Posts Tagged ‘problem solving’

Is Artistic Suffering Really Necessary?

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

A couple of my artist colleagues were recently discussing why some paintings seem to paint themselves and others drain us with the effort they take. I thought it was a question well worth considering.

When I began painting, I was conscious of learning something new every time I tackled a new project. Whether I began each one with a goal in mind to learn a specific skill or was merely conscious of problem solving throughout the process, my skills developed rapidly. I am convinced that the consistent effort contributed to my improvement as much as any how-to lessons did.

130804 Rainwashed Boardwalk

Every painting we undertake increases our experience and gets us that much closer to whatever level we strive to reach. Sometimes a painting flows easily because it doesn’t challenge us the way a more difficult one does. The fact that it comes out well with little effort should be an affirmation that we’ve reached a certain level of both competency and comfort in our work.

On the other hand, the paintings we struggle with should also encourage us because the struggle means that, consciously or unconsciously, we’re problem solving and are still working to advance our abilities rather than accepting less than satisfying results.

When it comes to painting, there’s always something more to learn, but not every painting has to challenge us beyond our current abilities. Sometimes it’s okay to allow ourselves to simply enjoy the flow when it happens.

The Enrichment of Problem Solving

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Every painting I undertake is an exercise in problem solving. Not only must I discover what I want to depict or express in a painting, but then I must decide the most effective way to compose the image. What format? Which medium? What color palette? How can I make it interesting and appealing? And the questions go on…

The more I paint, the easier it becomes to find answers to these and other questions that invariably arise. Over the years and stacks of paintings, a kind of encyclopedia of information has developed in my experiential memory. Every additional painting I work on supplements it. I can also draw on the information other artists and art historians share from the wealth of their own mental encyclopedias.

Sharing information I have learned does not deplete my own store but rather reinforces it, encouraging me to review the decisions I made in my earlier problem-solving efforts, why I made those decisions, how effective they were, and how the outcomes might have been improved. So when I teach others, my problem solving database continues to build on its own discoveries, enhancing my original experience and finding them multiplied as I help my students seek their own solutions. That’s one reason I love to teach. Another reason? I love to see others learn and become problem solvers, too.

Just my style, Part 2

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

In Part 1, two weeks ago, we recognized that one aspect of artistic style depends on the artist’s personality and way of viewing the world, selecting subject matter, and applying an intellectual and emotional approach suited to his or her nature.

Pink Hibiscus with Bud

Another aspect of style depends on mechanics of the craft—the way an artist typically uses both skill and available materials.  Each artist will resolve certain issues inherent in the painting process in a unique way by applying his or her understanding of the mechanics involved and the materials at hand.  For a painter, mastery of materials includes knowing what can be expected of the various types, sizes, and shapes of brushes; pigment characteristics and typical interactions; characteristics of various painting surfaces; supplemental materials such as frisket, screens, sponges, drawing implements and mediums, and so much more).

An artist’s style will reflect her level of mastery of technique and her understanding of the medium.  Understanding and control of those mechanics and the characteristics of the materials being used will influence her decisions when it comes to problem solving.  If she typically wields her brush a certain way, or uses a characteristic selection of colors, or consistently applies certain techniques to her work, these elements will eventually become a trademark of her style.

In Part 3 we will look at the importance of the artist’s personal aesthetic.

Just my style, Part 1

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Artistic “style” can be hard to pin down.  Artists are often recognized by the unique style of their work.  But what does that mean?  Can we consciously create our own style?  Can we copy someone else’s?  We will look at various components of artistic style in a three-part series.

Rosy Gerbera

Style develops partly through the artist’s unique way of approaching the subject matter.  It lies partly in the artist’s personality, point of view, and approach to problem solving.  The artist’s nature and approach to life itself, whether patient, peaceful, retiring, confident, dynamic, or spontaneous, for instance, is likely to make itself apparent throughout the entire body of work.  Yes, it can change over time as the artist learns and develops in the craft.  A wide variety of personal circumstances may also serve to alter that outlook, either temporarily or long-term.

If Artist A is inspired, by the play of light and reflections across a series of surfaces, to paint a certain subject, her depiction of the subject will reflect her fascination with the light, her observation of its effect on various surfaces, what she sees as enhancing or interfering with the phenomenon.  Artist B, looking at the same subject, might be intrigued instead by the juxtaposition of a subject’s physical solidity and emotional vulnerability and will depict that as an important element in his work.  Artist C might be intrigued by the variety of textures represented and will find satisfaction in featuring those textures within her composition.  Artist D, on the other hand, may use blocks and swaths of saturated color to express his excitement about the subject.

Each artist’s combined intellectual and emotional approach to the subject matter, therefore, becomes an integral element of his or her artistic style at any given time.

In Part 2, we’ll consider how mechanics plays a role in style.