Did I fill the well? I certainly hope so! It seems that August came and went…and I didn’t produce much of anything. But, the artist’s life isn’t ONLY about producing. My last post was about filling the well. And, I refer to filling the well often. So, while I wasn’t doing a lot of painting, I was collecting, filing (mentally) and chewing on all kinds of thoughts and ideas. Ideas are percolating, fermenting, whatever you want to call it – in the subconscious, getting filed away to be pulled up for future use.
I had a busy month, even though I wasn’t producing. I celebrated a birthday. I took a vacation. And, I ventured to the arts district a number of times. Just hanging out with other artists and viewing other artists’ works in galleries or their studios, is inspirational. It gets the juices flowing. It reminds you of how many different ways there are to see the same things. And, the ways are endless. That leaves a lot of options for the artist to experiment with creative new ways to present familiar material. There is no end to the possibilities. You just can’t run out of ideas. There is really no excuse for not being able to come up with an idea!
I started a painting yesterday. I’m excited about it. I have covered the entire painting surface. But, I don’t yet know where I’m going with it. There are endless possibilities! I’m at the point now where I’ll study it for awhile, seeing various options. I envision some of the many possibilities as I look at the work in progress. I turn the work in all directions, for a couple of reasons. One reason is to check the composition. A good composition will work in any orientation. The other reason I turn it is that often I see something different – different meanings, possibilities – when a different view is presented. Eventually, I have to decide which way will be the top and where I’m going with it.
This is my painting in progress, after the first session. I’m excited about using an unusual painting surface. It was part of a fence intended for hiding stuff kept on a patio. The surface is a challenge in itself. Will it contribute to the painting – or detract from it? Being “different” is not enough to make a painting successful. It could just as easily detract from it. We shall see as I go along.
I have other surfaces waiting for me in the studio. And, more ideas than I seem to have time to fulfill. So – I guess the answer to “Did I fill the well?” is YES!
If you have thoughts on filling the well, feel free to comment. I welcome discussion.
What DOES “filling the well” mean? I’m guessing that most artists have some idea of what it means. It’s a huge and necessary part of the creative process. In order to say something, one has to have something to say! When you work and create and move on to the next project to work and create again – eventually that well can run dry. It needs time to re-fill. The well is what you draw on for ideas. You may consciously dig down in that well, looking for something. But, I think it’s usually a more subconscious thing. It’s not something you think about doing. It just happens. So, when that well is dry or nearly dry, time is needed while it re-fills. And, how does that happen? How does the well fill up again? All your life experiences are part of that well. Every vision, every thought, every encounter, every experience – contribute to filling the well.
So – time and living are the key requirements to filling the well. You need to take some time away from your studio and your creative process. You need to just “be”. Don’t be putting pressure on yourself to come up with ideas for your next creation. There will be plenty of ideas in due time. Your experiences and visions and subconscious thoughts are always pouring into that bottomless well. Even your daydreaming contributes. But, let it all be subconscious. Try to consider yourself “on vacation” from your art. You’re NOT, really. You’re never on vacation from being an artist. It’s who you are. But, TRY to just let your artist lie fallow for awhile. That is when seeds are being sown, ideas are percolating… And, soon enough, you’ll be heading into the studio again, ideas flowing, more than you think you have time to even work on. As if by magic, new ideas appear on your canvas, or whatever ground you work on. It’s an ongoing cycle. Take from the well…refill the well…
Do you have thoughts on filling the well? I’d love to hear from you on how it fits into your creative process.
Paint-ins seem to be becoming “the thing” in the Las Vegas arts community. We had an outdoor group painting session in late spring. Now, there’s a regular “Third Friday” paint-in at Place Gallery, organized and hosted by Gina Quaranto. There is a nice, large area that works well for many artists to gather and work. Many mediums and styles were represented. There was painting in different media, sculpting, and a number of artists were working on their skate decks for LVSK8IV The Skate Deck Art Show
Creativity fills the air. You can breathe it in and use it. Artists are lost in what they are creating. And, then, they may be wandering around checking out what other artists are doing. I think the camaraderie is good for all. An arts community is what keeps a lot, if not all, of us going. We get support and encouragement, which is always needed. We build friendships. We try to give back in the ways that we can.
