Over the weekend, I began reading Wendy Richmond's book, Art Without Compromise*
I won this book from a give-away on one of my well-visited blogs by Katharine Cartwright. Kathy calls her blog A Blog Dedicated to the Advancement of Critical Thinking in Art. And it is. She reviews various books, facilitates discussions on everything from being self-motivated as an artist working alone, to the state of the art world and awards. Well worth sitting back with a good cup or glass of something tasty and taking it in slowly - then thinking about it and joining in the discussions.
Wendy talks about how to get your work where you want it to go with the minimum of stress, not by saying things like:
Give up your fear. Don't be influenced by others. Find your own voice. You can't control the uncontrollable aspect of art-making.
She gives you actual concrete guides. Like using a "Visual Reflection Notebook" to look at where your work has been and where it's going over the last few years (or decades, if you've been painting that long). Wendy's Visual Reflection Notebook is an assignment she gives her classes: Print out all the paintings/sketches/doodles you've done - make them all small (I did mine wallet-sized) - paste them into a notebook in random or chronological order - then look at them to see themes. Put in the good and the bad paintings (you learn from the bad ones!), and put in any paintings or words of wisdom from artists who inspire you.
Your Visual Reflection Notebook should tell you what themes have come up and disappeared in the past, what subjects you like to paint/draw, what things you want to achieve, what direction you're going. It's about you. It doesn't have to be shown to anyone else. In fact, keep it to yourself until you see a cohesive work come together. No cohesive work but scattershot with techniques and palettes and foundations? Why? Too many workshops? Too much influence of others? Too few years of painting so far?
Perhaps like Georgia O'Keeffe did, take the printouts and mark which ones were done for others, which ones were done under the influence of a teacher/mentor, and which ones were done for you. The ones done for you...what is there about them that makes them your own? Is it some remark you are trying to make about your life, your world? Or is it as simple as a palette of colors that pulls you in and makes you happy? (Happiness is allowed in art!).
This is a very powerful thing that Ms. Richmond has given us in the Visual Reflection Notebook. Just think of all those little paintings and drawings laid out, ready to be glued into a notebook, ready to be seen and pondered by you, the creator. Use your notebook to jot down ideas that come to you from seeing these works. What inspired you then, what inspires you now - and why?
When viewing the work as a whole like this, you may find that you're not too bad at all and have some good paintings under your belt. Perhaps you'll find there is no real cohesion to the work - no central theme or direction (yet). Perhaps you'll discover something very interesting and unknown about your work. What fun!!! Afterall, what's more fun than learning more about yourself and having good tools to use to help you learn?
Now go on over and check out Kathy's latest book review and discussion...see you there!