Well, you say, that’s great news! What the heck do you mean?
In a few of the last many posts, I have mentioned the elements and principles of design. (elements: Line, Siz, Shape, Direction, Color, Value and Texture. Principles: Unity, Harmony, Dominance, Conflict, Repetition, Variation, Gradation and Balance.) It is in the paying closer attention to these principles, rather than the subject, in forming the marks (elements) that one arrives at a good painting (or not so good.)
We have all had the experience of painting places we know, or painting from excellently composed photos, or painting from life. In those instances, much of the work of composing the elements . . . .shape, texture, color, value, etc . . . .is done for the painter. More often than not, however, while we believe it to be the case that the photo or the model will lead us to a good painting, the opposite happens. Something along the way is forgotten, left out, or ignored . . . .and that comes from relying on the subject to lead the way. To be a great painter, one must reach inside to find that which makes terrific art. It is in our most creative state that we bring something better in our paintings to the world. But HOW do we DO that??
That is THE question. It is the stuff that isn’t obvious which brings a viewer to an excited state of examination. It is the contrasts, the harmonies and the surprises that we dream up to make that happen . . . . . .and it takes lots of practice, patience and many trials. . . .and the study of good design.
One must separate one’s consciousness from the world to force that reach into our authentic creative selves to produce visual answers to the question of HOW. The best way I know of is to paint non objective abstract paintings. In my opinion, that is the ultimate challenge.
That challenge, which is to create something not before seen, means there are no visual crutches or prompts. There is no script to follow. It is design in its purest form.
To do it well doesn’t come easily . . . .in fact, it is the most difficult thing a painter can attempt. It doesn’t occur by coincidence or by slinging paint and hoping for the best.
It happens through meticulous painting and cautious, examination and consideration of painting alternatives. This piece, entitled “Breakthrough,” is such a piece, which has taken months to complete. A few hours here and there. Rest. Look. Evaluate. Rework. Enhance. Rest. Think. Wait, Look, think . . . .and on and on and on. I began this piece in August. Here it is December . . . 5 months later. And I am still looking, thinking and wondering if it really is finished. Is it the best I can do? Do all the parts fit? Is it balanced? Is it interesting? Should it go public?
In the end, it is pieces, like this one, that teach us painters how and where to fill in the blanks when we are painting from life or photos. The challenge of creating something from absolutely nothing is the ultimate stretch. But it is also the place from which the NEW and DIFFERENT are born. It is the place which delivers the unavoidable authentic stuff that only you can make.
If you are interested in attempting this, you may want to consider a one week workshop in how to produce abstractions in work similar to this. It is well worth the investment, as the time spent will awaken even the most experienced artist to the importance of good design. As it turns out, I give such workshops. Interested? Drop me an email if it isn’t on my website.( I haven’t posted the dates yet)
Many painters have immersed themselves in the curriculum and made extraordinary breakthroughs in their painting style and the way they think about painting and design.
CWA, the California Watercolor Association, in Concord, California took the challenge of doing much of that coursework in a one week (five day) workshop. I have spent nearly a year devising ways to teach the information and have the artists walk away with new means of thinking and creating and composing their artwork.
The art of composing is to use a few recognizable shapes, arrange them within a rectangle format, devise a pattern of values, plan a color strategy then make the painting. None of these is an easy task when the subject is a mundane, non emotional subject. The charge to the painters was to remain playful and “Exalt the mundane to the Extraordinary” . . . . no easy task.
The 16 artists who took this workshop had no idea what they were in for. My hat is off to them for taking a workshop from a relatively unknown teacher (me) not knowing if they would get something from it, or not. Moreover, I doubt they had an idea of the speed or the amount of information (and work) that would transpire in a short week.
They Jumped into the water (over their heads) and swam from the very first day !!! They flew through the course matter as fast as I could throw it to them. Language schools call this teaching method “total immersion.” It wasn’t long and everyone was speaking the language of design and using the principles.
Without disclosing everything here, I will say the lessons were dense, extremely pertinent and fast. There was little time to paint, but paint we did and made five paintings in five days. Each day the paintings improved and grew in stature and creativity . . . .from virtually EVERY student. Amazing results !!
It was a pleasure to be among this highly responsive and intelligent group! I had a wonderful week with them and they showed me what was possible. Ladies and gentlemen of CWA, take a bow !!!
This is the 83rd pass at it. I never dreamed it would come this far . . . .nor that I would be painting it in front of 220 artists. But here it is. I painted it last Monday evening at the Kanuga Watercolor Workshops in Hendersonville, North Carolina. I completed most all of the painting, with a few errors, in about 40 minutes and introduced the audience to this series process and what benefits and surprises it has brought into my studio. One and a half days later . . .and quite a bit of thought . . .I finished the piece.
This project was what I have been working on so much these last weeks . . .and the reason for being so quiet here. This project was exactly the reason for my last post . . .the Rainbow Connection . . . .
To be introduced to such an august group of painters from all over the east coast . . . .and some of the finest painters in the world today . . . . .was a very high honor. If you were there, you know it was both humbling and exciting. This ‘confab’ of artists and the workshops were the finest I have ever seen and it was run with an expert hand . . .first class all the way . . . .if ever you thought you would like to learn from the best, rub elbows with the most committed and expert painters or just go to such an event for the adventure, this annual workshop is a must. Check it out at this link.
PAINTING WORKSHOP IN FRANCE AUGUST 2 7 THRU SEPTEMBER 7, 2008
Experience the genteel and relaxed life in the Perigord region of France (Near Bordeaux), with Mike Bailey and friends, late this summer when the tourists vacate the area.
Here is a link where you will see more details of where we will be and our itinerary. On this same site are photos of the charming and comfortable accomodations. Most meals, save for a few lunches, are provided as well as ground transportation. Leave your concerns at home! We handle all those little details that cloud otherwise perfect vacations.
If you would like to join us, or learn more about the trip, let me know immediately via email (click on small envelope below) as we are accepting deposits now.