Thursday, August 16, 2012

Discussing the Muse and other ways to invent art

People often ask me about the creative process, about my work, plein-air sketches and studio paintings. There are many answers to that question. Almost as many as there are works since they all come about somehow through a different mental process.

Few people have seen my sketches. Ink or pencil and watercolor sketches that contribute a great deal to my inspiration. Travelling in Provence, Italy, England or in the state of Maine, I spend a lot of time sketching. I am married to an understanding woman who can keep busy with other things while I sit and draw. Sketching is learning. Learning about places and people. It helps one feel at home anywhere. So much for travel anxiety! 
Sketching brings fresh ideas to the studio inventions I design on canvas in my studio. I use the word inventions because the studio work comes from the mind as the sketches come from observation. I never copy a sketch in acrylics. But I do go back to the sketchbooks and leaf through past experiences. Sketches tell me a lot more to work from than would a photo because of the things that happen around me when I'm sketching that come to mind leafing the sketchbook. Most of my paintings would never happen without the field research.
As an example, today, I created a painting over another I had erased with gesso yesterday, after hours of frustration and rage. And what came to my brush was a bunch of peonies I saw in St-Rémy-de-Provence flower market last spring. Peonies almost as wonderful to look at as the young woman who sold them.
Paintings come from the heart. Sketches come from the subject the artist observes in bright sunlight somewhere overlooking the Mediteranean or sitting in a small provençal shaded garden. Every painting, as I have said before, tells much more about the artist that it does about the subject depicted. The concept comes in mysterious ways. So mysterious that it gave birth to the notion of Muse. A fleeting woman who wispers the idea to the artist and disappears. Forever unknow, untouched as light sweeping the landscape for a moment on a cloudy day. 
That mysterious whisper is the essence. Maybe you have to be an artist to grasp that. And maybe not.