I am very privileged to be able to write a monthly column for the online art magazine, 15 Bytes (www.15bytes.com). I focus on the creative and technical processes used by other artists to produce their unique works of art. This inside glimpse at how an artist thinks, how they arrive a new ideas for combining media or using tools in a different way, is incredibly inspiring as well as educational.
For example, my current article in the October edition is on Shalee Cooper, a photographer whose work looks a lot like a pastel painting. I'm a painter, not a photographer, but even so, I could take away some lessons from her example. While usually a black and white documentary photographer of urban scenes, she wondered what would happen if she documented colors, rather than recognizable objects. She looked around her urban environment, even her apartment, and saw colors and shapes juxtaposed. She photographed them but blurred the subjects beyond recognition. What results is a rich color field of non-objective shapes.
My takeaway (as a painter) is this: What if I were to take tiny segments of my own photographs and blow them up so that they are only shapes, values, and textures? Would this be a good beginning for an abstract painting? What if I were to use that combination of colors, shapes, and textures as an underpainting for a more objective piece. That's the way I often begin a painting, but starting the with abstract shapes from a photograph might give my underpainting more structure. Or, what if I were to take that tiny segment of my photograph and enlarge it, make a laser copy and transfer it to a prepared painting surface, creating a layer of photo collage to build upon with paint?
Thanks to Shalee's wonderful work and her creative example of asking "what if..." questions, I can hardly wait to experiment.
Be sure to check out 15 Bytes for the current and past editions. They're filled with inspiration!
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Every once in a while I get discouraged and feel like I'm a fraud - the only artist in the world who doesn't really have anything significant to say through my work. I get this notion in my head that the ideal process order is concept-prepration-paint-frame it. In other words, why even start a work of art if you don't have something to say?
Thankfully, these moments of self-doubt are infrequent and fleeting because my creative process usually starts with play, whether or not I have a concept in mind. "Play and the concept will come," I tell myself. Often it does. Sometimes it doesn't, and that's when those nagging doubts return.
Tonight I went to a presentation by artist Angela Ellsworth whose work is part of an exhibit opening tomorrow at the Salt Lake Art Center. As Ellsworth showed images and talked about her work, which is part performance, part drawing, part sculptural, I got the impression that her process, too, often begins with play or action (walking, dancing, etc.) and the concept, which might have been a tiny seed at the beginning, grows and grows through doing, as much as thinking.
One of the themes I'm playing with at the moment is "connections" - all the many ways we plug in to the world around us and how those ways are changing. I'm still not sure where this idea will take me, but that's OK. If I sit around and do nothing but think about it, it will drive me crazy. But if I go to my studio and play with paint, the theme will develop and grow in ways I can't yet imagine.
Here's a painting that expresses the intimate kind of connection we have with friends.
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