Thursday, 7 July 2011

Painting Fast and Furious!

'When I work, I work very fast, but preparing to work can take any length of time.' Cy Twombly

To be honest, looking at Cy Twombly’s work , it’s easier to believe the first part of that sentence than the second!

But in a way, I think I have some inkling of what he means. I normally work very fast – a pastel painting takes the length of a CD, usually about 45 minutes. And if it takes longer, I’ve often gone too far and ruined it. But, although it’s difficult to put into words what I mean by ‘preparing to work’, I sense that the preparation has been going on for quite a long time.

It seems to suit me to paint ‘fast and furious’, without stopping to think what I’m doing, whereas there are other artists who are more comfortable working slowly, meticulously and with a degree of patience that I can only aspire to! The son of one of our local newsagents who sells my greeting cards, showed me the beginnings of a pastel painting of a lily that he’s working on. He has nearly completed one little patch of a petal – and then he’s put it away to continue another time. I simply couldn’t work that way – I’d ‘lose my thread’ – but it obviously suits him.

I’d like to think that my approach is more like Quentin Blake’s –  Quentin in Action  - notice how he doesn’t wait for the first colour to dry completely before applying the stripes and how he doesn’t keep carefully  within the ink lines. A much ‘looser’ approach.

These Iceland Poppies probably took me all of 15 minutes but have become very popular as a Greeting Card Design.

But recently I’ve been trying to learn to paint more carefully and slowly and, after three weeks of nearly tearing my hair out in despair at my efforts, I do think I’ve ‘improved’ a bit. I can’t say that I’ve particularly enjoyed working this way but I do feel that if we are to grow as artists, we need to challenge ourselves to step outside our comfort zone once in a while.

What was a huge challenge for me, probably comes naturally to many artists. They have no problem painting neatly and carefully, waiting patiently for the paint to dry thoroughly before applying the next stage. Painting ‘fast and furious’ like I normally do, probably wouldn’t come as easily.

But I think it could be a very worthwhile exercise for someone who doesn’t normally paint that way, especially if they happen to be in a creative slump and need to find their way out of it.

I think it’s fascinating to see what happens on the ’20 Minute Challenge’ blog!

If you’re the kind of painter who prefers to take your time, you may wonder what can possibly be the point of rushing your work, risking making errors and probably not having time to finish. I believe there are at least two important advantages of working to a tight timetable - not necessarily 20 minutes.

1. Many a good painting is spoilt by too much detail! Often a more simplified approach better captures the essence of the subject.

2. Painting ‘fast and furious’ doesn’t allow you to think – and you all know by now how I feel about thinking about your art! Just as most people, in the heat of the moment of an emergency, will do daring deeds that they wouldn’t have thought they were capable of if they’d thought about it, if you don’t give yourself time to think about your painting, you will probably surprise yourself! When there’s no time to stop and reflect, your intuitive side can take over and you may well produce some of your best work.

At the very least, it will be interesting and may be enough to set you off on a new course or jog you out of any ‘staleness’.

So why don’t you try it. Follow the instructions on the Twenty Minute Challenge blog but you don’t necessarily have to use paints – something as direct and simple to use as children’s crayons could lead to unexpected results. Paint like a child, with complete abandon and the minimum of ‘thinking’!

Nobody need see what you’ve done – it’s all for fun! But if, on the other hand, you would like to email me your work, I would be happy to post it on my blog.

One of my 45 minute pastel paintings. There was a builder working in my house when I painted these geraniums and he always came up to my attic studio to see what I'd done before he left. Imagine my nervousness when he stretched out his none too clean hand as if he were going to touch the flowers because he couldn't believe they weren't 'real'!



Uhooi said...

These paintings are very beautiful and creative,,

art2cee2 said...

I think it doesn't really matter how long it takes to create a painting as long as one is satisfied with the end result. Your paintings are as beautiful as those taking ten times as long to paint. As for me, I work fast... and slow. It all depends upon what the subject is. If the subject is something I am not familiar with then it takes a bit longer, if it is something I have painted dozens of times (like horses) the time is much quicker. The size also makes a difference. A small ACEO I can paint in one or two hours but the same painting in a larger size can take one or two days. Thanks again for a wonderful thought provoking post! :-)

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you Uhooi - I'm glad you like them.

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Crystal - thank you for your comment. I totally agree that it doesn't matter at all whether one paints fast or slowly. I think it has a lot to do with personality.

But I do think it's worthwhile, sometimes, to break out of one's normal habit and try something different, particularly if you're suffering from 'creative block'!

Betsy Grant said...

This is a very interesting and helpful post. Sometimes the longest "work" is preparing to work - the inner preparation. ie - removing inner obstacles to being creative - old thoughts and feelings or ideas that no longer work.

Judy Adamson said...

I agree, Betsy.

And often I sense, with hidsight, that there has been a kind of germination process going on at a subconscious level for a long time!

Carol said...

This is a glorious painting. Can't believe you did it in 45 minutes! One of your best.

I really loved your blog. Your writing is so clear and really hits home.

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you, Carol!

I find I ruin paintings if I take too long. They have to be finished in one session and I'm usually quite exhausted by the end of it. Though, once, I decided to have a 'painting day' on a Thursday and when that 'day' finished, late on the following Monday, I'd done 17 paintings!

Designs by Shell said...

It's interesting how each artist differs in their preparation and mode or style of painting! You do beautiful work if it's fast & furious! Nice post!

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you, Shelley :)