Archive for July, 2017

Investigating Artistic Impetus

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

Last time I wrote about my interest in trying to figure out what compels me to paint and what drives me as an artist.  Is it merely the sensual stimulation and enjoyment I gain from manipulating the brush and color?  Or could it be some egotistical need to compete with and attempt to enhance nature’s glory?  Or am I driven by a desire to share with others my perceptions of those subjects that interest me?  Or is it a combination of things that impels me toward some greater, overriding purpose?

I have practiced art from the time I was quite young.  Whether the drawings were any good, and whether my color choices had any basis in reality, or were simply a response to what I thought they should be, was largely immaterial.  The point was that I was interested in trying to depict subjects that appealed to me.  It was a way of investigating and trying to more fully understand and appreciate the world around me.

As I got a little older, I tended to stay quiet, with “eyes and ears open and mouth shut,” as my Dad used to put it.  I watched people.  I looked at the lines of their bodies as they moved around, the way their facial features were shaped, and how the texture of their skin reflected light in different ways at different ages.  (It may be just as well that my classmates had no clue about what I was thinking; it definitely could have been misinterpreted!)

In a way, I suppose that’s what I’m still doing—studying, trying to understand and appreciate subjects that interest me.  And such intangible qualities as light, color, line, and pattern are at least as important subjects in my work today as the physical subjects that act as vehicles for exploring them.

"Illumination"

“Illumination”

A-ha!  So that‘s it!  (Have you ever experienced a revelatory “a-ha” moment yourself?  Exciting, isn’t it!)

Now that I recognize what my subject matter really is, I look forward to growing in that knowledge.  I trust it will free me to explore it further, becoming less concerned with objects as subjects and more concerned with those revealing qualities that drew my attention to those objects.

Stick around and let’s see where it leads!

So … Where are we now?

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

As a (very) late bloomer, I have discovered how important it is to not only plan my progress toward pre-identified goals, but to periodically evaluate how satisfactorily I’m actually making progress.  This year I set out to work on my watercolor skills, to explore and identify my “style,” and to discover who I am—what my role is—as an artist.

“In Daddy’s Hands” by Charlotte Mertz (5″ x 5,” graphite pencil, #170605p)

The first goal—learning, developing, and polishing skills—is an ongoing process that will never be complete, as long as I can lift a brush and continue to challenge myself.  With conscious effort put toward improving my understanding and development of specific skills, I hope that they have been improving this year, with my work more consistently displaying higher quality.  But I wonder if my focus on one area has allowed me to become lax in others. A periodic flop warns me that I’m not infallible and there is still plenty of room for improvement.

I have also come to recognize characteristics of my personal style and what elements of others’ art particularly influence my own work, which increases my confidence that, in general, I’m on the right track.

The third goal, discovering my role as an artist, has been more elusive.  So that is another realm that I hope to explore more rigorously in the coming months.  Certainly I think of myself as a teacher and encourager of others.  But what is the underlying drive and purpose of my own artwork?  I have long recognized that the concept for each piece and my inspiration to paint go hand in hand. But less clear has been what might be the consistent, overriding similarity in purpose that compels me to paint anything.  This is a question to which I’ve gradually been finding answers.  More about that next time.