Our figure work for the past weeks focused on the energy and the spirit of the subject merging with the artist’s hand. Authentic mark-making enriched much of the work even when it was reaching and searching to find the form.
The exercise was also about creating a space, an environment, a world, whether real or imagined, in which the figure could exist. This is another way the individual artist makes a statement.
This week we will push toward more of that individuality by using a cast-off piece from a classmate as an underpainting. Think of it as hearing your own voice in concert with another. Exact instruction will be in class as usual. But if you’ve taken you work home, bring some unfinished discard to trade with another. There is a lot of work under the table, so if you are too new to us to have such “discards” like Nan and Simone, we will have one for you.
If you are aghast at the idea or can’t bear to have your work touched by another, then we will have under-paintings for you too. If that is the case try to remember this: our endeavor is all about the journey and the discovery not about the end product. The paintings are worth nothing and everything at the same time. The true value is in the doing and the discovery. A successful end of the process is “dessert” so to speak, but our focus is more about the balanced meal. (I can relate anything to food.)
It’s a good time to consider experimenting with new materials and media. You won’t be able to pre-plan (good) because you won’t know what your base will be, but you can gather collage elements and any other media that sparks your interest. SUBJECT—choose your own subject; make a personal still life; paint from an object; use a photo; use a master painting; try a self- portrait, or any combination you can think of.
Below in italics is a recent Robert Genn post for “The Painter’s Keys”– his bi-weekly blog. He says some good stuff that occasionally meshes with our current activity. I’ve edited a bit and highlighted for emphasis.
“…….how do we translate our life experiences into our paintings and express who we really are? We may have good work habits, but how do we become clear about what we want to say? And how much can be done with a conscious plan?”
This is one of those sticky head-scratchers that can cause the loss of sleep. First off, and contrary to what I’ve said before, plans can actually derail the voice-finding process. Further, you have to know what you mean by “voice.” Voice in style is different than voice in cause. Ideally, style develops over time. Cause is based on attitude and issue. With growth and development, causes change. A predetermined voice shackles creativity. To find your very own voice, I think you need to have a few things going for you:
You need to make stuff. Artists who put in regular working hours find their voice. Work itself generates clarity and direction. It’s like invention–one thing leads to another. One must only lurk for voice. Unfortunately, along the way, most drop the ball. (sic)
You need hunger. It can be the hunger for knowledge or for self-knowledge. It can be the desire to find an antidote for some injustice or human miscalculation. Perhaps you need some inexplicable, deep-seated compulsion to keep moving forward.
You need curiosity. Wondering how things will turn out is more powerful than having a pretty good idea beforehand. Wondering if you can do it gives you reason to try. Curiosity is the main juice of “ego-force” that keeps you keeping on.
You need joy. You need to feel joy in yourself and you need to feel you’re giving it to others. As Winston Churchill said, “You may do as you like, but you also have to like what you do.” A disliked job is soon abandoned. (not so sure about this—it’s a nice thought, but…..)
I’m writing you from a remote anchorage off the West Coast of British Columbia. (sic). Every time I go onto one of these islands looking for something to paint, I ask myself the old “What’s my voice?” question. One thing for sure, if I go ashore knowing what my voice is, it will be a weak squawk when I get to the spot.
One of the best ways to discover your own “visual voice” is to spend a lot of time looking and observing your reactions to what you see.
See YOU soon…j
PS. Just heard about an ochre crayon that is 165,000 years old!! Think about that– evidence that the need to express with marks and symbols has been around a long time. Our ancestors had a need to paint too….