Friday, November 22, 2019

Choosing Something to Paint

Ogden Pleissner (1905-1983), Old Maid's Lane
Good advice from Arthur Guptill:

"Don't spend all day hunting for something to paint. Too many students search and search for the perfect ready-made picture just waiting to be transferred to paper. While a truly outstanding painting often shows unusual subject matter, or, at least, a fresh mood or aspect of it, some of the greatest masterpieces ever painted picture the simple everyday things known to all.

"But you are not entirely limited by your subject. We have repeatedly emphasized that it is your prerogative as a painter to take as many liberties with subject matter as you wish, and in this way translate the mere hint of a picture into something of worth. If your subject is too complex, you can simplify it; if too large, you can shrink it or omit part of it. You will be wise, though, to limit your early attempts to relatively small subjects. Too many elements are bound to prove confusing."

From Watercolor Step-By-Step, by Arthur Guptill


Susan Krzywicki said...

I think you have personified this, James. I remember your painting of a parking lot...

There is so much to see in every bit of what is in front of our eyes, if we approach with love and wonder.

Not being an artist, I can still participate in the seeing of beauty everywhere, even if I cannot capture it. And, sometimes it seems to me that focus is the thing - either focusing on a very "long" view or a very close-up view. It seems like the middle ground is where we get muddled and things don't show well. This could be a metaphor for life in general, right? When we take the long view of our universe, it calms out to a beautiful abstract. When we go hyper-observant close, that same sense of wonder occurs.

And when we just let the muddle roll on undifferentiated then we lose sight of what is important - either the unity or the distinctness of life.

Steve Gilzow said...

Continuing Susan’s thought...a theme which has nourished me in painting and photography the past eight years is “Far, Middle, Near.” Pick out something in the visual field and frame it from far away, from somewhat closer, and then very, very close. Playing with levels of magnification this way often has the power, as Susan says, to reveal the beauty and mystery in the most commonplace of subjects. And yes, engaging in this with a baseline feeling of love and wonder goes far in aiding such revelations. This process of zooming in on a subject — say, some mushrooms at the base of a tree — aligns naturally with Guptill’s guidance calling for fewer elements and contemplating what is at hand.

Michael Dooney said...

I've read that Sargent often just sat down and started painting while his fellow sketch artists spent most of their time looking for just the perfect spot. It really proves the point that the artist makes the art. It's kind of like when artists obsess over finding just the right paper or art supplies as though that will make them a better artist ;)

A Colonel of Truth said...

“Abstract is just something up close.” S. C.Yuan