Monday, March 2, 2015

FAQ: How do you decide what you are going to paint?

Untitled work in progress

When someone recently asked me, "How do you decide what you are going to paint?"  I realized that I hadn't really ever thought much about it. The simple answer, is intuition.

Untitled work in progress

When I make the decision to show up, (to be creative) I'll always feel a pull towards one thing or another. That thing could be "gesso a bunch of canvases" or "draw this outline" or "make a piece based on tonal variation" or "work on drawing the figure". As the results of these efforts as well as the creative process itself is often pleasing to me, (sometimes eliciting a much needed emotional release of some sort) I've come to trust this way of working. This means often working on many pieces at a time - though if I have to complete something for an exhibition, I am able to focus my efforts as needed.

Untitled work in progress

If the question is based on design, I'd say that I work in a spontaneous, yet informed manner. I've drawn and painted literally thousands of mandalas over the years and from those studies, I believe that I have developed an individual artistic language. Certain shapes, forms and colors will resonate more than others and I feel an intuitive pull to repeat them. (I suppose this is one way an individual artist develops their style.) I also spend a fair amount of time looking at art and design (modern: late 1880s through the 1960s, and also primitive mark making from a variety of cultures and wisdom traditions) and allow myself to play with any individual elements as they inspire me.

Untitled work in progress

If the question is about what to paint first or next within a specific design, as in, why am I working on one area of a piece over another, I'll often work on what I "see" first. Sometimes that means sitting and staring at a piece until I understand what I need to do, or else it means taking risks, (and painting over them if it doesn't work out) or it could mean taking a photo of a piece and test painting it on my iPad before committing paint to canvas.

Untitled work in progress

Untitled work in progress

The center of this piece will be bright red- but first, I paint a few coats of red mixed with white to make the semi transparent red POP ovet top of the black gesso. PS: This piece will be hung on a diagonal when complete.

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