Making Art

Bringing Art Making Into Your Life

Artquest 4 – overcoming the pain of crummy painting.

It might start out crummy, but if you let that song/ image/ story out of  your head  it might have a chance to be good.

I make a lot of art- sculptures mostly. I also do a lot of drawing especially as part of planning my work. I use paint in my other work, but in no way would I claim to be ‘a painter’. I haven’t used paint as a main medium for a long time, but recently I have had a strong urge to paint again.  I have found myself at the library and on the internet looking at the juicy colors of Gauguin and Matisse and the sombre beauties of Rothko.

I really love colour but I don’t get to use it much in the type of work I do at the moment with my sculpture. My two main sculpting mediums are white paper and clay. And in my clay work I prefer to use the natural colours of the clay or natural pigments like iron oxide , or copper carbonate. I love it when other artists use mad bright colors on their ceramics but at the moment it’s not in my schtick.

In a previous post I talked about my first [unsuccessful] attempt at using acrylic paint; or should I say my recent attempt at starting to use paint as a main medium. I was mostly talking about how horrible I thought my work was, and how I was trying to treat the acrylic paint as if it was oil paint or watercolor. The thing is when you start using a new medium things are quite probably going to get ugly. The work you try, may at first not look at all like the vision you had in your head. THIS IS UNCOMFORTABLE. It really is. It is a scratchy, a bit embarrassing feeling.

The pain comes from not knowing how to do something you think you should be able to do. ‘Hey I can do this art thing! Why can’t I do this?’ The thing is, whenever you learn a new medium you will go through at least bit of this sensation. Depending on how big the shift is. You also can get just plain old out of practice. [If you want to try a huge ego buster have a go at throwing a pot on a wheel! People get mad at themselves and freak out.]

So after my first attempt, which was so yuck I just covered up the easel with a plastic sheet, took the Gauguin book back to the library and kept on with my sculpture. That was a couple of months ago. Oh well.

The thing is I kept having a recurring idea for a picture, in my head. A pink figure emerging from  a colourful background. And I know that you too possibly have an image that has recurred in your mind. It might be faint, or only the very beginnings of an idea: a colour, that fades into another. A strong geometric shape. A soft form barely visible in the light. You know what it is. Take a moment to let it come into your mind now…………. .

And you maybe wondering why I have used the word crummy in the title for this Artquest? Because I want to acknowledge that in the beginning it may in fact BE a bit crummy and that you CAN anxious about it. Making art isn’t always easy breezy. Sometimes its bloody hard. And maybe you also feel an anxiety about whether your art is good enough? And it’s ok to make something crummy. Then we will improve. And if we keep doing it we will improve some more. Brilliant.

So……. Artquest 4 – do some crummy painting, and overcome your feelings of yuk. Actually it doesn’t have to be painting. It could be any medium where you feel that you may not be good enough, and you are anxious about starting. It’s about letting it be ok to fail in the beginning. Learning from failures can lead to success. Maybe its time to answer that call to be a painter. [or a sculptor or a song writer]

Most of the Artquests I suggest are about forming a new habit, doing something small everyday to get your brain into an art making frame of mind. But for this Artquest I want you to commit to 1 bigger session each week when you can have a little alone time. Tell yourself I am putting Saturday afternoon aside for this, it’s important to me. Or Wednesday night, or whatever. This Artquest is more about giving in to the thing you’ve wanted to do but were too afraid to start.

The ingredients you will need are:

  • big bits of primed paper, not canvases because we are going to be churning through the painting surfaces [see priming paper to paint on for the how to]
  • paint: something you can be a bit free and easy with so you aren’t freaking out about wasting paint.
  • charcoal
  • colored pastels [cheap is fine]
  • various brushes none of them small

I keep saying CHEAP, because I don’t want your experimental painting to be inhibited by anything including worrying about how many materials you’re using. It just doesn’t help.

Artquest 4:

  • For six weeks, one day a week for a couple of hours you will start to do some painting.
  • Using an idea, an image that has been appearing in your brain.
  • Starting with charcoal or pastels laying down any guiding lines you need.
  • You will charge your brush with paint and begin to release that idea that’s been stuck in your brain.
  • Start anywhere, but keep that image in your mind. You might like to sneak up on it by starting with something slightly unrelated.
  • Don’t stick to something if its not working. Just rip it off your easel. This is experimenting not perfecting.
  • If it’s not going how you want, keep going but trying new things.
  • If there are bits that you like, keep going and take it further.
  • At the end of the session, let go.. let go of the bits that didn’t work and take note of the bits that did.
  • These bits you liked are the jumping off point for the next session.

Here’s a little about what I did in my first session. I didn’t want to start with the pink figure because that felt too much like it would have to succeed straight away. I like to sneak up on what I am trying to make sometimes. I tend to work way too tight so I chose to draw initial figures in an almost white pastel, so I could hardly see it.  I also over drew in charcoal to add some shadow. I used a really big brush to fill in with colour, again so I couldn’t get overneat.

Above: a close up of the first one I did. I like the texture of the charcoal and pastel together and the multiple figures.

Above: Later I did two figures with a car: I don’t even know why, but just let yourself do whatever you need to do. Don’t judge what you are doing as you do it. The overlapping transparency of the top yellow one is good.

Above: A pink figure. Not at this point much to do with the one in my head. That’s ok – at least I am heading somewhere. I do like the texture of the paint and pastel together, and the loose use of the paint. I also like that I have managed to avoid my usual fussy pants neatness and control. 

So no, these paintings are not what I have in my head, not yet. But there are bits that I like, small bits that are working. Trigger points for my next session. And you know what? I feel calm. Not horrified that they aren’t good.

So give it a go. Let that song/ image/ story out of your head and give it a chance to be good.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on October 3, 2012 by in Artquest suggestions, Exercises, Making art and tagged , .
%d bloggers like this: