality

A post I've wanted to write for a long time and something I read about a lot is that of the myths of being an artist versus the realities.  No, we don't all cut off one ear to sacrifice to our craft and that has been turned into more fiction than fact anyway about Van Gogh.  The world loves and hates artists - loves to envy our creativity and inspiration (more myths, but who knew) and hates us for our creativity and inspiration.

Over the years I've always dreaded the blocks to my own creative powers, thinking I must not be a 'real' artist or I must lack something in the departments of creativity or inspiration because I feel incapable of working at times.  It's either a block to come up with an idea or a block to actually start painting or a block suddenly while a painting is in progress.  The fear is overpowering, at least when I didn't know where it came from.  With all the current research, writings and shared wisdom of many artists, thinkers, psychologists, writers, etc. it now turns out that these fears are all actually part of the territory or being creative and not just the domain of artists (in this case artists for me means painters but applies to all the arts).

I'm going to talk in future posts about some of the myths from my own perspective.

New Chapter

Time to start a new chapter.   The last post was a hint.

Now that I've retired to paint full time I've decided it's time to do a refresher.  Purpose - to unlearn bad habits in oil, relearn techniques I've forgotten and to learn new techniques and technologies.  All this while my focus is on the styles of the old masters, in particular the Flemish painters of the roughly 13-15th centuries.  This blog will focus on my progress or lack thereof.... hopefully the former!

I joined Sandra Wakeen's atelier to work with a great group of artists.  My focus consists mostly of still life, soon a refresher in figurative (spent years just drawing the figure but stopped to focus on still life), and some plein aire painting.  Most of my current work is comprised of small (5x7 or 6x8) studies: