Secrets of A Modern Painter
Secrets of A Modern Painter

Question Everything

'Fire Escape', 18 x 24, 2015
Are you never completely satisfied with your work?
That's probably not going to change.
I think I have just about let that idea go, instead I try to enjoy the process, the searching for the series of events mapped on the canvas that somehow effectively translates life and expresses being.

The greatest and most difficult part of being an artist is the constant questioning of everything, and I think that in order to avoid a complete meltdown - and arrive at something marketable in the contemporary art market - artists narrow their focus and style to the detriment of their self-development. Knowing what a 'finished' piece looks like before the process has organically led it there fosters a drone mindset and robs the artist of the pure freedom of the wandering mind that must be treasured and respected to attain the heights of mystical revelation that build the bridge between realities and allows the soul to navigate the unconscious in communion with others.

Denying that the artist is also the philosopher and mystic is like removing colors from their palette, there can't be one without the other. 

The questions pour down: Why paint this subject? What will it say? How do I feel? Who am I? What is beauty? Must the painting be beautiful? What are my actual goals - to render a subject, to paint well, to express what only I can express? And what does that mean, what only I can express? Surely humans share and relate similar emotions, why couldn't another artist express the same thing in the same way? Maybe they can...still, better to take the chance at making something distinct, something pure from my experience...better than just making another this or another that.

What's the difference? Why are there so many artists painting the same subject over and over, the same landscapes, figures, cityscapes, still-life, in roughly the same way...so much so that you could swap out images from 10's or 100's of websites and no-one would know! You couldn't do that with Picasso, Cezanne, Monet, Dali, Inness, Soutine, Morandi, etc...why after all these years of artistsic development are artists acting like mindless drones and cranking out these tricks like so much candy? O.k. not tricks, yes they take skill, yes, they take practice, yes, it is difficult and takes years to master...but so does anything...but because it is 'Art' they are deceiving themselves into thinking it is enough.

Satisfaction comes in the questioning, the balance between knowing and not knowing that is that artist's right: it is so unlike most of the lives people lead - that of pretending to 'know' or being made to know, repeat, do, sell, report...

Question everything, always, remain free, express yourself always, you will make better art, and maybe, between paintings, while grinding the next cup of coffee, you will feel a little satisfied.

Get Emotional

Dusk Light, 30 x 30, Acrylic on Canvas
You must feel what you are creating, the physicality of the work,  pour yourself into the container. What is on the surface is an illusion; it is within the vibration of color, the bending of space and time - your fluctuation of anxiety and calm - that will resonate with others. It is the energy of a creator, or channel of creative energies - whatever your preference is.

Great musicians memorize the music and spend their time interpreting it on their instrument - but they have already played the piece hundreds of times in their mind. The experience of performance is an emotional experience - that is what we hear and feel - it is not a struggle with their instruments or medium, it is not a questioning and hesitant series of statements.

Engage in a sense of mastery by making strong and deliberate marks on your canvas -  be bold and decisive, even if that mark will be painted over, get in the habit of saying each thing with such confidence and commitment as to convince us that it is that mark and only that mark that you wish to make.

But above and beyond the technical choices, tap into your feelings and allow them to impress themselves into the paint, do not hold back and be caught up in the hard cold world of facts and rules.

Use any means to get at your emotions - don't think you need to just face the canvas and call them forth on your own.

Movies, television, music, poetry, fiction, looking through old photos, riding the bus, people watching, whatever you have at your disposal - sometimes they are great for inspiring a new subject, but any of these can trigger emotions, some stronger than others. Whether they make you laugh or cry, get angry or peaceful, ride the wave and get your emotions flowing - forget about technique when you step up to paint, don't make choices, allow the choices to be made as a consequence of your emotional state and creative flow.

That's not to say that if you watched a tragic scene from a movie then you would paint a tragic painting - that isn't the point - the point is to feel deeply and experience that and other deep emotions while you are painting. The push and pull of light and dark forces will reveal an honest beauty through their struggle on the canvas and be far more profound than a one dimensional single statement piece.

Don't just play the notes - play the music.
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