Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Watching vs. Doing

Relinquish 30" x 30" mixed media

An artist friend that just watched my video commented that she wanted to see me paint more in it. I chuckled at that.  Everyone wants to see how the magic happens, but I’ve come to think that it can become a diversion to someone else’s process to spend too much time watching mine.  I mean, I paint the way I paint because of the myriad of experiences I’ve encountered. The fact that I studied etching and printmaking as an undergrad, my struggles with crossing from black and white to color, my stint as a computer programmer, my somewhat melancholic outlook on life, my struggle to understand the purpose of it all. All these things influence the way I place a mark on the canvas. I don’t drip a line just because I can; I drip it because something cries out in me that can only be expressed by that drip.  For someone else to see that and think, hey, that dripping is cool and then to drip just to drip would be to miss the point.

 I think I mentioned before the book “No More Secondhand Art” by Peter London.  One of my favorite quotes is “It is better to rise to the questions Monet did then to mimic his responses”.  I think that watching other artists paint seduces us into wanting to mimic their responses, and we are such good imitators! It is so much easier to try on and experiment with someone else’s innovations and discoveries that to face the blank canvas and find our own voice and mark that evokes it.

I believe that Art is about more than technique, and technique is about more than a toolbox of tricks. In order to discover who we are as unique individuals with something personal to say through our art, we have to find our own way of ordering marks and colors. That is why I feel my best service, as a teacher, is to help each artist put together a toolbox of skills that they can then use to go out and innovate with. They must discover all the marks that only they can make, all the colors that they can mix, first hand, by doing!

My process has developed over a lifetime of moving marks and paint around on the canvas.  It also doesn't follow the same approach every time. How can I demonstrate that? I try to remain open to discovery and chance each time I face the canvas, because I feel that is what life is about.  Here is an example of the above painting in process, and I think watching it evolve over the course of several weeks shows how open I am to letting the painting take it's own direction. Go out and paint, stop worrying about how to do it, stop watching how everyone else is doing it, take a tip from Nike and "Just do it"!