I’ve just come home from a glorious weekend in Dartmoor; blue skies, fresh grass, the English countryside at its best. Great for an afternoon relaxing with a book, but not so good for me looking for new inspiration for paintings.
It can feel wonderfully restorative being in such beautiful natural surroundings but a pictorial representation would appear too perfect. Like the sickly image on the box of Devon fudge or photographs of sunsets that look as though they are taken with a filter, such images leave me with sense of smug perfection. The greens appear too clean, the sky too blue, the shapes and contours so round and lush. I’m more inspired by bleak landscapes, Autumn skies, the sharp bracken of winter twigs…
So I’m stuck with a conundrum:
How do I take what is around me and turn it into a new source of inspiration?
This is an eternal struggle of the artist. We all look at the same world but through our own eyes. It is the filtering process of each artist that takes what we all see and reinterprets it on a unique and personal way. In a class all drawing the same still life, you will still end up with as many different versions as there are students. So we all need to find a way to work out our own interpretation.
I’ve long appreciated the work of Devon artist Charlie O’Sullivan . She finds her way through landscape using a narrative often using stories or conversations as starting points. However the paintings are still about our place in the world and her figures are fairly set within their landscape surrounds.
So with a summer ahead of me, I have a new challenge; to use what I have available to create what I want. (Without knowing what I want at the beginning of the process!)
My art training always taught me to draw from life. Draw what you see not what you think you can see is the first lesson at art school. And it serves you well – don’t make assumptions about what is in front of you. Learning to trust your eyes and listen to the commands they give you means that sometimes you have to over-power your literal brain.
So I will have to over-power the part of my brain that tells me that summer countryside is boring! I will have to find something that intrigues me enough to make a drawing about it.
At this stage I have no idea what it will be;
- the contrast between sun and shadow
- simply a collection of colours (I quite like the idea of collecting colours…)
- resolving everything to black and white marks as a distinct retaliation to the colours all around
It’s so easy to get distracted while you are drawing and put in far more information than you need. Often it can be beneficial to draw the same thing twice: once to gather your information and then again to focus on what you really want to distill from the subject. Last week I wrote a post about Matisse who was the master of keeping things simplified so as I draw I try keep one thing in mind:
What inspired me to do this drawing?