There are so many ways of painting a thing. That’s what the real abstraction of art is about. As you are drawing, as you are noticing your subject, your attention takes you to qualities that someone else might not notice — or might not notice with the same emotion that you feel. As your gaze ranges over the image, caught in the attraction of what matters to you, you are reinterpreting the life that you see. Your being held captive in the subject gives it meaning — it reveals the meaning it holds for you.
The choice of subjects, the choice of how to see the subject, these are very personal things. Many artists paint the same subjects, and sometimes a convention takes hold and the paintings will be similar. This isn’t necessarily bad. Conventions, traditions, can be very rich. They can be ennobling. Sometimes they enlarge ideas. Many great artists chose to work in styles that were broader than their personal territory. The great English landscape painter Turner made many landscapes in imitation of earlier masters like Claude Lorraine. However, the reverse is also true: sometimes imitation of a style can become too conventional — so much that it conceals rather than reveals feeling and life.
But to let yourself be simply alive before the subject, to let your thoughts range where they will, to allow the subject itself (such as the swift koi) determine what the meaning will be — this is a wonderful way of losing oneself — and of finding oneself — in art.
Then painting is like music. And it just goes over us and through us and carries us along with it.
These first blocked-in forms are a simple melody that I hum to myself: the music’s first notes.