It takes some effort to haul all the needed supplies for painting somewhere other than your own studio. But, it can be worth it. Group painting offers some things we don’t get alone, holed up in our studios, which is our natural habitat. Aside from the camaraderie, you also get some publicity of sorts. It may just be word-of-mouth, someone who stopped in to watch mentioning they’d watched you paint. Or, it may be a possible collector who has seen your work on exhibit, who now gets to see you working. You’d be surprised how many people are fascinated by seeing an artist at work. Keep in mind that this is totally foreign to most people who are not artists. It may seem humdrum and everyday to you because that IS your life. You do it almost by rote. But, to the layman it may be magic. And, don’t forget, collectors and all buyers are buying a piece of the artist. Meeting you, seeing you in action, talking to you about your work or your methods, all provide fodder for the collector’s interesting story for his friends. Also, connecting with the other artists can be worthwhile beyond just the friendship and camaraderie. The artists here in Vegas are generous with their support of each other. Your name might come up when there’s an exhibition opportunity. And, last, but not least – it’s good to get out of your studio and participate in life! You need ideas for your work, life experiences! You need to fill the well!
Here is my painting after the session at Third Friday Paint-In. I will work on it more in my studio and post a picture when it’s completed.
Have you painted with a group? Do you enjoy it? What benefits or pitfalls do you find in painting with others present?
I woke up thinking about this painting I did at the end of 2009. It has been titled and shown already. But, I’m still thinking about it. It’s not truly finished. It’s missing something. I think I realized that all along. And, yet, for some reason, I showed it anyway. Shame on me!
The painting, “Don’t Suck Me In”, is missing pizzaz, the final touch. It needs that one more thing. I remember thinking about it as I was “finishing” it. I just never came up with what that one final touch should be. There are so many options at this point in a painting. That final touch could be a paintstroke, a mark of some kind, a found object… The hard part is figuring out which option will be the coup de grace. It’s a critical time in the process of making a piece of art. Is that last touch the coup de grace or the disastrous mark that makes the work OVER worked? It is critical that an artist knows when a work is done.
Many times I have made my final mark and been so pleased with myself. Aha! The perfect mark that adds just what was needed. Without that mark, the painting just isn’t finished. Then, it seems that I will forever remember that final touch that made a particular painting. Maybe I even get a little too impressed with myself!
Well, I would like to find that perfect mark right about now! I could use something to gloat over. The truth is, I’m struggling with this one. Like I said, I actually woke up thinking about this. That’s a good start. I had the idea of what to do next. And so….I headed into the studio right after getting the coffee brewing. The idea I had come up with had many possibilities, as usual. Now, it’s time to pick one and JUST DO IT! And, so I did. I did not have to change the title of the painting. I have perhaps added some depth to the meaning. We’ll see.
I’m still not certain that it’s finished. I will keep it up on the easel and pop in and study it. At some point I will decide that I’ve come up with a good finish…or not.
“Don’t Suck Me In”, 25″x31″x2″, is still in progress. The painting posted is the “Before” version. I never understood why artists sometimes dated their work to include more than one year. I’d think – it took that long?! Now, I get it. I will have to add 2010 to the date on the back. It says 2009. So, now, it will read 2009/2010. It didn’t really take me 2 years. Well, I’m not done yet. Who knows?
I will photograph the work and post my progress in another post. Who knows how long this might go on?
Some artists swear by the sketchbook. They maintain it’s important to keep one, to be constantly sketching, and wouldn’t go anywhere without it. That’s not me. I’m not much of a sketcher. I never have been. I love to draw…and I’m decent at drawing. I just don’t have much use for sketching, if that makes any sense.
I can remember my freshman year in college. We were supposed to keep a sketchbook for Drawing 101. The night before it was due to be turned in I was in my dorm room scrambling to fill it up. I did numerous drawings of my left hand, feet, tennis shoes, loafers, whatever I could find to draw at the last minute. I wonder if the prof could figure that out? Surely, I wasn’t the only last-minute student!
