On Painting

The making of art is a very individualistic practice. It emerges from the perspective of the maker, but then becomes a collective journey when shared, and viewed by others. It also involves a process that I admit I'm only beginning to understand. People often simply refer to being 'in the zone' when they are able to manipulate art,music, etc., successfully. One important rule to follow, and I try to force myself to be constantly aware of it as I'm working, is to allow myself to relax, and allow one part of myself to become totally lost in the process, while at the same time, cognizant enough to be objective about what it is I'm actually achieving. This can be a difficult balance to attain, and of course like anything else done well, can take years of practice to develop your technique, your eye, and yes, even your imagination. I think this raises an interesting point though - children have it much easier than adults when creating visual art. First of all, they have no fear. They have no parameters of what it is they can or can't do. They have no worry of what their peers might think. There are simply no rules. They invent their own, if that's what you can call it. So they take big chances as they draw, or paint leaning confidently on their imaginations. Equally as important, children are already living in a world of imagination. This is a common way in which we maneuver through our childhoods. As a result, many children readily think in pictures. As proof of this, give a child a crayon and paper and watch what they are able to do with it. Instead of copying from a photo, they are comfortable drawing upon their imagination to render any number of images. On the other hand, many adults have lost this former ability as they must wrestle with the normal challenges of responsible adulthood. Often, this large phase of our lives does not allow for such an indulgence as making art, which as you can see, is actually a very normal thing for us to do in our developmental years, and even as a species. ( More world leaders should make art of one kind or another). Another important thing I do, when planning my 'attack plan' (think of it more as a game than it as work - if it takes a lot of work to create art, then why do it?) is to allow enough key elements to come through. I plan from the early stages of a painting to work out a simple picture plane, and to stick to it. A child often does this - create a simple picture. Picasso used this technique well. If I'm successful with keeping things simple, then I don't confuse the viewer. I don't muddy the important pieces of information that our brains need to discern, and pull together in order to successfully form individual versions of the painting. This happens on a very subconscious level for the viewer. I think its important for an artist to aim for this. I know many times in the past, when I was struck by the fact that a certain painting, or another piece of art I was looking at, hit me a certain way emotionally, it was always an affirmation of how this process worked psychologically. Think of some of your favorite artists works for example, or think of well known abstract expressionistic pieces. These works are usually devoid of any figurative elements to help ground us, and point us in any one definite direction, or so we at first think... But, the ones that truly work successfully tug at our imaginations... I think whatever it is you wish to do well, then if the basic structure is right, if the key elements are there, and just as importantly, if unnecessary information can be withheld, that's when the magic can happen emotionally. I love this process.


thealteredpage said...

John: Really interesting and thought provoking. It has definitely gotten me thinking about my approach to art. Thanks. Seth

John Ackerson said...

Thank you Seth.

This was part of an earlier post which I've recently had more time to reflect on.

Deborah Carr said...

Hello John - I enjoyed this post, in particular, as the imposed boundaries of adulthood must be broken for a writer, as well. I always struggle to allow the child in my mind a voice, to achieve first thoughts and innocent perspective. I believe the secret is to allow the child to play in the open more often.

While I'm approaching 50, these days I find myself apt to drop into a squat to inspect an intriguing insect or to sit cross-legged in the grass while I search for the words to describe a birdsong or the sounds to imitate it. Like my golden retriever, I've taken to lifting my nose to smell the scents carried on the wind.

There can be no finer place on earth than the Bay of Fundy, no? A place to dream.

John Ackerson said...

Hi Deborah!

Good to see you here! I agree! The Bay of Fundy leaves one with the impression that there is much in the way of innocence here still!

Perhaps, it has something to do with the incredible amount of countryside we have to ourselves here. Then there is the ever changing tide washing out the old, and bringing in the fresh.

And we can't forget the almost primordial look of it all, from red, sandstone cliffs to hidden beaches, and our ever playful fog!

It's not hard to feel like a child in such surroundings!