Sometimes I catch myself wondering why I write a blog. Because the truth is that I am uneasy talking about myself. It doesn’t come naturally to me.
And that is why in this blog and my watercolour techniques sister blog (www.annswatercolourstudio.blogspot.com ) I am mostly either sharing and explaining watercolour techniques or putting out information about events and workshops.
However there is nothing I like better than a touch of philosophising about art today! Not that I want to get on my soap box or anything…!
Reading peoples’ views about the subject of “copying” has left me asking a lot of questions.
Such as…what should be our motivation as artists and aspiring artists? How do we weave our way through the complicated maze of ideas and influences these days without disappearing down hidden trap doors or inadvertently tripping over hidden hurdles?
In my reading of people’s comments on facebook and on blogs I am struck by how some artists seem to be tying themselves in knots trying to fit into a mould that isn’t comfortable for them.
Take the subject of “looseness” for instance. It appears to be compulsory at the moment to be “loose” in style and people feel they are failing if they don’t stay loose and free to an extreme and sometimes counter productive extent with their watercolours. (ie. you can’t even tell what they are trying to depict!)
I am the first to joke with my classes telling them to be “loose women” (because women they usually are) and to try not to be too perfect in their painting, but we have to remember to be true to ourselves as well.
It seems to me that you have to follow your heart in this. When looking for inspiration, perhaps it’s better not to follow a fashion such as “looseness” but to look to real things, the things we can see around us and which move and excite us. A group of people sitting at a cafe table casting shadows on the pavement, a red rose zinging out against a green background, a line of colourful washing blowing in the breeze, an intensely dark leafy shadow falling across a country road, the pattern made by a network of stalks and buds against a blue sky.
It’s not being kind to ourselves to try to impress. Much better to allow ourselves to feel what these things make us want to say and have the confidence to say it. Let us be inspired and not diminished.
(At this point I’ll mention the picture at the top of this blog. I remember painting this years ago and feeling uplifted by the process. I came out of the studio smiling.)
It seems to me that you have to keep techniques uppermost in your mind. It is the techniques which will provide the anchor to keep us fixed on the path to originality and honesty in our work. We should look to exploring techniques to help us express what we want to say, not the work of others. This is what one of my favourite contemporary artists Ann Blockley has been doing over the last year or two with amazing results. She had said that she was looking for new challenges and she used experimental watercolour textures to carry herself forward.
Another way forward if we are stuck in a rut and looking for inspiration is to set ourselves challenges.
I noticed one artist on facebook had set herself the task of painting with red. Great idea! Setting constraints such as only using two colours or using a palette knife or stick to paint with can simplify the brief, concentrate the mind and therefore lead to exciting and original art.
I’d like to quote another watercolour artist, New Zealander Nancy Titchborne to end with. She says in her introduction to her book that despite being lauded as a wonderful artist, she suffers from an “ongoing personal angst” which means that she is never entirely pleased with whatever painting she has just completed.
I love this self revelation and honesty in an artist! The final sentence in her intro. reads, “As with so many things in life it is the anticipation, planning and doing that can be more satisfying than the actual completion”
“And don’t forget” she says”be immediately suspicious of any artist who tells you how good they are”.
With that thought in mind, Happy Painting everyone!