Artists, bloggers, collectors, I have a confession to make.
Fifty-four years of life and thirty-five years of painting have led to a conclusion which I can keep to myself no longer.
I don’t know what I’m doing.
At least not in the artistic sense. There, I’ve said it.
Aside from being clear on the subject and somewhat clear on the composition, I never have a plan for the execution of a work. Not a clue where it is going, how I want it to look or what to do next. I basically start in and just do a lot of stuff, knowing how naive that sounds.
Painting is a bit like trying to hit a moving target. As everything involved is in motion – the work itself, the light, the subject, one’s energy, enthusiasm and skill, the artist needs to change his or her approach throughout the work. The key is to have developed the powers of observation and a variety of techniques to respond to whatever surprises come up. And they will, you can count on it, no matter how much advance planning you do. Which is why I am not a big fan of planning.
This brings me to another wonderful quality for a painter to have – equanimity. Don’t let the setbacks throw you off emotionally. Think of them as growing pains. If this is a problem for the perfectionists, then take an old painting that you feel is unsuccessful, a throw-away, and mess it up some more. Then try to bring it back to where it was. You have nothing to lose and your sense of composure during those out-of-control moments will strengthen.
Rather than stare down the canvas for problems to be fixed, take an occasional look inside yourself and ask, without shame, what quality you as an artist need most. It may be patience or spontaneity, self-discipline, boldness, finesse etc. Learn how to play the “inside game” of your art and it will surely show up in the work.