I’ve been known to find artwork from a few years ago and not remember making it. Looking at it, I wonder why I didn’t value it more. Could the answer be that I wasn’t ready to accept the direction it was taking my work? Was I so involved with my current thoughts that I didn’t want the distraction of a new concept?
Making a painting is like going on a long trip; what you discover along the way can surprise and delight, and sometimes dismay, but it’s always exciting, and in the end it’s worth all the effort and that’s why I paint.
I’ve read many books that say you need to plan the composition and value placement so that your work looks cohesive, and as a teacher I believe this. But if I follow this advise it leads to stale looking work; stiff and lifeless. I’ve planned paintings in this way and the work was successful but the painter was bored! Where were the surprises and what about the mystery? The adventurous way, and my preferred way of working, is to see where the process takes me. It’s my belief, that since my paintings come from my thoughts there is a built-in harmony between my various artworks. But I know that to pull this off you need good solid knowledge of art making techniques and time spent experimenting with different materials. Art history is crucial, it teaches you to appreciate what you’re seeing and the people who have come before you. Without all of this you are flailing around with a paintbrush in your hand.
I hope you enjoy my newest painting (above) and that it speaks clearly to all who patiently look. It represents energy in it’s raw form becoming something beautiful and strong. It takes determination and patience to create a painting but the final work is well worth the journey.
I’m always curious about other artist’s creative processes. Please write a comment about your artwork and include a link to your site!
Aiden, is in the 7th grade and created this unique silhouette portrait.
Gavin, a 5th grader incorporated his interests in building and Legos into his background. Personalizing his portrait adds interest and meaning to the final design.
Discovery and growth are an important part of the art making process. I want my young students to use their imaginations and develop good visual problem solving strategies. One of my strengths is being able to analyze and make suggestions that can enhance a painting or drawing while helping a student to see more deeply and evaluate their own work.
Technique is important, but it usually develops with time and experience. I find I need to repeat specific techniques or principles several times to get people to try something new. One of my adult students told me it took her hearing and seeing a new concept three times before she began to incorporate this knowledge into her own work. I don’t know if this is the case for all, but my observations tell me it’s true.
Skye is six and has developed an unusual brushstroke technique. She puts a brush in both hands and dips each in a different color. She is able to blend and layer the pigments using her unique physical abilities to amazing results.
Today, I wanted the kids to layer tempera paint so that the first color applied shines through the subsequent layers of pigment. It’s a tough concept but its fun to work on mixing the paint on the paper and not on a palette, and the results are a more complex color story. It saddened me to see that several of the paintings had a formulaic background. I don’t teach to a recipe, so they learned this elsewhere. These paintings lacked spontaneity and personal style. I like to look at a student’s work and know who the painter is without looking at the name. The children are all unique personalities and that should come through in their choice of color, their brushstrokes, and even in what they leave out of the finished work. It’s a lot easier to have students follow directions and make a painting that looks just like the example, but what are they really learning?
I’ve never met a creative person who isn’t a bit of a pack rat and I’m no exception! For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reliving my creative past; in other words, I’ve been cleaning out closets. Excavating, evaluating, and marveling at the amount of stuff I have accumulated. I knew I’d been saving things in case I needed them but some of the things I found were long forgotten and sometimes, even now, impossible to part with; like the scrapbook of ideas I made when I was 20. I don’t recall making it but it is so me that it’s surprising; the person I am now and the person I was aren’t that much different. I went so far as to put the book on the throw away pile but I had second thoughts and it’s nestled on the top shelf of the closet destined to be found again sometime in the future. A sweet reminder of my youthful style.
Thank you Janice Mercure, you took this picture of me (Pamela Atkinson) and one of my handmade paper reliefs a long time ago and it was one of the things I was happy to find.
Over the years, my artwork has gone through changes and the supplies I unearthed reflected my interests and preoccupations. I found the best work I made in college and photo’s of artwork I’ve sold. These things will stay but I’ve been ruthless and only the treasures I’ll be happy to find in the future are packed away. My twenty year old silk screen inks are at the toxic waste disposal.
Reflecting on how my style has changed and being able to look back on what was happening in my life when I created the work is a bonus. Finding the elements that tie my diverse body of work together is fun and not surprising. I started out as a painter and became a fiber artist, who became a paper maker, who went back to painting. I want to always be a painter. I feel fulfilled using a brush and pigments. My stint as a fiber artist in college had more to do with a supportive professor and a hospitable creative environment. A good teacher can make a big difference in a artist’s life.
The ideas I want to express have changed overtime but the core thoughts are ever-present. A curiosity about the unknown, the spiritual, femininity and strength are as important in my work now as they were in the beginning.
Please leave a comment, I’d love to hear if time has changed your artwork or not.
The decision to write a blog was not an easy one for me. My internal critic knows many reasons why this is a bad idea and will articulate them ad nauseam. And yet, I’ve decided to ignore the doubts and excuses; what will I say each week? Who will want to read it? You’re not a writer, you’re a painter, etc. etc. I could go on and on, but I love art and sharing my enthusiasm for color and paint has won out. So, here I am writing my first post. Starting at the beginning seems like a good idea.
One of my preschool students painting a wonderful animal picture.
I have been a painter since my parents gave me my first set of Prang watercolors. They came in a metal box and I thought they were magic! Just add water and a brush and amazing things happen. With the stroke of your hand, you can create a line and turn it into a dog by adding a circle and four small lines. One color blends into another. The shape that starts out yellow turns into a big brown puddle when purple is added. The paintings take forever to dry and all you want to do is show them off to anyone who will look! Almost as exciting is cleaning your brush; plunging it into clean water and watching rings of color form and dissipate into a murky pool is all part of the fun. Because I work with small children, as well as teens and adults, I have shared these magical first attempts at painting again and again. Putting down on paper the elusive images in your head is both joyous and frustrating.
Please share your first memories of making art in the comments section.