Thursday, February 10, 2011

Nan and I are conversing on art and talking about ourselves as artists. The struggle always seems to be where one fits in with her art. People want to put everything in categories, but what if what you do doesn’t follow the normal parameters of any one category or it doesn’t fall into where others think your work should be? Isn’t part of being an artist following your own inner dictates or listening to that muse?
Nan describes herself as a Photo Realist because her goal is to create a painting that is mathematically precise to the photograph. For years, others have told her that working from a photograph is, in a way, just making a copy of the photo, but for Nan, her entire process to do that painting is, in itself, art. She spent years developing her technique and her paintings are beautiful and life-like. The detail that she puts into every painting is phenomenal and she’ll spend hours with tiny brushes getting every stroke precise.
I think about the beliefs we develop and how, no matter what some people say to us, we still have to do our work in our own way and it often changes and develops new streams.
A few years ago, I took a couple of classes in charcoal landscape drawing. The idea I was taught was to “create the illusion of detail” and I love that concept and took to this art form as if I’d been doing it for years. However, as I develop my own technique, I am also making self discoveries as I explore the works’ processes.
At the end of last year, I got the idea of adding a “hint of color” to give the drawings a boost and with the next two drawings, I tried it out and liked it. With these drawings still not finished, though, I am questioning my processes. I actually like the one least finished better than the one that is just about done.
What does this mean? “Creating the illusion of detail” was what I was taught, but am I trying to put in too much detail? Let me think about this further…
First I recognize that there is always a point where I absolutely hate my drawing. I am tempted to give up and I walk away. Days, sometimes weeks, later, I come back to it. Then I will reach the point where I like it, but it isn’t finished so I keep working and then I don’t like it so much again. I finally reach a point where it is finished and I like it okay. Just okay?
Now I come to the conclusion that I liked it better before I put in more detail. So what does this mean? The word “minimalistic” comes to mind. Would I do better if I fell into that category? I try to think exactly what that means in the art world and I believe that the drawings would not quite be minimalist, that I’d still have more detail than would be described in those terms. Still, if what I am trying to accomplish is the “illusion of detail,” then I need to re-group and stop trying to put in too much detail.
When I stand back from the drawing, less is better. Perhaps my worry is that if people get close to the picture, they will see that detail is blurry. It is that fuzziness that lends the aura of mystical to the drawing. (It also makes it hard to photograph.) The picture looks “cleaner” from a distance and I was once told that pictures are not supposed to be viewed up close. Hmmm…
I have a total of 5 drawings in various stages on the easel boards, two on one board and three on the other. I like working on more than one at a time. When I start getting a frustrated with one, I can work on the others. One of them has quite a bit of detail in it (that one almost finished.) With my new concept, I am eager to get back to work. When these are finished, I will have a better understanding of who I am as a charcoal landscape artist. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes.

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