Sunday, December 28, 2008

New Beginnings

With the coming of a new year, thoughts of new beginnings start bubbling, just under the surface.
I often feel just like these baby doves when contemplating a new pristine canvas. These two babies sat on the edge of their nest in our garden for two days before taking off into the great unknown.

Taking that first step using an intuitive painting process is a bit like taking that same giant leap. I have no idea how my completed painting will look, I just have to begin and get swept along in the process.

Where do you start if you are an intuitive or abstract painter? Where do the ideas come from? Shaun McNiff, in “Trust the Process” describes creation as a process of emanation,

“Nothing will happen unless we start working and allow the practices of our particular discipline to mix with streams of ideas and experiences that are constantly moving through daily life”.

I want to put this sentence up in my studio to remind me that I just have to start painting and something will come of it.

I find that I need to get into a certain frame of mind in order to paint. I have a little ritual of going into my studio and pottering about, sometimes reorganising my paints and brushes, filling up my various water containers and putting on my relaxation music to block out extraneous noise. This type of music tends to put me in a meditative frame of mind. I have a collection of this “New Age” music from my midwifery days, when I ran antenatal classes. I used this music to teach the prospective mums relaxation and visualization techniques.

I like to warm up, painting on something that is already in progress rather than going straight to the blank canvas, so I tend to have a few paintings on the go at various stages of completion. Paint that I am using on one painting is usually used to create those first brush-strokes on the new canvas.

I am really interested to hear what you do to get yourself in a creative frame of mind.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and a wonderfully creative 2009.

34 comments:

sukipoet said...

Interesting post and well written Dianne. I dont know if I am an intuitive painter, nor what kind of painter I am really, but plunging in is what I think I tend to do. I usually have several canvases in the works too and use similar paints for that group. Right now, I am not creating anything and I want to be but feel a reluctance to start and have fun when I have this big job of mourning, and sorting and wondering where I might live hanging over me. Really just the time to plunge in as painting might open me up. I tend to think every act of creation is that flight into who knows where. I also tend to think that writers/artists who seem to know where they are going maybe dont really but just dont talk about the process in that "unknown" way. Even if one has an idea one thinks one is going to write/paint and that idea starts the work, as the work progresses it moves into areas one couldnt have thought up before hand. At least for me. Hope the new year is a creative one for you. Be well, suki

Kim said...

Hi Dianne,

This is a great post, and a subject I really need to explore. I guess I can't just start with a blank, white canvas. I always begin with just putting some paint on the white. Usually, I just go with my gut as to what feels right at the time. So I usually do that first, if I want to start something new. Once I have done that, I will begin to work on something which is in the works. I may go back to that first one during my studio time and I may wait until next time. Like you and Suki, I have several projects going at the same time. Some days all I do is add layers and layers of clear glaze, but it seems as though the act of touching brush to canvas makes a difference for me.

I rarely know how something might turn out when I begin...the "Fly Away" painting was an exception for me. I never know what gets me going until after I have started something (I will share an example of this in a post soon).

I am always trying new things to add in and around my actual studio time. Andrea continues to remind me how important it is to do something each day, so I am working hard to at least make a mark in my sketchbook each day. I have also found reading and travel are HUGE catalysts for my painting. So while I do not know what "causes" a painting to happen or what direction it is heading when I begin...once it is completed, I can usually identify what has happened (but not always). Mostly, my work comes from pure emotion...nothing else. I can't force a painting, although sometimes ideas nag me.

This all sounds very confusing because it is...I suppose I do not have the words to honestly express it (a huge challenge in my life).

I am very eager to read more comments and see where this discussion goes...maybe I can begin to figure out myself. :)

Thanks Dianne!

Carol said...

Hi Di
Very interesting post. Lovely pic of the doves - our last baby in the tree on our veranda was a Bull Bull but was eaten by a boomslang, no bird has nested there since! - very scary experience but that is another story.
I too tend to potter in the studio and sometimes think of another chore in the house to draw me away! I think it is just an excuse as I do find it difficult to get stuck in. I think your idea of putting paint on another old discarded painting is a good one and I am going to try it. Music is a huge part of it all for me too. Once I get started though I get totally lost and sometimes don't surface for two hours or more. My poor husband pops his head in and asks if he can put the kettle on! I do think a lot about works I want to produce but often these remain in my head. Sometimes coming back to an old idea later. I do think a lot about moods, colours etc though and sometimes things go around in circles. I do agree though that we should all try to do something every day but this takes a lot of discipline.
Have a great New Year!

