Sometimes I get asked to explain a particular work of art. Although being able to say something coherent is valuable, such as what may have inspired the piece or the project, and in general what drives and inspires me to create, I don't find providing a detailed explanation of a particular piece useful.
Let me explain why.
My form of expression is visual. I like the viewer to engage without having to rely on an accompanying interpretation. My hope is that the piece will “speak to them” emotionally through my choice of subject, combined with form (shapes), colour, texture and value (contrast). That the story it tells is both personal and universal.
In some ways I hope that the piece will invoke a child like joy or curiosity in the viewer and interest them enough to contemplate the image for more than 3 seconds. If I’m successful, the viewer will want to come back to the image and look at it again, perhaps finding a new story or emotional experience.
As far explaining the painting process (technique), other than being of benefit to other visual artists, I don't think this would be of interest to non-painters. That being said, I can explain the “painting process” in a way that parallels the writing process. There’s an idea, followed by some design decision of how to express the idea, there are revisions, and then a final edit (in an artists case leaving it on the mantle and looking at it for a long time) to see what final changes need to be made. There are similar struggles (the white page vs the white canvas) and similar a requirement to grow and take risks. In the painting world, if every piece is “successful” then you’re not taking enough risks to push yourself to grow. In essence you’ve become too comfortable with your subject and technique.
Just as in writing, there is craft in painting. Craft being the mastery of the tools (brushes, pencils, colour mixing and colour theory, design theory, mediums, surfaces etc.), used to express yourself. The better your mastery of tools, the easier it is to create and get closer to your final vision. Mastery also provides you with the ability to “break the rules” and try something new. To master the tools, there’s a lot of repetitive training needed (doing lots of paintings and failing, taking workshops and courses), including training the eye how to see shapes, colour and light and training the hand to create what the eye sees.
Thought for the day
"For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed." Ernest Hemingway
Over the years my work has grown to include digital works including paintings, mixed media, multi-media and photography. A recent digital painting of Opie (a small French Bulldog) is based on a photo of the dog and a photo of my friend Victoria's back yard. I placed Opie in the yard, added a pipe and placed a straw hat on his head to evoke Vincent van Gogh.
My favorite tools are Photoshop, Painter, ArtRage and Procreate. Procreate is only available for iPad while ArtRage is available for iPad, Android and Windows. Corel Painter is available for Windows and Mac. Adobe Photoshop is also available for both Windows, Mac with a lighter versions available for iPad and Android.
There's some great online resources available to help you improve your skills using digital tools. A YouTube site that I often visit is to learn new techniques is PHLEARN. This site is better for photographers than painters but still provides very valuable tips and insights.
Corel Painter is one of the leading digital "natural media" painting tools with a vast array of brushes, effects, backgrounds etc. A good YouTube channel is Painter Tutorials. This site provides a range of tutorials offered by both Corel and digital artists.
An alternative to Corel Painter is ArtRage Studio. It also provides natural media painting tools and is much less expensive than painter, although not as capable. It's a great way to get starting painting digitally.
Finally ProCreate is an innovate program that doesn't have digital equivalents to natural media but provides alternative tools to get similar effects, primary by selecting textures and brush effects. For me I find Procreate a better program for graphic arts. Again there's lots of YouTube resources available to learn more.
So take your tablet, laptop or smart phone and get out there and paint!
Thought for the Day
“There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into sun.” Pablo Picasso
Eric David is a visual artist / fine art photographer that lives and works in Toronto.