The above painting is based on a composite of my daughter and some pictures we took in 2006 at the pool. I have been thinking a lot about the psychology of paintings and thought I would do a painting of my daughter just at that moment when she is about to jump into the pool—at the point of hesitation—and try to capture both the light and the feeling of that moment.
Well, I am finally getting over my jet-lag from the trip over the last few weeks, but am still having trouble getting back into the studio. So, I thought I would do a post about the ways I have used in the past to “jumpstart” my painting process and get myself back to the easel.
1. Get a inspirational book or magazine. I am not talking here about reading a book—that is something not to do (see below). I am taking about getting some inspiration from an art magazine or book that gives you some idea about how you might try a new painting technique or a getting book about creativity. I have mentioned a couple of books I like to use in my past post, such as JF Carlson or Edgar Payne’s book about composition. Just seeing a new composition idea is sometimes enough to get me to pick up my brushes. I also like to look at books about painting techniques or color, but there are a lot of bad art books out there. To help you out, I have made a list of books I like to look at for inspiration on Amazon, check it out here. I also came across this book about creative exercises that I think is pretty good—the exercises are not all for painters, but some are. It is worth a look. Finally, if you just want to look at some good contemporary painters, here is a list.
2. Do a small Painting. I have found that one of the biggest mistakes is to try to get back into your painting regime by trying something big. Instead, get yourself a small canvas 6-8 inches, not bigger, and do a little landscape or still life. Have an idea in mind before you start—don’t just start out mindlessly laying down paint—but make the idea simple. For example, try to paint a piece of fruit and try to capture the sense of its skin or the color of the inside. Another idea is to just try a new composition or just work on getting the tonal relationship correct—don’t worry about color. The idea is not to make it too challenging, but to do something that you can do in an hour or so, as a quick sketch or small painting. Often these small paintings lead to bigger ideas or a series.
3. Get Some Exercise. I know it sounds strange, but many of the painters and artist I know need a bit of exercise to get the juices flowing. In fact, I think that painting and exercise share some similar traits. You know that feeling when you haven’t exercised in a while and you are just not inspired to put on your shoes and go for a jog. You make every excuse not to do it, and usually go and eat something instead. This is very similar to the inertia of painting. You have to take that first step. If you exercising regularly at all, you will know that the just after a good run or trip to the gym is the time when you are most alert and ready to go. So, go for jog or to the gym, and right afterwards hit the studio. You will be surprised at the creative energy that will flow. Many artists simply go for a good walk in nature—that is often enough. If you haven’t exercised in a while, try that. Go to the local nature park, take your camera, and see what you can discover. The key is to hit the studio right after you get back when the juices are still flowing. If you delay, the inspiration will be lost.
4. Copy something. Finally, my last trick for getting myself back into the studio after a long hiatus is to copy something. Not something complex, but to take a painting that I like and make a small copy or take an excerpt from a larger painting—and make a small painting. For example, take a picture or post card of a Poussin or Tiepolo painting and paint a little excerpt. In the past, for example, I have taken the little cherubs in their paintings and done a little study. Those little floating babies can be the subject for numerous paintings. You will never get bored doing copies of these little cherubs. Here is an example of a Tiepolo painting and an excerpt you could paint.
Things not to do. Now that I have told you some of the things that have worked form me in the past—let me give you a short list of the things that do not work, for me at least:
- clean the studio
- watch a movie
- read a book
- go to the museum (can work, but usually drains my visual energy)
- talk on the phone
- do a household project.
In my experience, all of these things take away energy you might otherwise use for painting.
Hope these ideas are useful. Now, go paint. Sixtyminuteartist