As an artist this is a question I get asked, so it was time I considered an answer.
Usually I get an idea, play with some materials, hope for the best and then sometimes it works. Well that is what I thought, but when I read around the subject a bit more, there are quite a few stages to consider:
- Solve a problem – how do I depict this landscape? – what do I want to show? I set my own brief, which I may or may not stick to. It usually begins with a vague idea or vision.
- Gather the information that I need – sketches, photographs, information, resources, and media. I often deconstruct landscapes at this point; look for the essence of what has attracted me – is it the lines, the forms, the light or maybe the colour? I will reconstruct it again later.
- Start making decisions – what tools to use, what colours would work best, how do I translate my vague idea into an image? What new material can I experiment with today?
- If the decisions are going well, then it becomes a ‘free flow’ state or ‘in the zone’, where I relax and enjoy the solitude of the work and let the ideas and reflections work almost subconsciously. If it is going well it is usually quite an immersion and I can forget everything else and time seems to fly.
- Then comes the testing and evaluating stage, where I have to step back and examine what I have done. Sometimes I will hang the piece and leave it to consider, maybe take a photo or turn it upside down, as a new way of looking at it. It is always possible that I might abandon it all together at this point, or start over with a new idea, or even just leave it to be re-used or re-worked again later. I try not to think of this as a failure, because I can undermine myself for future work. If successful, it might go on to become a series of works and stimulate other ideas….
- Then there is the ‘is it finished’ stage. I usually hang the work outside my studio to allow time to ponder if anything needs to be changed or if I am happy with it.
- But what is the end point? – is it when I decide it is finished, or when it goes into my shop – or even is it finished once it is sold and I cannot touch it again.
So sometimes the method or process to make art is very precise and each step must be followed exactly, in order to get the correct result, for example print making. If you skip or do one part out of sequence it will affect other parts. Usually I am pulling on knowledge and past experience to achieve a final piece, with a little experimentation thrown in to the mix.
Sometimes I can feel overwhelmed by the limitless possibilities – it can be quite a daunting experience being faced with a blank canvas. I have to give myself permission to take the time to think and stare into space, have a cup of tea – whatever I need to get in to the right state of mind and take that risk. I have to get out of the way of my unconscious process and sometimes I just can’t. But that is OK too.
There is no right or wrong in art.