Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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10/25/2005: "Painting without a net"

I started a new painting this weekend. Now, usually I design everything in PhotoShop first, the composition, the colors etc. and I know exactly what I'm going for way before I start to paint...but this new one I just started painting no clear idea of where I was going. Yep, just made it up as I went along. I haven't felt so excited while painting in a long time; I'm more likely to experience that moment of discovery while working on the computer these days than from working on a canvas.

I don't know if I'm making any sense, basically it just felt really good to paint and not be so structured and formal and let colors mix randomly and my brush swoop this way and that, drawing on the panel and scrubbing out and redrawing. This is the first time since taking a break from exhibiting where Iíve actually done what I'd set out to do, to experiment and just work off the cuff and see what happens without a particular exhibit in mind. I could really get used to it!

I wonder what percentage of painters today work out their compositions, colors, theme, etc. as a thumbnail before hand...and how many just pick up a brush and start going to town?

Replies: 9 Comments

on Tuesday, October 25th, RR said

I've never worked out a painting on the pc before I started. I tend to start with rough sketches, often in paint, pencil or charcoal and then just paint over the top......but then maybe that's why you are a real artist and I'm not!! :rolleyes:

on Tuesday, October 25th, Elise said

Oh wow RR, don't say that! I love your paintings!!!

I guess what got me started thinking about this was one of the artists (Layla) on that art:21 show who said that she always does a drawing before she does a painting...her drawings were rather large though and really detailed and beautiful in their own right.

With the paintings every little detail was worked out in advance and because of that, she said she had to do the drawings first to capture that something elusive and spontaneous that happens when you "don't" have every detail mapped out.

Well, she explained it better than that, I just wonder if doing so much advance planning kills that spontaneity?

on Tuesday, October 25th,">Jackie said

E: Don't you think when you translate your photoshop thumbnail to a large, painted canvas, there is still 'spontaneity'? It is good exercise to do what you are doing now, though - and you may come up with some new techniques, or style that you love by just picking up your brushes and painting.

I work in 3-D alot, and always make sketches of my ideas. Sometimes, I find a different way to interpret my sketch, or the wood won't let me work it the way I had planned. The results are never what I envisioned in my head or on paper (albeit my sketches are way rough). That's the exiting part to me - I never know how a piece is going to turn out! That's the human factor, and the spirit of the wood revealing herself.

on Tuesday, October 25th, Elise said

I suppose there is always a certain amount of spontaneity but the more familar you become with your materials, and the more control you have in general, the easier it is to translate from small to large, and therefore there aren't as many happy accidents that you'd get otherwise.

I agree it's totally different when you work three dimensionally. I miss sculpture and ceramics, there is a lot in those cases, being determined by the materials, which is always exciting.

on Tuesday, October 25th, Elaine said

This is a very exciting discussion for me. I always work spontaneously. The excitement of the moment, putting down the mark, and making it the way I feel is right is everything. I work on top and rework, but I work quickly and spontaneously and trust the more that I do this the better I will get. But, for me, the "drawing out" is what art is about. I have finally realized that it is all right to do that, and for it to be "bad" if that is how it turns out, and for not every one to like it etc. and to move!...

on Tuesday, October 25th,">mick said

Perhaps its something which comes with increasing knowledge and experience - At the outset you really need the net - but as you develop perhaps the need for life models, photoshop, outlines etc diminishes.
If it feels good and you enjoy what you are doing then why not just go for it !!!

on Tuesday, October 25th, Elise said

I agree with both of you, sort of. I'm not sure what you mean Elaine when you said that the "drawing out" is what art is about.

I mean, I draw in PhotoShop, I draw, paint, do collage, use filters, experiment etc. The finished thumbnails from PhotoShop are a different kind of medium, but just as important and exciting to me as putting paint on canvas.

There is more respect it seems, for paintings than for "digital" art, but I still look at all of the pieces as being part of the creative process, neither being more important (in my mind) than the other.

I guess in the end we might need to go through phases, learning to become comfortable with a process and perhaps being a bit methodical but then allowing yourself moments of upheaval where anything and everything that the work doesn't become staid and predictable.

on Tuesday, October 25th, Elaine said

By drawing out, I meant, for me, and I know it is different for everyone, drawing is the thing I am interested in. It is not that generally I think that one part of the process is any more important that the other. It is just that for me drawing is what I want to do.

Even when I make a sculpture, or a photo, or a collage, or work with Photoshop, It is what I see as drawing... sometimes, quick and rough and unfinished but still works as a piece of art (not always though).

That said, I can work on one piece for months, though a lot of that work is in my gut and head and when I come to the thing that I am making I work quickly. (I am still coming to understand all this for myself, none of it is written in stone and could change...for sure)

Once I get to work I always feel like it is do or die, and I like it that way. Flying by the seat of my pants without a net. I often work on two or three pieces at a time so that I don't overwork or get stuck, or make a mark before I am ready. I go to another piece instead.

Getting to work takes some nerving up. For instance, today I have blogged, searched the net, read, done the dishes, cleaned up, took the dog out...and made one little thingy that will probably be tossed because the nerve wasn't up enough. I see that as the preliminary; draw and toss or file away till something feels right then keep working on it till it feels done.

For now this approach is one that I have settled on that works for me, and makes me happy.

on Tuesday, October 25th, Elise said

I think that just starting on a new, blank canvas without a clear idea of what I want to do, is a lot more intimidating. I usually can see a finished painting in my head. Sometimes after working on it awhile I realize it isn't going to work and I have to rework and rework it (as anyone who has read this blog for awhile can attest to)...but just sitting down, squirting some paint on a pallet and starting to paint, I haven't done that in years and years.

I can see having a hard time working up the nerve to it. It's kind of like, only attempting things you know you can do well. No one wants to realize they have limitations...even though we all do...some of them are just mental.