Several years ago, a painter friend was telling me about studying with George Post. Yes, the famous California Regionalist painter. I asked, “what does he teach?” The answer was short, quick and unforgettable. She replied, “Paint Relationships.”
I nodded with that “of course” look on my face while I wondered “what in the hell does he mean by thaaaat?”
That question haunted me for years. It wasn’t until four or five years ago that I awoke one day with the answer. I had been reading books about design . . .(not just looking at the pictures!) . . . . . . .and, while asleep, something gelled in my mind. I understood what he meant! Man!! That took some time to digest that one!!
There are seven ways to cause things to relate. Yep! Seven. The very same as the elements of design: Line, Size, Shape, Direction, Color, Value and Texture. Take any two dissimilar shapes in a painting and one can relate them via manipulation of any of the seven elements. Color and Texture, for example . . . .give both shapes similar color and texture and they will relate.
A painting is a great combining of all of the elements. . . .those elements are the marks made on the canvas or paper. Relating all the parts of the painting is the art. Of course, there are different kinds of relationships, like absolute ooposition or harmony. The goal, usually, is unity . . . . .to make all the parts seem as though there is a feeling of belonging in the painting. I can assure you, it has nothing to do with things or objects.
So, then . . .should I set out to do a masterpiece every time I paint? Heck NO!! There are times when it is necessary to do warm up exercises . . .or when it is necessary to simply try something that might be niggling away at our consciousness . . . .or to just paint to feel the brush slithering out paint onto a surface. Doodling has a place in painting. To put it simply, to just try stuff without fear of ruining a ‘masterpiece.’
It is my contention that all we artists do is try. (there is a big difference between ‘try’ and ‘do.’) We move paint around and often hope for the best. So, why not doodle for the sake of finding out new solutions?
The piece above was a ‘sanity doodle.’ That is to say, to paint just to keep my sanity. I was in Kanuga working hard to bring tough subject matter to reality for a group of driven workshop participants. Preparation for such anxious people can steal all one’s painting consciousness, much less painting time. So, an hour before class, I doodled. Yep. Pointless, silly, exercises I made up just to see if I could find different ways to cause different areas of the painting to relate.
The painting will never, ever see a mat, much less a frame. But it does call to me to remind me that the doodling not only helped me settle down and be ready for class, but it taught me a few more little nuances about relationships that I needed to fully understand . . .and I will put that to work in a serious painting one day, maybe . . . . .or maybe not. But I feel more comfy in the knowledge that when needed, I can establish relationships in any painting. Doodling has shown me that.