Respecting You

The other day I found drawings and paintings I made a couple of years ago. To go through them was a visit back to who I was then, a person who now felt as a distant stranger. They were uncomfortable to confront because they were truly PAINtings, made in a state of chaos and turmoil. Looking back I can see they kept me busy and distracted, which I needed. I couldn’t face all that was happening around me at the time and many of the paintings I did then were lifelines I created for myself to hold on to. They are not me but a part of me, a part of who I was then.

Our relationship with ourselves and our past phases is reflected in the attitude with which we meet these relics. Sometimes they are sweet reminders and as we see our younger self in them we have compassion for that person and we smile. Other times it is troublesome to find these traces of what we have gone through as they bring back memories we rather not carry with us. It can be hard to forgive our previous mistakes, to have empathy with ourselves and understand that we did our best with what we knew then, with the knowledge, tools, and support we had then.

To me the different phases are the building blocks of who we are, from the bottom and up (or maybe from the center outwards 🙂 ). No matter if we like them or not each is a contribution to who we are today. Even if we have moved far away from that person we once were we need to respect the past to respect our present. It doesn’t mean we should hold on to everything and anything. To move forward and grow also means to let go of what does not serve us anymore, and to do so consciously and with awareness. When we stumble upon these relics I think it is important to acknowledge them for what they are, what purpose they served and honor that, respect that part of ourselves, us. ”I went through that, I was that, I felt and did that, and now I am here.”

The Line

This post is about the creative process of painting, which I think can be applied to most creative endeavors. The process of making art versus designing something is very different. With art you have a starting point but you don’t have a defined and specific end result, and the result is not the most important. An art object works within itself but does not have to work in the ’real world’ as design needs to do. Art has no purpose, it doesn’t have to do anything to exist. It doesn’t need anyone’s permission either. Once it is Done it simply is. With design on the other hand you have a specific end result the object must meet and then you figure out how you get there in the most efficient way possible. Design has to be functional, it has to work in the ’real world’. If it doesn’t it has failed to fulfill its purpose and so it is bad design. It is junk.

To make something that can turn out to be art I call To Do. To describe it this way decreases the pressure of the process having to result into something. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. If you have a preconceived idea of what it should or shouldn’t be you might block yourself from seeing what it actually is you are Doing. In art you don’t have to succeed or be good. You try and try again to express yourself and get closer to that truth and authenticity you have a notion of being hidden somewhere within the process.

“If you have a preconceived idea of what it should or shouldn’t be you might block yourself from seeing what it actually is you are Doing.”

Now that we have gotten these definitions out of the way, we can move on to the actual topic. 🙂 The following description is of how I have experienced painting this far. Meaning it will certainly change in the future and you might not have had the same experience.

Page from my notebook.
  1. The Grey Area is where you have not started. You think about Doing, it floats in and out of your conscious awareness. You prepare. You buy new canvas, paint, brushes and you search for your inspiration and original. You are motivated and it builds up. Your mind is narrowing down to focus on painting.
  2. You Started, put your charcoal onto the canvas. That’s it. Even if you left now you begun.
  3. Then you Search. You draw the outlines; define angles; shapes; volumes; and proportions. You are translating three dimensions to two dimensions onto your canvas. You filter your image through you and it becomes a byproduct of you. You are Doing. It is action and feedback, in through your eyes and out through your hands, adjust and repeat. You get to know your subject.
  4. Your movements slow down, you take a few steps back, go up close again to adjust. You have gotten the General Shape. You can see truth in what you have Done. Then you wipe off the charcoal from the canvas.
  5. The next Search is when you mix paint to find the colors that will make up your palette. As you begin to paint you are lost again. You try to dig up your painting form the mess. You try to really see where the painting is (.) the lightest and darkest, from what direction the light comes and what hue that is, where the shadows fall and in what hue they are in. You decide how the background should contrast and compliment your subject. Your brush strokes create a texture and you wonder if you like them. You get absorbed and forget about time and place. Someone needs to remind you to take a break. When you come back to the painting it hits you in the face, all you see is everything that must be altered and adjusted.
  6. You have reached the point of Defining the Expression of your painting. You go into details. Moreover, you see that you are on track, that this is the painting and so your self doubt is lifted for a while. 😉 You let go of your original to see what the painting needs to work within itself. You are authentic and strive for truth in your strokes.

“If you stop Before the Line you have left space in your painting, you leave a few things out, and in a way it says more in this phase.”

  • 7. Now the question is, How close do you go to The Line? How far before it do you dare to stop? One step away or when you stand on it? Or do you work yourself across The Line onto the other side? Do you go further? The Line is where and when your painting is done, it is finished. There is nothing more to add, nothing more to say. It is complete and all the holes are filled. In a way it is perfect. There is no question about it, and that might be the boring part of it too. Because you have left no space for the painting to shift or for anyone else to add to it when taking it in. Maybe your Ego drove you to this point, that you needed it to be perfect because you wanted to be ’a good person’ and get a pat on the shoulder (who are you painting for?). Maybe you were scared that others would not understand you, that they would get it wrong if you didn’t tell them what and how to see it in every way possible. You wanted to be in control. If you stop Before the Line you have left space in your painting, you leave a few things out, and in a way it says more in this phase. It raises questions. It is interesting to look at and you seem to be unable to stop doing so. If you go further than The Line, After the Line, you might be decorating. You add more than what it needs to express your message, you add what is not really there, and you go beyond your painting. You make it pretty and nice. If you then keep going you have gone so far the painting is not itself anymore and you are painting a new painting on top of it, and so the process starts over.