AN ARTIST CHOOSES (Part Four)
"Like to do your work as much as a dog likes to gnaw a bone and go at it with equal interest and exclusion of everything else".
~ Robert Henri
I've got an idea. I have motivation. I have a deadline. I am ready to create.
Now what do I do? Where do I start?
As I have discussed, I decided to try some drawings on paper to explore my ideas and work out visually what I want these new pieces to look like before I tackle some full-on paintings. I am more comfortable working on paper. I seem to take more risks on paper. Paper allows me to approach a new subject matter with a less precious attitude.
It is important to know yourself and your limitations.
I decided to work small (30"x 22") because, for me, there is no sense in working with an embryonic idea on a large canvas when I am not even sure if the idea will work.
I love charcoal. It is flexible, forgiving, and allows me to work fast. Working in black and white will allow me to focus on the shapes, design and mood of the figures without the distractions of color.
One of the keys for me is to balance what I know with some risk taking.
Always start from where you are, right now.
Don't revert to past success or failures.
Don't try to be someone you are not.
Begin. Now. Even if you do not know what you are doing.
Approach the work confidently, as if you know exactly what you are doing.
The important thing is to start, build momentum, and get on a roll. You build momentum by showing up and working regularly.
Pick up the piece of charcoal or pencil that is calling to you right now. At this moment. And begin. Pick up the brush that is speaking to you and dip it into the color that appeals to you right now and begin.
Make a mark.
Now, react to that mark.
Make another mark in relationship to the first one.
React to that mark.
Make another mark.
"In the end, I realize that whatever meaning the picture has is the accumulated meaning of ten thousand brushstrokes, each one being decided as it was painted".
~ Robert Motherwell
Before long you will be creating without a care in the world, other than what your next mark or brushstroke will be, and more than likely four hours will go by in the blink of an eye.
Whatever you do, do not play chess with your work. That is, do not think twenty five moves ahead. " First I'll do this, then I'll do that, then I'll change that, then I'll add that, etc".
Not good! Know why?
Because each thing you do to your piece is going to significantly change that piece. The laundry list of things that you think you want to do to the piece may not be relevant anymore. This is what leads artists to become stuck. Where you thought you were going with the work is not necessarily where the work is taking you.
Every mark you make, every line you draw, every color you add, changes the piece significantly and in ways that you never thought they would.
Create your work one mark at a time.
Creating art is the activity of making one choice after another. Embrace that choosing is necessary and endless.
React to what happened when you make a mark and then make your next mark. This approach may sound like it will slow down the process, but in reality, it will actually speed it up because there will be less erasing, painting over, fixing, repairing and changing your mind.
Not that there is anything wrong with erasing, painting over, fixing, repairing and changing your mind. And, don't get me wrong, I am not an advocate for speeding up the process either. Working fast does not necessarily mean better art. I am talking more about slowing down your eye in order to be able to really watch and see what is going on as you create so that you will make better decisions.
The goal is for you to be more in control of the painting and not the other way around.
Who doesn't want to be more in control of their own painting or their own life for that matter.
Stay tuned for some thoughts and ideas on what you can do when you get stuck and don't have a clue what the next step should or could be.