Monday, September 27, 2010


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!


Carol Blackburn said...

Thanks for the information, I will certainly check it out. One of my favorite things to do is watch movies about artist's lives. I glean so much information from them. The last one I enjoyed was "Seraphine", if you get a chance I highly reccommend it for both it's art and entertainment. Enjoy your day.

Joan Sandford-Cook said...

I suppose I did something similar earlier this year when I printed my book TEN YEARS IN THE LIFE OF A PAINTER pulling together some 40 images of works since I have lived in East Anglia. They are mostly floral or church and landscape/architecture. The first two definitely because I wanted to and the landscape and architecture because they were commissions in most cases. If I tackled the idea you propose I'd have to go back over 40 years of work since I started painting in my 30's!!!!!!! I think you'd have to call that note book a tome! Great ideas though. Thanks for sharing.

RHCarpenter said...

Carol, I love watching movies about artist's lives, too. The last one I saw that left a big impression was the life of Modigliani (played by Andy Garcia). I guess we do enjoy the struggling, suffering artist stories (as long as it's not our story!). I'll check out Seraphine. I love reading about artist's lives, too, especially women who have paved the way.

Joan, WOW! You've been painting for 40 years - how wonderful is that?? You're right, you've done your own with your Ten Years book. Wasn't it eye-opening and a challenge, too, and a pleasure to see good work you had done?

G.L. Everest Paintings said...

I didn't realize it, but I've sort of done the visual reflection idea for some time now. Even though I have very high goals for my art, at my age I have little realistic expectation of meeting them. Nevertheless, I've always kept digital photos of my paintings and they're always just a click away on our computer. I frequently take the trip down memory lane and sometimes go back to "old" subject matter, re-inspired by a painting.
Thanks for sharing.

Lisa Walsh said...

Wonderful idea, and thanks for the information. It definitely seems like an "out of the usual box" art book, and well worth a look!

RHCarpenter said...

Gary, I have tons of photos of paintings on the computer, too, but there was something about printing them out and seeing them like that - very powerful and made me feel like I do have a good artist in me that comes out sometimes :) Yes, at my age, I know I'm not ever going to be the next new thing on the block or "one to watch" but I don't seem to be able to stop! ha ha It does please me to hear of artists working up into their 70's, 80's and 90's - gives me hope!

Lisa, I'm getting lots of gems out of it. Some of it seems geared to sculpture/3D installations but it's all art-worthy. I read a bit, think about it, do some of the things, and read more.