Thursday, 23 February 2017

Working methods of artists and how to feed and sustain the practice of art (Notes)

Dedication & commitment: true of all, but not necessarily to the extent of the monastic Brancusi, the obsessive Giacometti, the monomanic van Gogh.

Reclusive and gregarious, monastic and hedonistic… all preferences can be found among artists, but what you will find is never by halves. Hone your own preference.  

Feeding: Learning
Never stop studying the works of others, great and not great. Copy and transform.

Copy that which interests you the most  in order to train the eye-hand, but also copy with intelligence to understand the works more deeply and to grasp the creative processes behind them.

Keep building the skills of observation, drawing and the manual aspects of your art.

Keep building the technical and historical knowledge of your art form. Read widely, not just in your own field.

Music, art, poetry, theatre, dance, film…diet of the muse. Depth of tragedy and love, leavened with humour and the everyday.  Everything is potentially a gate to the sacred. Stay open. Stay vulnerable.

Feeding: and preparation
Draw anything, everything, frequently. Always carry the means to draw. Gathering materials and training the eye-mind to really see and understand without words.

Turner and others: Travel to dramatic, picturesque locations.  Using a pencil, small, simple line (contour) sketches done quickly (maybe with abbreviated notes re colours) on site. Could also do thumbnail tonal studies  (notan or 3 tones). Multiple views of each site—panoramas, vistas, close-ups, details. Possibly apply a watercolour wash later.

Constable and Chinese artists: Spend a lot of time getting to know a place. Long looking, observation and immersion in place and subject, without drawing. Looking for the essence of subject. Multiple studies of subjects and motifs. Developing a practiced hand able to produce image without involving the mind.

Transform sketches, don’t merely try to copy. Work from memory, not sketch or photograph. Follow the gesture, the feeling. Begin without the end in mind, trusting that your preparation, as above, will come through.

Monet, Degas, de Kooning Re-work and develop the motif.


Are you the sort of artist-person who needs, like Giacometti or Bacon, to remain in the one spot? Or do you need many secret places, like Freud? Are you a traveller and returner like Turner? Or a dweller in the one place, like Constable? Note how many artists need the stability of place.

Giacometti: "During those years, with very few exceptions, I couldn't let a single work survive. For that matter, I did not have a single exhibit between 1935 and 1947...All of this depressed me enormously" (Charles Juliet Giacometti, Art Data 1986 p 40)

keep working, even without hope and with despair. Just keep working.

A few notes from dipping into the Letters of van Gogh
When he arrived in a new place, he would walk around in it (he was a prodiguous walker). he would draw from his window, sketch places and paint (it seems) whatever caught his eye. I wonder if his art was a means to get his bearings in a new environment?
He was democratic in his subject matter and seems to have painted whatever took his attention. On the other hand he was also deliberate in his approach and choice of subject matter. He was a great sponge, reading avidly and widely, and exploring the art of others, not exactly copying, but making his own.
He was also prolific when enthused.

to be added to...

Thursday, 2 February 2017

A New Style of Collage for Me

I started by doing a watercolour wash background and pasting on some brown paper bag. Then added some bits and pieces of papers I had lying around. For some reason unknown to me, I started tearing the black and white material into small pieces and laying them down without any real plan. This figure and face seem to be present and I brought it out by extending the eyes and moustache with a drawing pen.

What I liked about this, what really struck me was the sense of presence about the black and white "figure" against the more neutral background. I didn't much like the colour paper on the left or the dividing line of leftover watercolour scrap.

So, taking what i did like as a point of departure I made a second figure.

And then this, which reminded me of some sort of horrendous bust of one of the Caesars, so I titled it "Bust of a Powerful Man" (with more than a touch of irony).

Then followed three more, each with their own personality and mystery.

Somewhat fearful?

Enigmatic mother?

Stormtrooper? Helmetted warrior?

It's always exciting to discover a new path, but I'm not sure where to go from here. You see, these experiments are quite small (roughly 9 by 7 cms or 3 by 3½ inches).

 I wonder what to do with this sort of really small work. Would they die framed on a wall? Should I consider making an artist's book of them? Should I consider photographing them and making an ebook from them? Should I try scaling them up into a larger format for displaying on a wall?