Sunday, May 25, 2014

Dear Emily, And the Answer Is -

Dear Emily, your comment on my last post got me to thinking about how to answer to your question.

What have I learned? How do I work smarter? And how to translate that into something for you?

©2014 Patricia Scarborough 18x24 Oil 
Still talking my way through it...
My thoughts go back to a conversation I had with an Experienced Artist. I held up my end of the conversation by complaining about a painting; I lost the center of interest, the color is too intense, I don’t know what to do, ad nauseum. My goal, if I must be honest, was to pry some of his experience from him, and for his end of the conversation to contain magic formulas to fix my painting’s woes.

That’s the way it works, right? The student sits passively by while the instructor, well, instructs. Or rather, makes the decisions, does the thinking, shares the recipe for success. I hoped for - expected - an easy 3-step program; do this, this and this and presto! Your painting is lovely! Congratulations, and here is your purple ribbon!

My Experienced Artist friend didn’t do that. After I listed all my woes - quite clearly I might add, so he’d know exactly how to fix them - his response was this: “Okay, well, now you know how to fix it”.

Or, as David Bayles and Ted Orland wrote in "Art and Fear":
“What you need to know about the next piece is contained in the last piece.”

In other words, everything you need to know is right there before you. 

This problem is yours to wrestle with. 

So, my sweet Emily, I can’t give you the magic recipe that will lead to purple ribbons and adoration of the masses. I can tell you that it’s up to you to gauge your satisfaction with a project; to think, really think, about that last thing you did. That’s where the answers lie…lay…are.

If it helps, I’ll admit that I talked out loud. I stood before a painting that had lost its way (okay, okay, I lost my way) and listed out loud the points of frustration - not to berate myself, but to validate the fact that I could identify what was wrong – and could then identify how to fix it. I’m pretty smart once I put my mind to it.

I lost the center of interest.  Find it again. Reestablish the focal point. Pick the spot.

The color is too intense.  Grab a color wheel. Learn how to mix more subtle colors. Think more carefully about where to put them.

I don’t know what to do! Yes you do. Yes   you   do. What excited you at first? Do that.

You know in your heart what to do Emily. Do that.
(Smooches back atcha babe.)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

All I Need to Know

From  Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland -

“What you need to know about the next piece is contained in the last piece.”
©2014 Patricia Scarborough  22x28 Oil  Blue River Reclamation

What I start out to do in terms of a complete painting, and where I end up, are often leagues apart. The end result is oftentimes pleasant enough, but not where I wanted to go.

And why is that?

Just a few sentences later:  “Your fingerprints are all over your work, and you alone know how they got there.”

I admit that I paint like I write this blog: I figure it out as I go. It can get a little frustrating, but often enough what’s in my heart or on my mind comes to the forefront – eventually. 

It’s taken me an hour to get to this, the eighth sentence. The previous thirty or forty have been manipulated, mangled and eventually - and to my credit - deleted. You’re welcome. 

This isn’t good enough anymore. My focus now is to work smarter, rather than longer. To put on more paint and scrape off less. The things I want to say in paint are crystallizing in my mind, and the way to put them down on canvas is to spend more time planning and thinking, and less time in habitual muscle movement, grabbing at piles of paint and chasing the results to see what will happen.

I’m looking forward to seeing how I maneuver myself out of this place and into the next stage of my development. My last painting has told me where I need to go. All I need to do is listen.