Start your Engine
“I believe in an unconsciousness. So it is possible to say that something causes something and you are not aware of it. You just do what you do.” Jasper John
A friend and reader, sent me an article this week from the Artist Daily called, “An Engine for Your Creativity”, by Courtney Jordan. Courtney collects objects, scraps of paper, photos, and makes collages in her sketch book, adding lines with ink. She later uses these mixed media pieces as inspiration for her landscape paintings. I thought the article about this process was interesting reading, and food for thought. You see, I work in the exact opposite way.
When I see something that makes me feel something special, I record it, in a realistic way. I try to capture the feeling, mood, or sense of being, that I had when I was seeing it. As I work, I see small areas that peek my interest and ignite an idea for an abstract painting or collage series. It could be the texture in the bark of a tree, or the angles in the rocks, the linear pattern of the trees, the colors, or the thought of how something grew and what lies beneath the surface of what I am seeing. We all have different ways of approaching our creative process.
Courtney was describing how she goes from the abstracted collage of an assortment of things, to a more realistic painting. I, on the other hand, go from the realistic painting, to the abstract painting or mixed media piece. Courtney and I work in both abstract and realistic ways, but our approach is different.
Unlike Courtney and me, who do both realism and abstraction, some artists, like viewers, have no interest in abstract or nonobjective work at all, and are recorders only of time and place. Yet other artists, and viewers, have no interest in recreating or seeing anything that is realistic. For them it is just the abstract or nonobjective style that holds meaning.
What motivates one to create what they do, and how they go about the process, is individual and always fascinating. What is important here, is to know how you work, and what motivates it, so when you are blocked, you can go back and start your engine.
Emerging artists must find that special thing that will start their engine when they don’t know how to start. If your interest is realism, it might be to make a scrap book of photos you have collected, of things that interest you. You can add copies of paintings by artists you admire, and notes on techniques, or color mixing strategies. Just thumbing through it could be the catalyst to get you going. Abstract painters can start by: laying down a format, scribbling, playing with color combinations, listening to music and record the rhythm, or taking a realistic object and re-invent its shape or color.
Sometimes just looking through an art book, or reading about a new technique can start your engine. What works for you readers? What starts your engine?
“In the brush doing what it is doing, it will stumble on what one couldn’t do by oneself.” Robert Motherwell