Recently, I came across my “current” sketchbook in my studio. I opened it and was somewhat appalled to find that my first entry was dated 2002! See? I told you…not much of a sketcher. And, there’s still plenty of room left. I leafed through the whole sketchbook, curious to see what I’d sketched a few times over the years. While I didn’t have sketches of paintings-to-be, I DID have lots of IDEAS jotted down (with a few hastily scratched in sketches to help me remember how the ideas were to work). I was actually amazed at all the ideas I’d had – and had sense enough to jot down lest I’d forget. Some ideas I’ve already implemented, and are the backbone of my current method of working. Others are still waiting for me to try.
I’m glad I decided to thumb through the sketchbook. It reminded me that I come up with lots of creative ideas. And, it reminded me that I should be TRYING some of these ideas. It’s always good to inject new ideas and new methods into one’s work. An artist shouldn’t get too comfortable with one way of working…which reminds me of a good Picasso quote: “Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility.”
I’m sure I still won’t keep a sketchbook the way many artists do. But, mine is every bit as valuable – to me, anyway!
I feel like I’m winding down from 2009 and revving up for 2010 all at the same time. To me, it’s a continuation. There really is no “end” or “beginning”. I guess our thinking about it in those terms allows us to “end” whatever went wrong/didn’t work out and “begin” anew. I guess I can buy that. But, I never make new year’s resolutions. It’s too depressing to find that I can’t keep promises I made to myself. It’s putting additional pressure on. I think I have some built-in resolutions: keep learning, keep experimenting, keep creating. That’s what it’s all about for me.
I can’t say I wouldn’t like some improvements in the new year. I’ve always thought of myself as prolific. Yet, I haven’t produced much in 2009. I’ve let things get in the way. Have to change that! And, I’d like to keep learning more about using my computer. I need to know!
I remember to pat myself on the back for some accomplishments in 2009 as well. I’m liking where I am in my work right now. I’ve shown my work a couple of times. I HAVE learned some high-tech stuff (although I have a lot more to learn). So, I have high expectations for 2010. And, I intend to do my part in realizing some good things.
I think I’ll have a glass of wine and watch some New Year’s fireworks from my yard (I should be able to see the fireworks on the Las Vegas Strip) to bring in the new year. And, tomorrow, I’ll start a new painting.
Sometimes it seems like life gets in the way and interferes with my ability to make art… when I want to.
It’s hard when I’m “inspired” to paint and all kinds of things interfere with my plans. It tends to make me angry and/or frustrated. I have ideas. I want to paint. I NEED to paint. But, I have to do this and I have to do that. And, the car needs to go in for some repair …and ends up taking all day …and into another day.
Why me? Aaaaaagh! I try to remain calm and just go about doing what I have to do. I know that getting angry and grumpy isn’t going to help. As a matter-of-fact, that usually makes everything worse. That makes the people around you angry and grumpy. It’s not their fault that everything isn’t going smoothly.
So – the Big Irritator this week is the car. It needs to go in to see what’s wrong – and get repaired.
I went “prepared” for a long wait. I took my crossword puzzle book and two pencils. I never work crosswords in ink. It’s guaranteed I’ll be doing some erasing. I forgot to mention that I like crossword puzzles that are HARD – ones I’ll most likely not be able to finish completely. I took along my Washington Post crossword puzzle book. I used to have the New York Times crossword puzzle book that I loved.
I also took along my copy of Julia Cameron‘s Walking In This World. I have read it through several times. I can’t remember how many times. But, I get something from it every time. When I finish it, I will either go back to The Artist’s Way and read that again, or I will re-read Walking in This World again. The books are full of reminders about what it is to be an artist, what one should be doing, the pitfalls to watch out for, and all those wonderful quotes.
So, while car problems got in the way of my plans to attend a holiday coffee and to spend a day painting, maybe it was meant to be. It provided some probably much-needed time to slow down, think, and think some more.
I could read a lot more than I do. I used to read a lot. But, it takes away from my painting time. I tend to think in terms of creating time and other things that interfere with creating time. Perhaps I need to expand my horizons and remember that all those other things fill the well. Where does one get the experiences to paint about if one isn’t “experiencing”?
So, maybe life doesn’t get in the way after all. Life is what it’s all about!