03 March, 2013

Don't bullshit yourself.

It is a good lesson this one. Pull up a chair and get the popcorn, the story goes like this........I was spending a few days painting with Richard Robinson. I really enjoyed our last outing and it was his philosophy and attitude towards painting that drew me to visit again. Self -taught with great talent an a LOT of focus, he is a natural teacher and I find, if I actually tune in, he has a lot to say  in a succinct and direct way.

We went off painting and I deferred to his local knowledge of where and what to paint. First off was a wonderful, vaguely derelict shed, on a bit of farmland. Richard saw things that I, obviously, did not and painted a wonderful piece. Click here to see it. A magic painting...it glowed.
I painted the THING. It was dreadful. I could not, for the life of me, find my groove and formulate any kind of plan for the painting. What was the concept...I had no idea.

I was frustrated.....why could I not "see " what he was seeing?

 So, I went off that afternoon and found a spot on the beach that spoke to me and painted...and it was good! And then the bell started to ring, just a little. What was it that made it possible for me to paint well and then paint like a chimp at other times? ( no disrespect to my chimp fans) . I mused over the issue that evening, but hit the sack early...I was tired!

I woke the next morning and met Richard at Waipu Cove beach. He told me to pack light for a tramp across the rocks from Waipu Cove to Langs beach, a fabulous walk across cliffs, rocks and farmlands but edged by the sea.

We had to abandon a few sites due to wasp infestation ( Ha! but they were there first!) and settled on this scene. Richard bounded around like a rock rabbit, taking reference photos and sorting out light issues. I stayed on land and admired the bounding and wondering why I had failed to bring a flask of tea.

We set up and started painting. It became clear to me about 20 minutes into the painting that I was hating what I was doing. I was not concentrating, I was lost. I realise, I had no emotional engagement with the scene. I know what I wanted to paint, I know the feeling, and it was about the sky and the land, not the sea and rocks.  I stopped and took stock.
I looked over to the right, up the hill  and there stood a few young bulls, languidly grazing atop the parched farmland, silhouetted against the sky. Bingo! Thank you universe and thank you bulls!

I must have made some kind of gleeful sound because Richard turned round to find me scrubbing my canvas clean and turning my easel round to paint . I quickly explained that what I wanted to paint  and got on with it.

So, I have come to realise that every artist works differently, sees differently, thinks differently and has their own set of emotional buttons that need to be pushed to find a scene paintable or not.  The technical stuff can all be worked on but the creative and inspirational stuff is all you. I know I have to work on my values and that I shall do, but I am also happy to be secure in knowing that I know why I paint and that when it is an emotional response, I stop thinking about the "thing" I am painting and paint how it feels, the poetry of it.Then the bullshit about everything else stops and you are true to your minds eye vision and translating what you see into poetry on the canvas. 

Clifftop bulls
27 x 35 cm
oil on canvas

Please look here to see what Richard was painting. Amazeballs! He really is such fun to paint with and a very nice person to boot. He is off to the Plein Air conference in Carmel in April and I wish him all the best till next time.


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