Friday, 16 July 2010

What does your art say about you?

I tend to store up the pleasure of reading other people's blog updates until last thing at night, before I go to bed so that I can enjoy them rather than rushing through them during the day, with all the pressing things on my ToDo list at the back of my mind. That way I can take the time savour them almost as a reward for having ploughed through a whole lot of often tedious and freqently challenging computer-related tasks.

A few evenings ago, one of the blog posts I read was written by an illustrator who was in the same habit of catching up with other illustrators' blogs at the end of the day. But he wrote that it was a habit he wanted to break because seeing other artists' work that he thought was better than his own, worried him and his anxiety stopped him sleeping. I don't seem to have that difficulty and it started me wondering how other people react to seeing work that is 'better' than their own.

For example, how did Ruth Steinfatt's wonderful watercolour paintings that I posted recently affect you?

 My own response was to wonder whether I could ever learn to paint like she does, capturing the light so beautifully. It seems that, for me, the work of other artists is usually inspiring rather than depressing. And a few days later, I did 'have a go' at some watercolour flower painting! Needless to say, I didn't produce anything remotely resembling Ruth's delightfully glowing flowers, even though I watched a couple of video clips on how to paint watercolour flowers before I started.

Maybe I'm just a slow learner, or an awkward  pupil when it comes to learning something new. But I think there are a couple of other reasons why I didn't succeed. The first one is purely practical. I am much more used to using soft pastels, working from dark to light and once I got going, I completely forgot that I needed to be working the opposite way round! Maybe I could eventually train myself to work differently but I rather doubt it because I actually like working from dark to light. It seems to me to be much easier to change one's mind in the middle of the painting, working that way. And that is something I need to be able to do as the painting takes shape and tells me what it needs. I also work instinctively all over the surface of the painting - something that's almost impossible with watercolours because of the drying time! To me, that 'waiting for something to dry' just doesn't fit into the way I work! (It doesn't really bother me with my pen and wash designs because the 'creative' part goes into the drawing and the painting is just a kind of optional extra.)

The second reason is more speculative. The teacher of the Art and Design Class I gained so much from in Norwich was enthusiastic and knowledgeable about The Bauhaus and would often base the 'instruction' part of our lessons on its teachings. One day, when we had all done the same exercise - playing with circles, triangles and squares, as far as I remember - she commented on how different our finished exercises were from one another. And she attributed this to the differences in our physical appearances! She used one of her Bauhaus books to show us a drawing by a student who had wispy, flyaway blonde hair that tended to curl. Her drawings were similarly 'wispy', carried out with light pressure and with plenty of 'curls'. On the other hand an artist with much stronger, darker features had drawn the same object in thick, heavy black lines!

I suspect that this also applies to perhaps an even greater extent to the personality differences between artists. For instance, I'm sure I'd be right in assuming that to paint watercolours like Ruth's would take a degree of patience and peacefulness, something I'm not known for! My pastel painting is very physically energetic work and if isn't virtually finished in 45 mins, I lose interest!

So my attempt to paint like another artist was a failure but not one that depressed me in any way. I learnt from it, which is always important and I was actually quite happy with what did emerge from the attempt.


My nasturtiums entirely lack that delicate, translucent quality of the best watercolour paintings but I feel that they are definitely 'me' - and I think they make a nice bold statement on a T-shirt!

Nasturtium Ladies T-shirt shirt
Nasturtium Ladies T-shirt by helikettle
Many t-shirt designs available at zazzle

Maybe this is telling me that, hidden beneath my tentative musings, is a person of 'bold statements' trying to get out!

What does your art say about YOU?


Louise said...

Bauhaus is the shop where I got my manure from so I don't know if its linked?!
I know what you mean about haing to have things finished within 45 mins, must have inherited that trait from you!Can you remember I had to make a skirt at school and it took all year, that's why I'm always so hesitant to get the sewing machine out!

Jean said...

I feel you are much more mature that the guy who has problems with someone who "he" feels is better.
Honesty...I don't feel I am an "artist". I am just an amateur photographer who likes to photograph birds. When I see someone's pictures that are better than mine and there are many...I appreciate their talent and try to learn from them.
I love the Nasturtiums. They do look nice and bold against the white!

JudyAdamsonArtandDesign said...

Yes, Louise, I'm afraid you probably have inherited it from me!

Jean, thank you for your comments. Maybe the other guy was quite young and by the time he reaches 'grandparent' status, like us, he might feel more secure about his work. Let's hope so! I think your photos are great and I'd very much like to see some of those you think are better!