Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The days when I feel blank

This is a blank page. I am an artist. Lots of artists have problems with blank pages. When I was a teenager I remember feeling a repulsion for blank pages and blank canvases. I would much rather transform a part of my life like my clothes or my surroundings with my art.

Why, I used to think, would anyone bother to paint on a canvas by choice? What is the painting; a framed scene, a fantasy world, movable from one room to another, one house to another, one socio-economic situation to another?

Yes, I came to realise that a painting was mainly for that purpose. It is a piece of movable property. It is the solace of the elderly for whom it is a reminder of days long gone, it is an object of status and pride for the collector or consumer who would be seen as sophisticated or cultured and it can be an investment, easily transportable or easily stolen. Think of all those canvases over thousands of years, sliced from their frames and smeared with the stench of death and corruption.

So a painting or a photograph hanging on the wall is a window into another life or another time for the viewer or owner, but what does it mean to the artist? What is a blank canvas and how does the artist approach it? One could have a vision inside ones head and try to put that down in entirety. Often that approach leads to disappointment, especially for those artists whose technical ability does not match their imagination.

It is daunting for the student of art to approach a blank ground like film, paper or canvas. The more precious the ground, the more daunting the project can be. Ok, the obvious is to plan, preliminary sketches, storyboards etc. That's what most teachers would advise. Planning has never been my strong point, but my visions do usually line up with my technical ability. So... the main problem with planning is that often, when your plans are too thorough, by the time you actually get around to the finished work your ideas are stale and you are thoroughly over it.

There is an opposite approach, slapdash, intuitive, it can lead either to disaster or a fresh new approach. Gird your loins and make a start, somewhere, somehow, place a line, a mark or some symbol with meaning to you and work from there. Just see what happens, surprise yourself, enjoy yourself, don't do your art for anyone else. Don't do it to pass your subject, don't do it to sell, don't do it in emulation of another artist who you think has status and style, just do it because it is what you want to do and what you have to do. That's the only justification for thinking of yourself as an artist, and art is just a concept after all.

See folks, I was feeling blank and I had no idea what to do with this page, but now every paragraph is bigger and bolder than the one preceding it...

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