Cynthia said...

I have a similar routine before I meditate in the morning; after that I have so much focus and energy to start the day. I love your description about the your creation process. Isn't that quote incredible! It makes our conscious space the location of "mixing"-how extraordinary.

Dianne said...

Dear Suki, I find you an incredibly intuitive creator - everything you do, you seem to see creative opportunities. Writing and painting seem to spring up from a similar well - I am new to creative writing and find my approach seems to be very similar to my way of painting.
What you are going through now with the mourning for your Mum and the unsettled feelings of moving home, can block those creative channels. I went through a very unsettled period for two years and I couldn't paint. I just did small occasional drawings or watercolour sketches to keep my hand in.
Suki, your blog is always a very creative space, I love the way you show us little glimpses of your life, just writing about what you are going through could become another book.
Love Dianne x x

Art with Liz said...

Dear Di, thank you for all your lovely comments on my blog. As for the creative frame of mind! well I don't know that I have one. It only happens when I sit down and make an effort, and then I work. I also tend to work on only one piece at a time - again maybe that's in my make-up of needing to finish one thing before starting another! I do know that if it's cool, I can work, if it's hot, that's me out of it.

Love the doves by the way. How do you keep the crows from taking the babies? They took a chameleon from my garden just before Christmas so now I turn the hose on them.

Joan Sandford-Cook said...

Really enjoyed reading your creative process Dianne and those of your blog pals/visitors. I seem to have two ways of painting - one is when I have to achieve something rather life like of say local scenes for tourists which is much more structured, but even then I start to develop the scene intuitively after the first layer. The other is when I decide on my colour scheme for some reason and settle down to 'play'. This is usually done with acrylics of different thicknesses and simply pour them over each other or squirt direct from the tube or pot and then tilt the canvas for them to run together. Then I look to see what it says to me and develop the idea sometimes adding texture with acrylic paste and glitter and beads. I havent worked this way since I moved here to the Broads area of Norfolk and I seem to be going backwards to more illustrative works. As a rule these works turn out rather spiritual such as those I posted before Christmas ie The Three Wisemen.

Dianne said...

Dear Kim, thank you so much for your lovely long comment, I so enjoyed reading how you go about starting a painting. You are right, it is difficult to express this process in words, since much of it happens at a subconscious level. I think it is worthwhile to try an analyse and take note of how we go about making our marks in order to build on the knowledge.

For me it has been important to understand what I am doing in order to give it some validity. My paintings often take me on a long and tortuous journey before they are complete and I need to keep a certain level of confidence in myself in order to keep going. I often falter, mid painting, wondering where I am going and experiencing a complete lack of trust in what I am doing. This process seems to require quite a bit of introspection!
It is important to get to know ourselves in order to understand what stimulates our own creativity. Genuine expression comes from painting or writing what really moves us.
Love Dianne x x

Dianne said...

Dear Carol, thanks for sharing how you get going in your studio. Many things come between me and painting, there are always so many diversions. I used to have perfectionist tendencies (to counteract my poor short-term memory), but have found this character trait very destructive to my creativity and so am working on getting rid of it! I now find I am neglecting those boring, repetitive chores more than ever.
I love it when I get lost in time while painting, this is when the whole experience becomes quite meditative.
Love Dianne x x

Dianne said...

Dear Cynthia, yes! It’s all about being present in the moment and valuing the experience. It’s about observing the small details of everyday life. I am trying to live in the present moment as much as possible. I was spending so much of my conscious time thinking about what has gone before and what might happen in the future, that I was ignoring what was evolving right in front of my eyes.
Love Dianne x x

Dianne said...

Dear Liz, I don’t know how these babies survived, but the bougainvillea is quite a good hiding place for a nest. I’m amazed you still have chameleon’s, I haven’t seen any for years.

Just looking at your paintings, I know you are a creative person – you also have other creative pursuits, I think in silk? It is all about getting down to it and making an effort, as you say. You wouldn’t do it if you didn’t love it!
I agree about the heat, I find it incredibly draining and all creativity goes out the window!
Love Dianne x x

Dianne said...

Dear Joan, thanks so much for sharing your process with us! I so identify with your description of two ways of painting. You have described, I think, the need to produce saleable works for other people in your local landscapes and then the need to please yourself in the second method. I find it interesting that you haven’t worked in the second way since you moved. We moved from our family house to a smaller town-house a few years ago. We lived in two temporary houses while the town-house was being built. All this moving over a two-year period completely unsettled me and I could hardly motivate myself to paint at all. I’m not sure how long you have been in your new house, but I hope you can soon feel settled enough to “play” again.
Love Dianne x x

kathleen.artkat.hebert said...

