Weekend Inspiration–Looking to Each Other

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“You can look anywhere and find inspiration.”  Frank Gehry  (from The Painter’s Keys)

Dry spells, days without inspiration, lack of incentive can happen at anytime to any artist.  You show up at the studio, sit in front of an empty canvas or paper and nothing happens.  Nothing is working.  You looked to all your usual sources of inspiration and still nothing.  So what now?  You can give up and walk away or you can look to your fellow artists.

Stories are everywhere of artists who worked in groups.  The Impressionists were noted for it.  Monet and Renoir occasionally painted the same subjects.  Picasso and Braque explored cubism together.  The tales of artists gathering together in Paris cafes and bars are well known.  The Abstract Expressionists frequently met in New York at various locations.  Artists are gathering today.  Are you one of them?

Gathering with fellow artists today does not necessarily mean physically meeting in a restaurant or studio.  Artopia Magazine suggests, “Following artists on social media is a great source for finding inspiration on many levels.”  Taking the time to “like” other artists on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, read artist’s blogs and check out artists websites are all ways to gather with other artists in today’s internet world.  Artists are doing amazing things all over the world.  All it takes is a couple of clicks to enter a world of inspiration from fellow artists.

Indiemade.com suggests joining a local art group and if you don’t have one, start one.  Find a group of other artists and make plans to meet together.  You can choose to take a meal together regularly just to discuss art in general.  You could meet together for some Plein Air painting.  Another possibility is potluck once a month rotating at each other’s studios. Find your fellow local artists and make a plan.

When you are blanking out on inspiration, look around at other artists and see what they are up to.  If you find your fellow artist also in a blank place maybe you can inspire each other.  And if not, you can always commiserate with one another until new sources of inspiration can be found.  Nobody stays dry forever.  Companionship during the dry times may help move the dryness on down the road.

Colorful Fridays–Shady Green

“Like emotions, colours are a reflection of life.” – Janice Glennaway (from Irene Osborne)Screen shot 2013-10-11 at 11.00.35 AM

Most greens fall into the yellow spectrum following the colors of leaves, grass and other growing things of the natural world.  These greens usually produce a nice mud color if mixed with red.  The discovery of Viridian green changed that, creating a clear bluish green perfect for cooler uses and making a better glazing green.  Mixed with alizarin crimson, viridian makes a beautiful grey, similar to Payne’s grey.  Viridian next to red creates an energetic drama.

In the early nineteenth century, painters began looking for a less toxic green than the highly toxic emerald green.  Painting Through the Ages states that viridian is Chromium oxide Dihydrate and was first patented in 1859 by Guignet of Paris.  It quickly became a widely used color.  So popular now it is even seen in the paint of cars as in the new Chevy Volt.  For artists, viridian’s uses vary according to artist but remains very popular and a “must have” right next to alizarin crimson.

Golden Paints says viridian green has excellent permanency.  And Gamblin says viridian is very good as a tint.  Paintmaking.com and others state viridian is excellent for oil painters but not the best green for water-based media.  Its transparent qualities and tinting ability do not hold up as well in acrylics, watercolor or gouache.

The writer of the website Paintmaking advises to pay attention to the quality of viridian as some manufacturers may not fully purify the pigment leaving problematic traces of borate and chromate.  In the case of Viridian, apparently, you will get what you pay for so test the different brands.  The quality is worth the price.

For oil painters, viridian makes a beautiful cool green for shade, water and other areas the yellowish greens would tend to heat up.  Few artists use it straight, usually diluting it with titanium white, ultramarine or alizarin.  Straight or mixed, viridian will grab attention, even in the shade.

For the daring, here is a guide to mixing your own viridian from Painting Through the Ages.

A color guide of the many beautiful mixes that can be made with viridian is demonstrated by Colorbay.com.

Wetcanvas.com has an excellent discussion (here) posted of artists explaining their uses of viridian green. Very informative!

Happy shady painting!

The Stillness of Action

“All true artists , whether they know it or not, create from a place of no mind,  of inner stillness.”  Eckhart Tolle (from artquotes.net)Screen shot 2013-10-07 at 9.35.17 AM

What is stillness?  Is it a physical place or an inner place?  Do we need to go to a place of stillness to paint?   Stillness for every artist is likely different.  What do other artists say and do regarding stillness?

