Hints 'n' Tips | Visual Arts

Chaos and Control and the Art Spirit

The more I paint the more I enjoy the very nature of the experience. Someone once told me painting doesn’t get easier, but the results get more rewarding. It’s true and I guess the reason is that to be painting from the heart and soul an artist has to be giving it his or her all… treading new ground as they go.

The new ground is where it gets tricky in the sense that you are flying solo without a parachute at times. You have gotten to a point that you are no longer hampered by the ins and outs of how to paint, so the challenge before you lies mostly in aesthetic selection and how far to take a painting into the realm of the unknown. It’s freedom and it’s fear at the same time; freedom to create and freedom to fail, two sides of the same coin. How far do you go? How fast do you fly? are some of the internal feelings that creep in. Couple that with the inevitable existential murmurings about collector and critic responses. Eventually you come to the point of decision and make the leap, its exhilaration and self absorbed euphoria all at once. You hit the runway and fly.

The scene looms before you; today your canvas of choice is larger than the typical outdoor study. 20” x 24” or 24” x 30” gives you the freedom to work from the shoulder and respond to visual stimuli from an emotional level. A few quick lines to place the main forms and you are off. Forget the so called rules, forget the tried and true methods that have always worked in the past; this is pure adrenalin and mineral spirits running through your artistic veins today! You lay out large piles of paint of a buttery consistency and begin to slash away at the canvas. There is no time to analyze, just respond; even mixing color on your palette takes a back seat to the need to lay paint on the canvas rapidly. Color mixtures will happen, but today they are way more expressive, happening before your eyes almost magically as if by will alone. Put a value here another there, you begin to weave color shapes into adjacent ones not worrying what they are supposed to represent, but trusting in their ability to become “the thing” through their correct relationships alone. An hour goes by, two, two and a half and you begin to realize that you are painting better today than ever before. You are literally laying your soul out on the canvas for the world to see. Painting days like this are dreamlike, they don’t happen all the time, but when they do you know you have connected with the world, become one with nature and one with art at the same time. You finally realize the “Art Spirit” (Robert Henri) is alive and well and it is alive in you this day!

What more can I say, I live for fleeting moments like these. I recently had the experience of doing a landscape demonstration for the Midway Art Association at their yearly fall retreat. After the demo I was invited to stay and paint with the group, but decided to walk around and observe what some of the other artists were doing in hopes of getting some fresh ideas. This is an impressive group of artists with a lot of really talented people in attendance. As I went around I was particularly impressed with Susette Gertsch, who was painting a couple of young dancers who were posing for the group that day. As Susette painted she literally danced around her large canvas, seeming to subconsciously mimic the movements of what her models represented. I have to say it did my heart good to see an artist so alive in what she was painting. Anyone who has not attended one of these fall art retreats should look into it — great models and stillife setups placed throughout the large town hall with lots of inspiring artists to paint with make a great combination.

As I contemplate working in this manner I see a combination of control and a certain amount of chaos that is the perfect catalyst for artistic growth. Artists, like many others, have to push the envelope from time to time in order to make the leaps necessary to move onto the next level. I sometimes call this mode my “wild child approach” or the “rock and roll method.” It’s a place I visit from time to time because of the emotional release it affords and my belief that many of the most important artistic leaps only take place on the edge of a cliff and next to the jaws of disaster.

Categories: Hints 'n' Tips | Visual Arts

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