What an exquisite photo!! This would be something I'd want to paint!! It is so amazing all the ways that we get ourselves to paint! I have classes at my house 5 times a week and I paint with my students. We all work on our own stuff so I just get up and walk around making comments and suggestions. Then I get back to my canvas (or canvases). I seem to really get a lot done that way. However, I'm not too motivated to go down in the cellar (where my studio is) and paint by myself. So, classes get me focused. - Kathy

Pilgrim said...

A glass of wine always helps me :-)
And viewing other artists' work lets me see possibilities; I do my best work while watching sports on tv, believe it or not! It distracts me when I get "painter's block".
Dianne, your collages are lovely to look at.-Pilgrim

Carolann said...

Dear Dianne, It was lovely to read all your posting and comments from everyone. I can't wait to start painting again, I am imagining what I will paint when I feel better, I have so many ideas now. I also will get some old forgotten half finished abstracts out and work on those just to see what will happen. Love those photos. So uplifting. More please!!

soulbrush said...

a thought-provoking piece of writing. i am a very hasty, skittish type of worker, i just 'do' it and see how it turns out. sometimes i am inspired and then it does work out well, but more often than not, it's just random ideas and things that i try. so i don't consider myself an artist, just a soulful person having fun. an award for you over on my blog to wish you a very happy 2009. hugs.so glad we are new friends here in bloggyland.

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

This has been a wonderful post! Great to read your process as well as the other bloggers!
Showing up is a big thing for me...I can find so many reasons not to work so showing up and setting aside the time is key. My journal keeps my mind clear...before and after a painting session I will check in and see how I'm feeling and where I want to go with the work...sometimes I need to write myself into a pep talk to get out of disappointment because it's a process and I need to remember that when the work isn't going well. I almost always have a direction but not a clue on how it will turn out. I sometimes research a related subject or play around with some techniques but mostly waiting for the connection between me and the painting...when that happens, the dance begins and I'm no longer feeling so alone...it has it's own life and it's own needs...I like this part of creating!
Mary Ann

Dianne said...

Dear Kathy, you are very welcome to use this photo for a painting, I will send it to you if you like? Wow, you must have an amazing amount of energy to teach 5 classes a week and to be able to paint while keeping the whole thing going - you are so lucky to be successfully working in a creative arena.
There is something very special about painting in a group with the sharing of ideas and techniques.
Wishing you a wonderful 2009,
Love Dianne x x

Dianne said...

Dear Pilgrim, thanks for stopping by, I like the glass of wine idea - trouble is, just one glass makes me incredibly sleepy (I'm a cheap date!). I am facinated at how varied we all are in what motivates us to get painting/writing? The thing is to understand ourselves and to know how to kick-start the process.
Love Dianne x

Dianne said...

Dear Carolann,
So glad you have spent your time in bed dreaming about what you are going to paint! You sound quite motivated now, you must be feeling a bit better!
Working on those half finished abstracts will be such fun and no pressure! I love finding old unfinished works that I have forgotten about - you see them with a new eye and new possibilities.
Happy painting!
Love Dianne x

Dianne said...

Dear Soul, you had better start calling yourself an artist - I love the new painting on your blog header!
We all work in our own personal way, whatever works for us and your way is just as valid as all the other artists that have commented here.
Thanks for the award! I am a doggy lover without a dog .... after our last dog died, we have been a bit nomadic and so have been unable to adopt another until we settle down again!
Love Dianne x

Dianne said...

Oh Mary Ann, what a good idea to journal your thoughts while working. I tend to write about the painting after I have completed it. I like the idea of writing how you feel before and after a painting session and am going to have a go with this.
Showing up is a huge thing, there are always so many distractions - I have to prioritise (sp!) and try to be disciplined about it.
Love Dianne x

mrs. tioli said...

Hi Dianne,

I'm out of the painting mode these past weeks with holidays and health issues, so this question is timely. Rather than keeping the momentum going, I now need to remember what I say to myself to get there again. For me, the mantra is:

1. show up
2. make a mark, any mark

When I do those two, magic happens. Soon I'm in the zone, and it doesn't matter if the energy before was based in grief, frustration, fear, love, avoidance, whatever. It just becomes energy for creating and it gets transformed.

