Emerging, 6 x 6″ ink, newsprint
“I found that if I planned a picture beforehand, it never surprised me, and surprises are my pleasure in painting.”
– Ives Tanguy
“Without planning, your painting will probably be indecisive and fragmented, and you’ll try to say too much in one picture.”
– Ron Ranson
So which camp do you fall into?
I must admit that I do not plan a painting ahead of time. I don’t do small sketches, value studies, etc. I have occasionally in the past, particularly when I was doing more representational work. I’m a little too impatient to put too much time in up front on a new piece.
These days I find that I like to start by putting some random expressive shapes, textures and colors on the blank paper and and then constantly ask myself, “what does this need next?”. By intuitively trying to determine what is not working, what is missing, what should be added or taken away, the painting itself communicates its needs to me. This dialogue works because there is a need in me to resolve unresolved qualities of the image. Something isn’t right, it’s unbalanced, lacking harmony, discordant. It’s like a musical phrase needing resolution – the notes move in a direction in which the tension mounts until the composer, with a deft touch, adds just those notes needed to restore order to things.
Of course, some art, both visual and musical, intentionally creates and maintains the tension of unresolved parts. It’s a little uncomfortable to see or listen to this art. The artist may be after this discomfort. Perfect harmony or resolution is not something that I’m really after in a piece. Figuring out just the right amount of resolution or lack thereof to leave in is one of the challenges in finishing a work. My favorite pieces fall short of perfect harmony but each stroke I’ve added has made something whole within the piece. There is, I hope, some method to the madness. Just not enough, I also hope, to get rid of all the madness!