Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The End from the Beginning

lily in pen and ink, sketchbook

Another sketch in the flower book

If we knew the end of things from the beginning, we often tell ourselves that we would do things differently. That’s why they say hindsight is 20/20. It’s also why motivational gurus often ask you to imagine yourself in 1/5/10 years, then make a list of what you need to do to get there.

It’s also why emerging artists struggle endlessly with developing their style and established artists tell them to be patient…because the established artists can see their style now, even back in their early works. The end was there, right from the beginning, but one doesn’t always have eyes to see it.

Or does one? I’m going to tell you one of my little studio secrets, in hopes that you can tell me that other artists experience the same sort of thing.

When I begin working on a piece, I start out making decisions, thinking about rules, tricks, solid concrete things I know about drawing and painting. Then, as I near the end, all of sudden, my mind starts giving me all sorts of commands, “put a big dark mark there, pull up paint there, more dark blue in that corner…etc”. It’s fast and furious and I can’t stop to look at the work while I am doing it. I just have a “sense” about where things go, my eyes don’t even focus on the work. Then the commands stop, I can once again focus on the work and I know it’s done.

Does that happen to you?


Anita said...

I have never really thought about how I approach work - interesting exercise to do that. I have often wondered whether the way you paint is just the way you paint, that you actually can't change your fundamental style because it is an inherent part of the person you are.

Sydney Harper said...

For me it starts with thinking about where shapes and colors and paint needs to go. Make this darker and this lighter. Put more color here. Expand this shape over here. Uh oh, that brush stroke didn't work out so well. Maybe I'll take a break. Come back to the painting, rinse and repeat.

As I get to the end, I notice that I want to fidget with it more rather than laying on the paint. I start worrying about parts that are not quite right. That's when I stop or at least I should stop because it usually just makes it worse. (I don't always stop when I should.)

Valerie Jones said...

Yes, this happens to me too. I'm glad it happens because my mind sometimes can't think of what needs to go where.

Jo Castillo said...

Nice lines on this, Rose.

I do that and plan a painting, plan to take photos. Then when it starts working I forget the plan, forget the photos, etc. Sometimes it works well, except for the photos and like Sydney, sometimes you come back to it and over work it.

Rose Welty said...

Anita, I agree that there are certain things you just can't change, but I do think there are things that I can learn to help my fundamentals.

Sydney, thanks for sharing your process. Sometimes when I paint I don't get "the moment" that I describe in this post. When that happens, I do tend to overwork it and not stop when I should have.

Valerie, thanks for the confirmation. I agree, I am glad that it happens. It just occurred to me the other night when I was doing it that I slash around paint without really looking at what I'm doing, it's more about rhythm at that point. Then, when I stopped painting that night I realized that this might be a very dangerous practice, but one that has always seemed to work for me.

Jo, I agree. Sometimes when I look back at the reference I just laugh...one would never know the reference was a reference sometimes.

Jennifer Rose said...

sometimes I end up working like that, but its usually only with pieces that I feel a really good connection with. When the connection is there, working on the piece is like second nature and its sometimes like I'm in a trance. don't have to think, it just happens.

I do start out a piece trying to follow all the little art rules I have been taught, but usually forget them have way through :p

Miki Willa said...

I do a lot of planning in my head before even making my first sketch. I will walk around with a reference photo, imagining how it will look on the paper and what kinds of strokes, colors, and values I will use for the piece. I try hard to keep all the "rules" in mind, but once I start, I get lost in the process. Sometimes, I think that it is a good thing that I have done all that pre-imaging. I think it helps when I am in the zone.

Rose Welty said...

Jennifer, yes, having a connection with it does make it a different piece.

Miki, that sounds like an interesting idea. It takes alot of experience and talent to get the image in your head out onto paper - that's where I really notice the differences in my abilities with different mediums.