Talking with your Art


Distant Shores, 6 x 6″ monoprint

“All painting is an accident. But it’s also not an accident, because one must select what part of the accident one chooses to preserve.”

– Francis Bacon

The process of painting is a wonderful play between unexpected results and calculated decisions. Nothing is more pleasing to the artist than to be surprised by what you’ve done. I’m watching an instructional DVD on abstract painting at the moment and I can really relate to the instructors occasional gasps of pleasure at the effect of some brushstroke. Often the results are what we intended, but while those moments can be satisfying, I think more delight is to be had with the unintentional.

But it’s not all accident. As Bacon says, there is also some serious calculation going on as to what  should remain and what should be discarded, covered up, redone. This process of editing is much more analytical but no less important to the success of the piece. Without this discrimination, the work ends up as a mish-mash of interesting little happenings that have little relationship to the whole. This is where you might have to reflect on what your overall purpose in the painting is, to get a little more intentional about it. While it’s fine to let the process itself dictate your path, the dialogue you have with the painting must be a two-way communication. At some point, it’s important to tell the piece what’s on your mind. The final word on the matter is when you declare the piece finished.

Then you are ready to begin a new conversation with a new piece – I could talk like this forever…

17 responses to “Talking with your Art

  1. Interesting citation (and problem)…I always liked Bacon, even if I don<t like much the phsycological ? substance of his work… He is, no doubt, an extremely talented painter…

    and, of course, he<s right about accident and non-accident in a painting. Even if, bob, speaking only for myself, the intentional part, the “calculating”, intelectual part is, for me, a lot more instinctual and subconscient than conscient and, let,s say, mathematical… It,s still something very raw and instinctive… I,m not sure I have explained it well…

    But it,s true what you say, the painting is “communicating” with you, it tells you what it needs to be done, if you look (and “listen” ? ) attentively…

  2. Ah yes. The fun of the beginning, the work of the resolution, and the decision it’s finished. Even at that, if I walk by a piece with a pencil in hand, I may add a mark many months after an “initial completion.” Until a piece has left for its place out there in the world, it may be subject to additions. I so appreciate the way “you can talk like this forever.” I can read like this for along time……

  3. Danu

    Yes, the calculating part cannot (unfortunately) be reduced to some formula, but rather feels more instinctive. Figuring out, for example, if there is balance in a piece is a matter of feel but it is a specific analytical question you may ask yourself at some point. But the answer does seem more like whether it feels balanced…


    I like your distillation – “fun beginning, work of resolution and the finishing decision”. So many stages each piece goes through!



  4. Dear artist,

    Thanks a lof for your affection words.
    I use to show all my affection and admiration for your work.
    A great and afective hug.

    José Brito

  5. Powerful piece, Bob, great contrasts everywhere!
    And I love the quote!
    I can’t really comment here, as my way of painting is really totally lacking of (conscious) plan and thoughts. Which does not mean that they are accidents… I guess there is a kind of unconscious program running in my head while I paint, one could call it intuition. I think due to the fact that i started very young to do a lot of maths, all thee analysing and editing processes are a reflex in my brain… I have noticed that in all fields of life, I can’t do or witness anything without automatically analysing it, taking it into pieces or naked structures…
    I said it before, I don’t consider myself as a painter, and I kind of feel uncomfortable every time when i emit an opinion about your great themes…

  6. Jose



    Your opinions are always welcome! I think sometimes processes that are more natural to us we don’t even realize we’re doing, while for others that same process must become more conscious – yet the same thing may be happening on both people! And I suspect you are the only one you know who does not consider you to be a painter! Maybe you should just go along with the rest of us about that…

  7. You have the most interesting quotes from artists! I guess I never realized that so many of them were… able to be articulate. But, you must have an amazing library.

    Funny, that your post is also about the communication loop… funny that there seem to be themes that crop up before anyone’s had a chance to compare notes across the blogosphere. Synchronicity or some such?

  8. Thanks Bob, but it is really not important for me if I am a painter or not… I suppose i will go on painting, this is (perhaps) important.
    My concern is only about my own commenting… I kind of get bored by my own words as I seem not to have inside the artistic passion you, Susan and everybody else here has.
    This is waht nakes feel uncomfortable and not at the right place…

  9. Edgar

    I’ve also noticed on occasion this common theme syndrome. I suspect part of it is that there is a common set of experiences and processes artists go through that float to the surface. Also, I do love to read other art blogs (such as yours) to stimulate my own thinking and that creates some links.


    For some, part of the artistic passion maybe arises verbally. There is tremendous passion in your paintings and I think that says it all!

  10. Hi,

    Would it be possible for you to recommend some DVD’s on abstract painting. I am new, started painting in Jan. 2009 and working with acrylic’s. Thank you for this great blog.

  11. Bill

    A good resource for instructional dvds on painting is Two that are about abstract painting with acrylics that I have purchased are by Virginia Cobb and Mary Todd Beam.

    There are also some interesting books on the topic – I would search on amazon for “abstract painting” and follow your nose. A couple of them are “Abstract Painting: Ideas, Projects and Techniques” by Rolina van Vliet and “Abstract Painting: Concepts and Techniques” by Vicky Perry. My experience is that it is much harder to “teach” abstract or non-objective painting so these resources are only useful in a general sense.

    Good luck – keep painting!

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