Spontaneous Hard Work
That old nemesis of mine has stopped by my studio this week. Perhaps it is because I have had a busy few weeks on commissions, which had led me to lower my guard? This this old friend, or should I say fiend, disguises itself in many inviting ways. Before I knew it time had gone and I had nothing to show for it. I speak of procrastination. That artist's bane if I want to get all "middle earth" and dramatic.
I have no shortage of ideas for new projects and I have a list to prove it. Yes there is much to do, but... Then I came across the above quote by American artistJohn F Carlson. A renowned landscape artist of the early 20th century and art mentor. There is the notion that we must paint every day to become anywhere near good enough to make it. Well there is much to say about that idea and the debate could go on. I know that I held to that notion as well, but not anymore.
I do believe that an artist must paint often and as much as possible, but there must be a foundation first. A foundation of study, thought and preparation. If this means taking time off to think on a subject then do so. To spend a few days sketching, tinkering with color mixes perhaps and then? Action!
Spontaneous action that has focus and intent will achieve much more in a day than aimless repetition over six weeks.
I particularly love the part where Carlson says "Those who absorb and digest their experiences..." Is that not what being an artist is all about? Writers do their best work when they rely upon their close observations of life and past experiences. Artists who paint simply to record without relying upon their experience will render a painting lacking in emotion.
Mountains of strength... Wow! No simpering little brush fiddling about here! Paint with strength and energy. Large brushes, much paint, bold color and strong values. That will do far more for creating a painting with impact than days of overworking in the studio.
Spontaneous work can mean diving in and completing a painting alla prima or it can mean approaching the painting session with gusto on day two. The point is to get stuck in and try to let intuition guide you. Often you will find yourself breathless at the end of a painting session. You arm may be tired and you will feel mentally spent. Is that not living fully in the moment?
In the end it is about balance between preparation and completion. Both are part of the artist's life and all are connected to produce a worthy painting. It is an attitude that we can all access if we want it. It will not take the fun out of painting or add pressure to produce.
I am willing to bet that Carlson's approach of labour and spontaneous action will add excitement and fulfillment to your painting experience.
Do you have trouble with procrastination or other creative blocks? How do you deal with them? It would be helpful to hear how other artists deal with this.
Malcolm Dewey: Artist. Country: South Africa