16" x 20" acrylic and painted paper on 1" profile board
|Paper sketches 1-7|
The above finished piece and sketches were completed over the last week. While working on these ideas, I found that I drew on some advice that I read awhile back. I thought I would pass it along. Maybe it will help!
One of the best favors that you can do for yourself is to ask this simple question when you are making your art (or really, when you are engaged in any creative task): "Why did I do that?" Or better yet, "Why am I about to do that?"
This last week, (and over the last year), I have found myself asking these questions. The advice comes from an art professor whose name I can't recall anymore. He is somewhere back east though and on his blog, he wrote that he frequently asks his students to explain their work. He finds just as often as not that many students can't explain their design choices or describe their work in a meaningful way. Saying that you did something just because you like it doesn't really offer up a lot of information to the person who has asked the question. (It isn't that the answer is wrong but that it isn't terribly informative for the listener.) Moreover, it probably isn't enough for yourself as a creative person to not know why you make the choices that you do.
The takeaway from this, for me anyway, is that it pays to ask the question (of why you are doing something) prior to making a move on the canvas or paper. Not to get stifled so as to not be able to move but to go at things in a more thoughtful way. I think it can provide real insight into your own thought processes and possibly reveal where you are strong and where there are some opportunities, particularly if your answers sound "weak" to your own ears.
Here is an example of what I am suggesting. For many of the shapes and placement decisions that I made in the first piece, I specifically asked myself why I was making the choices that I was making. Why put that green piece there? Why am I placing that brown triangle in that way? Why am I covering up the edge of that particular piece? These types of questions slowed me down but also prevented me from working in a mindless way. I am not saying I didn't make "mistakes" or have some happy accidents along the way but I felt much more connected to the outcome of this piece because of a little initial deliberation. And if I couldn't really answer the question then I knew I was either too tired to continue working or I didn't have the knowledge yet to answer the question and I had better get it...quick!
My opinion is that greater insight can be achieved by probing for a more concrete answer. This way of working is easy to do really and can lead to greater insight into the "why" of why you do something and not something else. It can even reveal gaps in your knowledge base. And goodness, please don't write in to tell me that you love the color blue and what is wrong with that anyway? It's OK to love the color blue but you might stop for a second to probe a bit. I love the color blue too because it reminds me of water which I find both peaceful and terrifying. The color blue often describes a state of either optimism or mystery, of fullness or emptiness, of calmness or of a great disturbance. Blue, to me anyway, can represent insight and it can represent cold weather. There are lots of reasons I love the color and use it in my work. What about you? Why did you put that spot of blue there anyway?
Hope everyone has had a good week so far. Thanks for reading and commenting.