Who’s really in charge here?

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This week in the studio I began with some fixed intentions…  But it didn’t go quite as planned…

I was working on a commissioned painting that will be a birthday gift. It’s making me pretty nervous as it is hard to predict which direction a painting will take and exactly where it will end up. There is a degree of trusting in the process that is essential. Thankfully the client is quite relaxed but we had agreed I would do some sketches for discussion.

The painting will incorporate personal elements; dates, small signs and hints of images that are meaningful to that person. Essentially a landscape it will also have clues hidden within it like a treasure hunt. Intriguing idea right?

The problem is I’m struggling to bring it all together. This is a familiar scenario for anyone who makes art. You begin with an idea, but as you work, the picture takes over.

Then there is the struggle between the idea I preconceived… and the picture that fights for its own life. Georg Baselitz

I started working on ways to incorporate text: I knew I would use collage but I also wanted to develop some other ways of building numbers and graphic marks into the piece and I discovered a pretty good technique:

Using water soluable colour pencil I drew a number shape on the board which then smudged in different directions as I coated it with gesso and modge podge. The pencil lines underneath remained sharp, giving a nice sense of movement and contrast between a defined shape and some texture.

The layer also seemed to ‘set’ the coloured number so that I could work over it with watercolour and acrylic without messing it up further. Good, I can use this!

But what started out as a test piece developed a life of its own as I began to add colour and what I ended up with was this landscape. The colours are much brighter than those I’m usually drawn to.

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So does it matter that what happened wasn’t what I intended?

For a while I thought it did. I was cross with myself that I couldn’t be in control of my own process.  I’m the artist right? I should know what I’m doing! Instead I had gone off-piste without warning and ended up in a different place.

But then I re-considered…

This whole art thing, creation and what not, is about exploring. It’s not always easy, it doesn’t always work or go where you intended. And actually that’s why people buy art. They enjoy looking it, but they don’t want to have to go through the time consuming process of creating it themselves. This is my job – do what others can’t do or don’t want to do. Make it easy for them to benefit from my skills. If they appreciate the end result I can give it to them.

So for my client: she wishes to have something unique, special, that will prompt her memories and show her story. But she needs some of my magic to make it happen.

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