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...

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