Why do I do what I do?
A year ago I was spending my holidays filling a sketchbook with tiny gouaches,
after two wonderful first term on my Portraiture Diploma. Incredibly happy.
However, I wasn’t understanding the idea of doing art. Maybe I thought I needed a reason (a cause?) and I was struggling to justify this path to myself.
It changed when on the 4th of April 2018, I came across a podcast with Nicolas Uribe. It ties together ideas that friends and tutors had already voiced, but that I needed to hear again, in one place.
I remember quite clearly this great feeling of telling myself:
I will paint and draw (‘do art’), because it is a wonderful way to get to know myself better and the world around me. Self-discovery seems to be an important and honest path, and doing it this way brings me joy. Which is enough of a reason. ~
It was great to purely embrace the doing at first, but maybe it’s time to reflect on the why too.
Feel free to jump to key words, or to scroll through the full ramble.
I hope it can be of some interest for you ♥
I love painting from life, and I love a time frame: creating an image before I lose access to the source. And also because life keeps changing, which means there’s no single answer. The game is to remain alert and ready to respond, to trust what your senses felt, even if it was no more than a fleeting moment.
For this reason the adventure of Sky Portrait Artist of the Year was well tailored to my liking~
I love my loved ones ~
I stare at people from my life. I love to draw them in my sketchbook to record the experience. Painting them is however quite hard, but absolutely wonderful (my friends are so beautiful).
It’s probably like the lemon, it's likely that my brain thought knowing this person by heart, but actually it only works when I drop the assumptions and explore those shapes as if I was seeing them for the first time. If I manage to get where my heart recognise what it was looking for, it's a truly beautiful feeling.
I’m not so much after a finished image, I rather enjoy the process. First step is to find out what the game is, or which one I want to play, which one will get my enthusiasm.
On the tiny painting just next, I was first putting down marks that were coming with no surprise to me: they were my knowledge, easy ways to describe what was in front of me. But I suddenly got excited when trying to resolve the journey from one knee to another.
It was about looking in abstract terms, and trusting I would eventually get an image if I kept comparing each step along the way (how do I get to the next place? How do I move from here to there? How big is the gap?).
I had no choice but to look and ‘be in the moment’.
When I used to meditate, the positive effect was mainly in how it changed my perceptions the rest of the time: I would feel more aware of the world around me, sensory inputs and little wonders. Painting does pretty much the same. By chasing shapes and colours as I paint, even when I stop my mind stays on the lookout. For example, if I’ve been using a particular colour palette for the day, I then tend to see the world in these terms. I never get bored any more: I keep painting even when I don’t paint.
It’s like puzzles. I like to feel confused at first, and to have to come up with strategies to make sense of what’s in front of me. For what seemed easy, I love to prove me wrong.
For example, I approached this lemon knowing it was a spherical object and used descriptive brushstrokes that were curving around the shape: I was getting bored and it wasn’t working. Turned out that using squares as if it was a flat abstraction amused me more and allowed me to say what I wanted.
Recently I had the word ‘staircase’ in my head, and on the first newsletter I was mentioning my love for tangents.
Those are visual things that excite me and I’m having good times looking for them as I paint. They’re tools to fix my thoughts and help me come up with questions / investigation plans: how do we climb from the elbow to the shoulder (potential staircase), what is the connection between this and that (potential tangent), how strong is the distinction (potential lost edge), or simply ‘wouldn’t it be fun to group those two things together?’.
Knowing what excites me help to try strategies for what doesn’t straight away.
For example I find working from photograph harder: no time constraint and somehow too prescriptive. But recently I’ve found one way to make it work for me: starting from life (even a simple as a rough drawing and first colour sensations) and continuing from photograph. This way I can’t be a slave to the photograph, because my eyes and the lens already took two different paths.
The game is therefore to use the photograph for finding useful information, working towards what serves the painting.
Painting from memory is a beautiful opportunity to feel another burst of gratitude for the source reference (choosing only positive moments for now).
Painting from imagination is both difficult and magical. I guess it’s trying to be a kid again and daring inventing all the tiny worlds. To me it’s about putting the marks down so your guts can assess whether they’re the ones or not.
Ouch, that was a lot of rambling. It feels heavy to put words on something that is an experience.
I ♥ painting = dancing