Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Keeping an Art Journal

Keeping an art journal is an essential tool in the process of intuitive painting. Thoughts and ideas have to be written down before they get lost in the brain-chatter of a normal day.
I have kept an art journal, on and off for 15 years. The desire to archive comes from a problem with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and a very poor short-term memory. It distresses me to find memories fading into the maelstrom of everyday life and the relentless march of time.
My journal contains photos of my paintings, dates, sometimes a description of the process and buyers’ details. I write quotes from books that inspire me and words of wisdom from mentors and art teachers. Notes from workshops and lessons are included along with relevant photos so as not to forget the techniques demonstrated. I have included all the invitations and brochures where my work has been exhibited and those of all the wonderful exhibitions I have visited. I also write in my thoughts regarding my art process and how I feel about certain aspects of art-making.
When I started writing my journal, my words were extremely wooden and impersonal; I was terrified of revealing myself in case somebody accessed it! My typical British upbringing made me very guarded and private. I am hypersensitive and was afraid if I revealed anything of myself; I would invite scorn and ridicule. I have never considered myself a good writer and am hopeless at spelling (I love spell-check!).
Just writing this now makes me want to laugh; how can you be an exhibiting artist and be frightened to reveal something of yourself? With practice, I started writing from the heart and was quite amazed at what appeared on the pages! By journaling, I have revealed who I am to myself, “This is me!” Self-knowledge is incredibly empowering.
By writing about my painting, I have been able to see how to proceed. The journey that a painter sets out on, can take many twists and turns, decisions to follow a particular route sometimes takes guts and determination. In order to continue to develop and expand, one has to experiment, take risks and learn to listen to that inner intuitive voice. A good thing about ADD is one gets bored with repetition and excited with experimentation. Apparently Leonardo da Vinci exhibited ADD tendencies, with many projects on the go and never quite finishing things!
The writing of this blog is now a new extension of my journal. It is definitely not a private space, rather a place for the sharing of ideas. I so appreciate the wonderful comments artists take the time to write and love visiting their blogs to see their space.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Reality to Abstraction

I have been quite frustrated with my “Plein Air” attempts lately. I would like to be able to abstract what I see and am finding this very difficult. I have been painting what I see for many years now and my realistic paintings just don’t excite me, they are very ordinary and repetitive. They don’t say much about anything, they are just a faithful recording of what is in my line of vision.
I decided to change my medium and take my oil paints with me. I left all my small brushes at home, I only took 1 inch and larger (wall brushes) and a few palette knives. If I have small brushes with me, I start to fiddle and put in all the details. I also decided to work with a limited palette. I had a go at painting those Stone Pine trees again. I seemed to get in an abstract mode when I started playing with the paint and experimenting with texture. I don’t think this is really “Plein Air” painting, since I merely breathed in the idea of the trees and then allowed the paint and canvas to take over; still, it is wonderful to be out in the fresh air with my painting buddies. We share a very special kind of friendship and are very supportive and encouraging of each other.
This is an attempt at abstracting from reality, it is still quite realistic but I definitely felt a shift away from complete realism. I am so often seduced into producing a “chocolate box” image when faced with Cape Town’s wonderful scenery!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Painting in Progress

It is so hard to get back into painting after a trip away; there are always so many mundane tasks to get out of the way before I can loose myself again in the painting process. I feel a keen sense of loss not having painted for three weeks, it’s a bit like an addiction or an obsession, I have withdrawal symptoms!

I thought I should put down a few words regarding my painting process. I am allowing this painting to evolve, trying not to control its destination. The larger format of 122 x 88cm is a challenge. Scruffy old 3.5cm wall brushes have been used to apply the acrylic paint, creating interesting brush-strokes. With the canvas flat on the floor while applying the paint, I can doodle, splatter and dribble to my hearts content. I usually put on music and end up dancing and swaying around the canvas, feeling a bit like a witch attending her cauldron! Sometimes the canvas becomes very wet if water is sprayed into the mix and a huge amount of patience is required to allow the painting to dry flat without fiddling with it. I love the interesting patterns that emerge during the drying process.
I like to work on three or four paintings at a time, experimenting on one and repeating the experiment on another. I am now trying to keep the images mostly abstract.
Somehow I am seduced by my logical mind into finding figurative images too soon in the process. I think it is my mind’s way of taking control again and I am now aware of this. I have to try to leave my, “Left brain” at the studio door.
The only problem with this method of painting is that a huge amount of space is required. I am now outgrowing my little appropriated studio (3rd bedroom), I need a room the size of a church hall with added veranda for drying paintings!
I am so enjoying finding like-minded artists on the web. Diane McGregor expresses the intuitive painting concept beautifully in her words and paintings. See