Friday, October 16, 2015

Sketches, An Interview and a question

The above pics are some paper sketches that I have done in the last week or so. The first pic is actually a painting that made several months ago. I was embarrassed to show my people with their almond heads but screw it! It's what I did and there is something there even if I didn't totally execute it well. Just keeping things real, as they say. The rest of the sketches are just about trying to put shapes together based on what I know about composition and what I have seen lately in my environment or my ideas about things. When I can't think clearly enough to put a painting together I can usually sketch and cut paper.

That last pic shows a sketch that I made based on some reading that I was doing recently. I learned a bit about cofferdams and rolled earth dams which is what we have here near my home. I am fascinated by the idea that you could fill miles and miles of an area with water from a river and then hold that water there almost indefinitely (ideally). I can barely wrap my head around the concept. I also learned that all reservoirs eventually silt up. Also a tough concept to understand.

OK, here is what I have that could be interesting. I read a blog called Painting Perceptions. The latest interview is with a painter named Alan Feltus. If you are at all interested in composition, I encourage you to follow the link to the interview. The section I am talking about is about halfway down the page and is an article on composition written by Feltus. It's the clearest explanation that I have read so far that also most closely matches my own thoughts about composition (based on what I have learned to date). It's worth a read, I promise.

I am interested in this idea of how a person's initial start into being creative has influenced them over the years. I ask because I am genuinely interested but also because for a few years now I have been grappling with the question myself. Here is my own story. 

As a child I am sure that I must have colored or tried to draw. As a teenager my mom bought me a book on drawing cats and flowers and some paint. My mom suggested art school but I believe this was because I was floundering badly prior to high school graduation and she (my mom) herself had taken some art classes early on in her life. I never did any sketching until my 30's and certainly only painted a few times. I never learned about how to paint or about composition or about anything else that was mildly creative. The thing I remember most, unfortunately, is my mom telling me that she could copy anything (this was in the context of doing crafts). It isn't her fault of course and she couldn't have known how that statement would have influenced my approach to so many things, both good and bad. Most notably, with painting, it gave me a false sense of being able to do something that is extraordinarily difficult. You can't get at painting through copying. You could I guess but what might you learn? How would you ever find your own voice and vision? The upshot is that I have been trying to overcome this idea ever since. My approach to painting is a hybrid of being creative (assembling things, ideas and putting them together) and technical skills (such as they are). It's why my approach could be seen as "intellectual". And it's taken me several years to even have a vision, albeit a loose and sometimes vague vision. Experience is required here and not just technical skills or the ability to duplicate. And you have to get beyond just thinking into the realm of actually doing.

So, do you have anything to share? Maybe you just want to consider the question? I have found it very helpful. Now go read that interview!


  1. What an incredibly interesting post Libby! First off, let me say how great your paper cutouts are. I have long admired Matisse for his simple lines color and compositions and his paper cut work. These made me think of him! As for my initial start and its influences, harder. I don't remember a time when I wasn't making some kind of art. My mother was an artist who set it aside for family and children but kept it close with trips to museums and shows along with loads of art supplies for her three children. ( all who have grown up to be artists ) I dabbled in so many mediums and for a very long time photography was my main stay though not my first love. Fabric, fibers, embroidery held that post. Embroidery was not considered an art form by most so I didn't really push it, regretfully. This doesn't answer your question about initial influences and current interests of course, I will have to ponder that. I am really drawn to the last paragraph in the interview though. I think that speaks clearly to me and my art approach! Replace painting with art in the words and it just fits!
    "We are who we are as artists because of what we paint and how we paint it, but we are also defined by our limitations. It matters what we want to make and what comes forth as we work—intentions informed by knowledge and desire, subject to our best abilities and our limitations. I see my limitations as part of my identity as a painter, and I know the struggle involved in the making of any painting is necessary. I usually consider paintings that seem to have been made without struggle to be suspect. Painting is very difficult work, requiring endless patience." Alan Feltus

    1. Karen,

      First, thanks for getting through the whole post and reading the interview too. I had hoped it would be informative and interesting for someone. And I appreciate you considering my question too. The information helps me to understand how people start making art.

      I was reading your answer about growing up with art and wondered how your mom's approach to things might have influenced you. It sounds like art making and creativity was a part of your upbringing. When you used your supplies, do you remember how you decided what to draw or sew or paint? Do you remember at all how you decided what to photograph? I suppose I am interested in how people grow up with art, the choices they make about what and how they create, their approaches etc. It's just very interesting to me.

      That last paragraph in the interview was good, wasn't it? Our art can't help but be defined by our strengths and weaknesses-it's who we are isn't it? And it informs our subject matter choices, the physicality of our approach to the actual process of creation, and probably lots of other choices. Lately I have been thinking about artwork as being similar to fingerprints, meaning that each person can't help but put their own "original" imprint on things. You can't get away from yourself I don't think. Your essence always come through somehow. And it why (I think) copying always reveals something.

      Thank you again for considering everything. I appreciate it!


  2. I happen to really like the first pic. great movement and it tells a story!
    fascinating reading and exchanges between you and Karen.

    1. Julie,

      I really like the idea of the first pic too but I just made this unfortunate association with almonds and heads! The rhythm of the piece ended up being really appealing for me though so maybe there is something there. We have so much agricultural work in our area (the idea was based on the men and women who pick persimmons) that I'd like to somehow capture that idea.

      Karen was really generous with her response wasn't she? Every little bit of information helps me in some way.

      Thank you again for the visit. Hope things are going well.

  3. Libby! -I think your top piece is superb. My feeling when I look at this piece is one of connection with others as well as nature.
    I think Libby your search for your artistic voice shows in all of your hard work. I am so inspired by you to keep painting and finding my own passion to share what I find beautiful and meaningful. My artistic journey started about thirteen years ago and has had times of great productivity and others when not much more than sketches are achieved. One practice I do try every day is to do something creative even if only a few minutes. Sometimes life happens and other things take precedence. So glad you told about your journey. Have a super day.


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