Thursday, June 10, 2010

Discovery vs. Plan

To plan or not to plan, that is the question I’m pondering. I taught a workshop over the weekend I have titled “Three Steps to Stronger Painting”. I have given this workshop several times over the last 5 years. However, this is the first time I have given it since completing my MFA. When preparing, I considered how my thought process has evolved and reflected on how much of the content of the workshop was still relevant to my current process. The workshop is very structured and methodically explores the formal concepts needed to create strong paintings: composition, value, and how color translates into value. At this point in my life, these tools have become so intuitive that I realize I no longer see them as separate steps. It is like learning a particular dance. It is necessary to know the pattern of the steps to learn the dance, but we can only dance when we stop thinking about the individual steps! That doesn’t mean we should just ad lib across the floor when a waltz is played (although that is fine, just don’t claim you are waltzing). So, back to planning - thumbnail sketches, value studies, color charts; these are the scales the musician practices daily, the steps to the particular dance. The artistic allusions go on and on. The artist learns to orchestrate the picture plane. But, at some point in his career, he may realize how automatic it has become, and how easily he can turn out a beautifully controlled composition, complete with strong value patterns, and brilliant color correlations. At this point, it is time to relax the control. Trust in the years of planning and orchestrating, and now let the painting direct the course. The role of the artist now transforms, listening to the flow of music and recognizing the magical moments. The artist no longer controls every mark and movement, he watches, he discovers, he no longer imitates - he creates.