I was glad to read other painters' comments, especially that sometimes the only painting that gets done is layers of glaze. I do that often.

Also, I have found a trick for overcoming my "blank canvas paralysis". Often I get the damaged canvases from our shop, so I don't feel like I'm going to ruin them by painting on them. This relief is great enough that when I'm using a brand new canvas, I will try to smudge it or somehow make a mess before I get to it, so that there's no way I'll mess up "a perfectly good canvas."

mrs. tioli said...

I forgot to mention that reading is also a inspiration for me. Just imagine a painting based on these words, "our last baby in the tree on our veranda was a Bull Bull but was eaten by a boomslang". I have no idea what these creatures are, but I can picture a painting from the word sounds.

Dianne said...

Hi Charlie, I have been wondering how you are, so sorry to hear you have not been well. Thanks for sharing your mantra - so simple and so relevant, you have put the whole thing into a nutshell!

A damaged canvas, what a great way to start - already the canvas has been through angst itself! I have very few failures amonst my paintings, some just have more distance to go. I sometimes put these problem paintings facing the wall in my garage and they may resurface after a year with new energy. They just keep transforming themselves!

I am also tremdously inspired by what I read, I love this sentance, it is obviously from a South African source - a boomslang is a tree snake in Afrikaans.
Have a great New Year.
Love Dianne x x

Cestandrea said...

Hi Dianne, what a wonderful post, I feel so related to you and those two baby doves:):)
This is such a good question: what do we do to get ourselves into a creative frame of mind? I write morning pages in which I "draw" a layout of my day, sort of. This normally gets me into a "move"-mode, and then I have always a filled waterglass standing on my desk, on which I work, so that I can immediately watercolour, if I want. At the moment I'm making some overtime at safety-job (that's why I'm visiting so seldome these days and comment so little, which is a pitty) and have less time to create paintings, so I sketch during my metro trips or whenever I can, and let plans for bigger projects form in my head. I know that, when the time has come, I will be ready:)
Thanks so much for sharing your creative processing here with us, this is so inspiring!
love
Andrea

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Dianne said...

Dear Andrea, you are amazing, holding down a job and still managing to be creative, using your time on the metro to create your metroheads! You inspire me to carry a sketchbook and get going with sketching people in waiting rooms etc. I love the idea of a water-glass always there for you to start a watercolour.
I see you also create paintings in your head, I sometimes do this in the middle of the night if I can't sleep.
I have so many new ideas from all my bloggie friends on this posting, this is the great thing about blogging, we get each other going!
Hope you get me time to do your own thing soon, happy new year!
Love Dianne x x

Kim said...

The Very Best 2009 to You and Iain! May it bring you good health, prosperity, love and all that is good!

Love,

Kim

~Babs said...

Hi Dianne,
I am working on getting myself into a creating frame of mind by cleaning and getting things re-organized in my studio. It had become a complete disaster,,,nothing was working in the chaos, especially me.
Happy New Year Dianne, and happy creating!

Dianne said...

Dear Babs,
I hope that cleaning and getting things re-organized didn't take you too long! I had to totally scrub and clean my studio for it doubles as a spare bedroom, my Mother-in-law is visiting for 3 weeks. It took me a whole day to find her a bit of shelf and hanging space for her clothes!
I am actually very fond of her, we have like-minds and have spent the last two days talking and catching up.
Happy New Year!
Love Dianne x x

Dianne said...

Dear Kim, thanks for all the wonderful wishes! I feel so blessed to have so many new amazing bloggie friends!
May this year bring you wonderful surprises, insights and serendipidous moments!
Love Dianne x x

marianne said...

Wonderful inspiring post!
Love the 2 doves with the flowers, so nice that your new year comes in such a beautiful season. Here everything is grey and cold, but the promise is there already.
I love to work on a few different things at the same time also. Depending on your mood you can pick your work. But sometimes while working on a big piece I get so enthusiastic that all I want is to finish it. even so bad that I can`t sleep.......
Rituals I don´t have, but I love peace and quiet and some music and while working on a large mandala no people around me.
Wishing you a wonderful and creative 2009!
Enjoy this beautiful season now in Capetown!
>M<

Dianne said...

Dear Marianne, sorry I have taken so long to reply to you! I have had very little time to blog with having house guests! Thanks for sharing how you work, isn't it wonderful when you are so inspired by a piece, you cant even sleep. That is when the magic arrives!
Wishing you a wonderfully creative 2009. Will be visiting your blog soon!
Love Dianne x