Sunday, July 08, 2007

Encouraging E

Encouraging E by David R. Darrow 6-1/2" x 13-3/4" (16.5cm x 34.9cm)
Oil on Canvas Panel
SOLD Collection of Frederica Anderson
Amarillo, TX – USA

About This Painting

An artist friend e-mailed me yesterday sounding like, well... like a lot of artists I have talked with feel from time to time: blocked.

There's nothing more discouraging to a competent artist such as E than to feel that you have somehow used up the last bit of creativity and skill you'll ever have.

I know. I have been there.

My advice to E was based on something I stumbled on back in 2000, and was actually a variation of a then-popular quote: Dance Like No One Is Watching. For me, it mutated into Paint Like You Just Don't Care. My hunch was that E, who has a somewhat meticulous style and an elaborate process of preparation, was frozen in fatigue and fear. For me, the symptoms of fear are many and varied forms of procrastination masquerading as professional preparation. Somewhere deep inside I know that I cannot possibly do a bad painting if I never actually start it. And I feel better about not starting it if I am actually doing something useful or even necessary.

The cure? Stop caring.

For many artists there is a tactile quality to the job that cannot be explained or transferred. An artist can rub a seemingly ordinary corner of a piece of paper between his thumb and index finger and tell immediately if he or she will enjoy drawing on it. Certain paints do not feel as good as others. Sometimes a canvas and a loaded brush can just feel fantastic as the bristles slide over the weave, slathering thick paint over the surface.

There are subtle vibrations that make their way up from the canvas through the brush handle, to the fingers and into the nervous system, and at times these feelings can be either pleasurable or irritating.

The way to get past the pain that is blocking you is simply to make it fun again. And it can be fun if you don't care. Forget the stretcher bars — tape a piece of scrap canvas to a piece of wood, and start painting in the next three minutes.

Find a picture with interesting lighting. Put out a limited palette (in my case, Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson and Yellow Ochre, with Black and White). Grab a big fat brush, mix something messy and dark and start painting. Feel the thing that got you into painting in the first place. Get some pleasure back into your work.

And whatever you do, don't make the mistake of caring.

I decided to taste a sample of my own medicine after hitting the send button to E. I grabbed a photo I had received from a friend in France which was taken with a cellphone camera. This became the image reference for my interpretation of these shapes in paint. It was so much fun that I couldn't stop!

And — go figure — I ended up liking the finished painting. When it's dry I am going to mount it on a masonite panel and trim it down. So, the dimensions are "approximate" – give or take a quarter inch either direction.

I guess all that is the long way around the block just to say if you're not careful, you might enjoy yourself and do a good painting.  ◙

To subscribe to my free "Art In Your InBox" Newsletter, just click here.


Anonymous said...

Excellent. Excellent advise. I think I paint best when I just don't give a rip. Well, at least that's when I enjoy it the most. That's when it seems to just flow out from my brush without me thinking too much.

m collier said...

So true !!!!

jjwoodee said...

A well stated entry. I often will shake up my routine by going outside and painting Plein Air, or grabbing charcoal to work out a value study. Often I'll have a series of master works printed out that I will paint on 6 x 6 inch canvas papers.

One key is definitely changing the routine, and getting into the frame of mind that allows you to paint without too much care and overthinking. Easy said, hard to do sometimes. :)

Mike said...

Amen, amen, AMEN!

The more we do it, the more it becomes reflexive! Not caring is a great place to work!

Thanks David . . .I might pass this on to some of my classes.


craigstephens said...

Very eloquently said. You've got a way with words as well as with paint. Thanks.

ming said...

this is a nice post to go with a nice painting:)

Phil said...

just browsing your paintings and the one in this post struck me, i love it! great work, I have been watching your video podcasts lately, thanks for doing them!

Diana Moses Botkin said...

I love this painting, David, and the way you kept it loose. So beautiful!

Materese said...

You speak the truth! (and paint beautifully)

My solution was a bit radical - I'm a realist and decided to to an abstract, just for the heck of it. It was a blast to paint and actually looked good. (The glass or two wine helped with the proccess.) It loosened me up incredibly and when I went to do my next still life, voila, I had my "mojo" back.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

And look how it turned out David. Fantastic.

Christine said...

wow...thanks for adding me as friend to myspace...I feel like I found a gem with your blog...some very good useful advice...I absolutely adore the simple beauty in this painting...if only could capture the same depth in my own work.
thanks for sharing.

A bird in the hand said...

I paint/collage something every day. I love your philosophy, with which I totally agree!