” I am playing with the idea of letting a painting dictate

little landscape from memory of photo

its own direction…,” said my artist friend Fritz at his blog Fruitful Dark.

Those words describe the way that I try to relate to perception. I am always striving to be more connected to the motif, to discover things about it, even in random ways. I want something that is opposite of technique (as usually understood) — instead to have a direct line of thought between what I’m seeing and what gesture I make on the painting or drawing. What if the most notable thing in a certain motif is, say, the reflection on a vase? The usual advice (and I’m not knocking it) is to start with the big shapes first and go toward details — for this approach is a way of organizing the picture to get at a kind of realism or even just the awareness of the whole. And I have worked on my drawing chops for years to learn about proportion and the big sense of the image, and so on. But sometimes now I go the opposite direction — I let my mind work with the first thing that really pulls me, no matter what it is or how illogical a process it might invoke. Because one interesting idea is not something that just sits in isolation — it leads to other ideas, places and feelings.

The odd detail will help you notice some other feature that maybe you hadn’t seen. I am not fastened to one picture even — though certain pictures become ones where the aim is completeness. Those I will wrestle with over whatever time span is necessary. But other works are passages of travel through various ideas. They don’t have to be finished. They can proceed willy nilly.

Of course none other than Corot said to continually attempt to get back to the first impression — that first sense of “ah!” — and you might not even know what provoked THAT feeling. It is somehow mixed in with everything all at once. And it’s hidden inside lots of separate items. It stands behind the details like a gravitational force.

But horses for courses. I don’t have to do the motif the same way every time. I can go totally illogical with it. I can fasten down a detail if it suits me, why not? And I can leave details hanging suspended in chaos for the sake of experiencing a passage of thoughts. The things learned will accumulate. They’ll go somewhere more connected in time.

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3 thoughts on “Comment to an artist friend

  1. I like your logic. I like details but I also like to leave something’s up to the imagination. I like the idea of focusing on the detail that sticks out the most. I think the rest is rest is nothing more than a filler for space.

  2. That’s one way of thinking about it. I’m trying to advocate for discovery. Sometimes a drawing or painting session is about following a path and just seeing where it leads and so why shouldn’t one be prodded by your own senses — by whatever captures your attention. It is a path through perception.

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