Canadian artist Agata Lawrynczyk states she paints early in the morning and late in the day to find the peace and quiet she is looking for to depict in her paintings.  She also states the subjects for her paintings are stillness.  Her paintings are of water and mountains, boats and sky.  Her blog, Agata’s Art Corner describes her process.  Lawrynczk is actively seeking to paint stillness.  Others may follow her habits even when not depicting “stillness.”

Because one is not seeking to depict “stillness” does not mean it is not inwardly sought while painting.  Looking at Wilhem De Kooning, I confess to an inability to see anything remotely resembling “stillness” in the artists work. Once while standing in a room filled with De Kooning paintings at the Corcoran Museum in Washington, D.C., I could swear I felt sizzling electricity.  In a brief biographical sketch about De Kooning, The Guggenheim Museum states the artist moved to East Hampton, New York seeking greater peace and isolation to create.  It appears De Kooning sought a place of stillness even though you would never guess from his work!

In a blog called With Real Toads, Margaret Bednar, visits two art museums to view paintings she sees as depicting, “Stillness” in the subject matter.  Using these chosen artworks, she asks the writers of the blog to describe stillness in words or poems.  The same directive for painting could also apply. Thinking about descriptive words for stillness may be a good method for getting to a place of “stillness” in the art making process, regardless of subject.

Ellen Lauren is speaking to theatre actors when she wrote an article for SITI.org titled, “In Search of Stillness.”  She believes actors require training to achieve stillness. It is likely the same applies whether the subject to be captured is of “stillness” or the artist is seeking the inner place of inspiration.  When stillness is achieved, creativity flows. Or so it would seem.

Dry Eyes

“There fore art means: you have to believe, to have faith, that is, cultivate vision.” (Josef Albers) from The Painter’s KeysScreen shot 2013-10-05 at 11.12.15 AM

Artistic vision likely does not have a cookie-cutter formula that can be written in a textbook and taught by lecture in a classroom. Artistic vision is as unique as the artist making the artwork. If each vision is unique, are there any guidelines an artist can follow? We all get off track at times, so how do we get back?

Author Thomas Cotterill in his blog states: “No matter what the artist thinks about vision, it is vital that they remain true to their own ideas.” When those inevitable times come when an artist feels the vision is lost it is imperative to examine what exactly the lost vision was. What were the points that drew the artist to the original vision? What were the emotions, the colors, the shapes, and the tastes of the vision? In that dry vision deprived place, returning to the beginning may be the best first step. Once taken, the first step can lead to what the original second step was, and third.

For some vision may have been a choice they consciously made as they began to paint. Others may have had a gradually evolving vision over time. In either case, returning to the starting point allows an artist the opportunity to remember the excitement of how the vision first felt and perhaps reignite that spark. There was a reason you chose that particular vision. Refresh, recall, and relight that fire.

For more on what other artists say about artistic vision, artist Barbara Rachko has complied a series of quotes on her blog here.

Who Lights The Fire??

“Nothing changes until something moves.”  Albert Einstein (from The Painter’s Keys)

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Does art have the ability to move people to action?  Do actions move artists to create?  Would anything move without art?  It may depend on the art and on the audience.  Perhaps it is the artist’s role to tap into the emotions of the audience, give it voice and lead the inspiration to move.

In a blog titled Sci Art Sci, the author delves in to the question of whether art can move people not already inclined to be moved.  He describes an example of an art project designed to highlight a particular issue.  He follows his example with the statement, “…I would say this piece has the potential to raise an eyebrow, to make somebody who already cares care a little bit more, for a time.  And maybe that’s enough.”  Maybe it is.  Sometimes a fire only needs a spark.

Recalling some of the movements of the nineteenth century, art is very much a part of the history of the moment.  Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People (more here) is one example of art as part of a movement.  Did this painting inspire greater nationalism?  Or was it an illustration of the moment?   Examples abound of art and movements.  Does art provide the spark to a dry woodpile that sets it alight?  Or the other way around?  Any thoughts?