The chaos on this table is a reflection of what’s going on inside my head!
Getting something on paper is the hardest part for me. Well, I should back up a bit. I am making it harder on myself because I am trying to move from painting what exists (ie. still lives and landscapes) into creating my own concepts from my head. Observation of that which is – is one thing. Sit down with a blank piece of paper and create something from nothing –now that’s the big unknown. The possibilities are endless. Where do you begin?
Well for me, it takes some soul searching. If you can make an image of anything, what does the artist choose? You can go with what other people want, you can go with what’s trending in the industry or you can spend some time answering the question for –yourself.
I’ve spent that time. I’ve tried all sorts of stuff. Custom orders, reading about what sells, intuitive painting, traditional motifs… They have all helped me get to know my likes and dislikes and what I naturally gravitate towards. So here’s my personal answer:
Flowers – because I love gardening and am enamored with nature.
Animals – and quite particularly the everyday variety I get to commune with in my yard and region.
Spirituality – I am fascinated with mysticism, trying to figure out why I am here and the secrets of the universe.
I know these to be my truth and near & dear to my heart because if I wasn’t creating art, the three items above would still be what I’d be doing. I’m an avid gardener, animal watcher and spiritual book reader.
These three things may sound cliche. And there in lies my resistance to them. As a quote “ARTIST” I was trying to search deeper and darker and more strenuously to find the “PROFOUND” answer. But I’ve learned, I’m never going to be that artist that throws my bodily fluids on a canvas and equates them to the inner struggles of humanity. Apparently I aint got that kind of talent ;) I am an environmentalist and soul searcher, so in a gentle way I will try to shake the world. My art will be a reflection of what I love in hopes of connecting with other people who share the same loves. Boy that sounds so neat and tidy. So why did it take me 7 years to answer the question??? I guess because some of us are experiential learners. We can’t take anyone’s word for it. We have to explore both good and bad until we can know it for ourselves. Yes. I was the kid that had to touch the stove to learn what hot meant!
OK. so as an artist, I never share this part. It’s the part where I work out my ideas. It’s looks kind of ugly. It’s awkward and a bit embarrassing. Most of us would rather surface a few steps down the line when the idea has taken better shape. But what the hell is an art blog for if your not talking about the miserable parts of art too right?
For this 6 painting series, I decided I am going to work large which is about 20″ x 24″ for me. It’s most likely going to be a combo of watercolor and gouache. I want to have tons of flowers kind of like this past painting I did:
I want to add animals, mostly backyard animals. And for the mystical part, I am going to make the backdrop a “Secret Garden”. What the hell is a secret garden? I have absolutely no clue. That’s the part I have to create in my mind. I realize the answer comes from imagining. Imagining what it is I would actually want in my own fantasy garden. That’s where the fun lies, but it’s also where the stress lies because I don’t have the answer to that! I have to try a million things until they “speak” to me.
So, being a visual person. I cut up a bunch of 2 inch pieces of paper and I make a quick image of every darn thing I can think of that could fall into the categories I’ve laid out (Seriously there are probably a hundred tiny drawings in my envelope). Sometimes I print out little reference images as well. I mean who really knows what an owl talon looks like? I take all the pieces of paper and I sit on the floor and mix and match them until a story emerges. It’s like an intuition session. From there I move to 8 x 10 pieces of watercolor paper. I am working on creating a cohesive image.
Now here is where I have never really gone before. This next step I am asking of myself is to force myself to do at least 3- 8 x 10’s of each concept so that I really push myself to improve on the composition and relevance of every object. I have such fast energy which causes me to have such a short attention span that it makes this a REALLY BIG CHALLENGE. I need to slow down, focus, stay with a subject matter for a while. I cannot allow myself to move on… or fall down some more rabbit holes. I need to stick with this and push myself to go further in my art.
There is something I don’t really like that happens to me when I try to work-out an idea from my imagination. I become like this technical illustrator. Everything that comes to mind becomes literal. The free-wheeling, fun, colorful Mary seems to disappear and this downer technical artist comes out to play. No offense, but that illustrator part of me is a real drag. Blech.
Here is a great example of this. This little painting came from my watercolor class I teach. It’s from the first class of the session where I try to get all the artists to loosen up, play with the paint and not worry so much about the subject matter.
I PERSONALLY LOVE THIS PAINTING. I mean we could go on for quite a bit about what’s wrong with it, but let me tell you what’s right. It’s free-spirited, cheery and has a fabulous use of color. Now look at these drawings below:
Everything is in it’s place, but there isn’t any spontaneity. It’s like so what, there’s an owl. Oh that’s nice, there’s a rabbit…. Now I get it, how else was I supposed to get an animal, a floral arrangement and garden elements all into a 4 inch piece of paper? The thing is, most of the time I wouldn’t have even made this sketch, I’d just start with a 20 x 24 piece of paper. I’d sketch out the design and paint the first thing that flowed from my pencil. There would not be room for me to mess with the objects, play with the composition or color and I wouldn’t get to loosen up at all. I would finish at the 2nd dimension instead of extracting the concept to a 4th or 5th dimension. Does this make sense? This is all the stuff that’s been swirling around in my head. Most people who are not into art-making are like “that’s nice”….yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah go paint your pretty picture…. I guess it would be like trying to explain to me how nuclear fission works…. (please don’t try to explain to me how nuclear fission works :)
I mention this because if I am to share what I am going to be working on for the next couple of months, I want to warn you in advance that it might look like the same paintings over and over again. It will definitely look like that to the outside world. But inside, I am hoping to work and rework my concepts until I refine them into something entirely different then what you see on these scraps of paper.
I’m nervous. It’s scary. I feel awkward like a freshman. I want to bail and find something else safer to do. I am snacking, weeding, blogging. Doing everything I can to distance myself from the work.
But, I also know this is the process. And, for every detour I take, I do come back. I do sit down. Hell, I already have my first sketches completed! The canvas is no longer blank.
It’s exactly the way it should be and I’m ready to get back to it!