Sunday, August 11, 2013

Process, Efficiency and Voice

If you've ever watched someone create a painting, it was probably one of three situations; a demonstration or performance; a workshop; or in studio/on location.

Order demands process, but process does not demand order.

When an artist demonstrates or teaches, they are generally sharing their process with others and so there is a need to be orderly. Order enhances understanding, is efficient, and will reduce anxiety for the observers, while increasing their satisfaction.

On the other hand, when working alone in the studio or painting from life without the need to share information, I think there is a tendency for an artist to be less orderly. This is because process can involve many more adjustments and exploration than what is typically seen in a teaching environment.

This leads me to conclude that the artists' process should not always be orderly. Working with less order leaves room to incorporate the idea of chance and improvisation into their art. Much like the field of invention, finding the right balance can bring great discovery.

Process and The Poetry of Pastel.

When I paint, except for doing a commission, I rarely begin with a pre-conceived idea of what I will end up with. Working this way, I have the opportunity to learn the most. Although it increases the chances of failure, the journey is very exciting.

Edge of the Dome, 18 x 24, pastel on
archival paper, ©2012 Tom Weinkle
To the left is a pastel I did that incorporates a lot of chance and improvisation. This scene was inspired by a swamp walk in the Big Cypress Preserve, but the painting is more of an impression of a place than reality. The final result is very different than what I started because I followed the idea of process instead of an orderly set of steps that would simply render the reality.

My process includes a lot of experimenting with texture, liquifying pastels, as well as using tools to manipulate the pigments once they are on the surface. I'm guided by the what I see and react to that in the moment. When I work this way, I am testing my assumptions and the limits of the materials.

A viewer sees the finished piece and may never know what happened along the way or care. Ideally, they connect with the result and not the work you went through to create it.

Efficiency and Expectation.

For some artists, efficiency of process is important. It is a proven way to maximize their output, consistency and quality. Often the reasoning is based on satisfying a gallery, collectors, or an upcoming exhibition. But there is also another side to efficiency. The efficiency of learning. I believe that taking chances, pushing limits, and testing rules can expedite understanding.

Do what works for you.

It's worth stating here that learning from experts is invaluable. If you develop a voice that is based on the work of others, your work will likely look like someone else's. That can be a worthy goal, as an example, to paint like Titian, or Michelangelo, or DaVinci, or Sargent. Or perhaps modern masters like Motherwell, Klee, and Pollock.

If you seek to develop your own voice, then I encourage you to lead with process, and follow with order. Find the balance that works for you. You can incorporate learning and experimenting, without giving up your voice. It's a very exciting experience and your work will be judged on its own merits.