Those of you that have followed my blog for a while will have noted (perhaps with an eye roll 🙂 ) that I am very often plagued by doubts and fears about my art. It is not a depressing state – simply a part of the fruitful dark side of life. I share this personal stuff in the hope that it would resonate with some other artists out there.
Over the past weeks, I often pondered the two questions “what should I paint?” and “how should I paint?” For some people this would probably be a short deliberation. I wrote about it before in this post.
But for me, this time around, it went back all the way to the “what do you want from life?” question, which is just a hop-skip-and-jump away from the big one: “Who am I?” This sort of progression of questioning is just the way I am – I expect for some of you reading this it may be similar?
I often look at some of the hyper creative and/or skillful painters interviewed on the Painting Perceptions website. These rock stars of the art world generally spend several years drawing from life, studying color etc. before becoming a certified “Master in Fine Art”. The best of them take that skill set and hone it into something that can express their unique voice in new ways – and some of those are just mindbogglingly impressive.
Although in my earlier years as a painter I put in many hours of drawing from life (my poor wife!) and still have notebooks from more than 20 years ago in which I painted pots and pans or systematically copied all of Bridgman’s beautiful drawings.
Despite having some skills in the ‘drawing from life’ department, I am often perplexed about where this leaves me, as someone drawn more to landscapes in the middle and far distance, where quality of light and mood predominate, and focus and detailed drawing is less important.
I am interested in how can this type of composition be perpetually developed into something deeper – more unique, more inquiring? Or is there perhaps a limit to what can be done with this style of landscape:
Please don’t suggest practical answers to the above question! these are questions I long to solve myself! 🙂 There is lots more that can be said about this topic, and…
I think the debate deals with having something meaningful to say versus saying something not necessarily meaningful in a very skillful way. Both have their merits – I think am inclined toward the first – but in visual arts the second approach may just have more depth to be explored over a lifetime?
[If you are interested in this issue, I strongly recommend you study the interview with Harold Reddicliffe on Painting Perceptions].
But in the meantime, as I try to develop my skills and experience as an artist, I will stick to the advice of the painter Thomas Aquinas Daly, which I also quoted in my earlier post referred to above:
…my deep emotional involvement in my subject matter is the essential ingredient that carries my work. For years I floundered in a quandary over what to paint, until I realized the most rudimentary fact: that I should paint what moves me, and if handled with some degree of facility, it should in turn move others. The mistake I feel a great many artists make is in labouring to render material that is totally devoid of feeling…
If a subject matter doesn’t incite my emotions and possess my full sensory attention, it simply doesn’t get painted…
By selecting my subject matter with sentiment, I feel I incorporate a spiritual dimension that is the essence and true strength of any vital art form.
(out of print)
I am sure some artists may disagree with this sentiment, but it just happens to resonate with me. One thing I know for sure – the artist who does not seriously consider these sorts of questions and solves them at a deep internal level will most likely eternally dwell in the forecourt of the arts and craft markets (I realize this is super OK for many artists!)
But for those of us interested in these matters, we have to consider this question deeply over many years. It is probably a way in which there is no ecstasy:
You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.
T.S. Eliot – excerpt from Four Quartets
Thanks for visiting my blog. Apologies for the long post! If you are interested to see more of my paintings, please visit my (slowly) growing website: Fritz Jooste Fine Art.