So I have been looking and reading today at one of my favourite artists – the incredible Van Gogh.
His natural touch with the paint and just how he managed to convey, no communicate and load such passion into his work is amazing. Far from being a lunatic that painted in a frenzy he was calculating and clever and for me helped to rip open the doors into the modern world.
Anyway this helped me to positively question what I was doing whilst considering Vincent’s precarious instability and crushingly claustrophobic self doubt. In particular whilst comparing Vincent’s work to that of Paul Signac (a contemporary of sorts of Van Gogh). The difference in the work is astounding, check it out sometime. Believe me it is a great way of looking objectively at art. This made me realise in fact that what I do makes sense to me and I believe in it. I deal with the world via the very small. Small marks, small coloured areas that combine to make a mass, a whole. This – for me at least is a metaphor for just about everything, nature, the earth, the cosmos…everything. Sometimes I question where my work is going but I think as long as I remain happy and fulfilled with what I do my role as an artist is to just constantly explore the visual language I have developed and see where it goes. What could be better? In recent drawings I have been using colour in almost a completely random way. Now as a means of developing my use of colour I have begun to dust of my undergraduate knowledge of colour theory. This has long been a tricky area for me as I am colour blind and therefore pretty much avoided colour in all of my drawings, happy to explore the inherent qualities of black and white line. Now I want to push my own (maybe self imposed) boundaries. So with this in mind I have embraced my poor colour vision and will explore colours that are bright, colours that will hopefully vibrate when nestled together to further convey the vague musings I have around the natural world.
Recently I have been working on a piece that has consumed so much time and has been so labour intensive that every time I thought I had finished, the doubt flooded back like acid rain eroding a sandstone statue. The piece was originally envisioned as being only black and white but whilst in the process of its drawing I suddenly had an unexpected explosion of fluorescent colour, which as you can probably appreciate changed the direction of the creative wind somewhat. This change occurred not so much in the piece in question but as a result of sketchbook book ramblings and other smaller, less realised drawings. This obviously presented options and issues that were not necessarily there when embarking on this piece.
So the situation is one of to and fro, one minute no colour – finished piece, the next, I should explore the colour option and push the drawing to its limits (in my view). So I have made photocopies of the drawing and and am in the process of colouring it. Still no further in terms on of conclusively deciding or not which is extremely frustrating but I shall perservere. I can see the colour option being used but I see it as a big risk as the drawing could potentially be ruined and a lot of time has already been sunk into it…even writing that last sentence I think I know I have to take the risk. Being precious with work is not a good idea when at a stage that is all about development and looking for other avenues of investigation.
This has been as I say very frustrating but not without its indirect fruits, I have begun to learn just how much colour can influence and change a drawing – and this from a colour blind artist. I have learnt to accept colour as part of my work that before I saw as territory forbidden to me as I have how can I put this – a quirky sense of colour to say the least.
Taking on a full scale colour test of an intricately drawn piece of work is quite demanding in the fact that you know you’ll probably end up doing it all again on the finished article. People have suggested using a computer for the purposes of speed but I prefer the craft element of what I am all about. The grass roots of any kind of skill one desires to possess. It’s the workings behind the scenes as it were that enables a song to be sung or a dance, acrobatic routine to be nailed and honed to its finest possible level. This is what interests me.
As a colour blind artist I know that I can ne era understand and see the subtleties of colour like someone with normal colour vision (what is normal I hear you shout?). So I have decided to utilise colour as I am most comfortable – bright, vibrant and fluorescent colours as seen in everyday culture with which we are saturated with. Bright brand names, adverts, even modern architecture using colour to make an impact.
Within the scope of my own work it almost creates a dichotomy in that most of what I draw and am interested in is the natural world. The colours I use are patently not natural. So it has become a comment on the mixing of the natural and maybe the historical against the present day accessibility of practically everything. This is of course in stark contrast to when the world was a far bigger place in terms of communication, travel and pretty much every other endeavour being a bigger challenge – one example is the colour in paintings, blues and golds representing expense and wealth, showing one belongs in the higher echelons of society – nowadays it blue is widely available and perhaps too much Gould and you look like a gaudy mess.
How times change…
If you have got this far into the ramblings of the confused fool that lurks beneath my skin – I thank you. I still feel every bit as privileged to be of a creative disposition as I ever have done and love the excitement, thought and expectation of what could lay ahead.
I’ve just finished around six hours of drawing and I have been positively fizzing, sometimes the lines and marks feel almost preprogrammed as if already drawn and then only to be transcripted onto another surface. As anyone who draws knows thoughts flow through ones mind when gifted with a particularly fertile spell of creativity.
As the marks were flowing all sorts of connections, interactions and thoughts seemed to manifest in a form of abstract communication between myself and my page. This is when the notion of drawing being such a strong metaphor for life sprang to mind.
Moving to more practical thoughts I have been working on a drawing that has been weeks in the making – this I feel has been strong and been weak, I have had it firmly within my grasp and control and equally lost it, blindly continuing hoping to find a way forward with it. Tonight I think I found its way once again. Fantastic.
I have also been working on something slightly different for which I have been filling pages and pages of a sketchbook in very rough working drawings – almost exercises in an effort to enable different – new elements to be brought into my work. May I be so bold as to say watch this space. Thank you as always for reading.
So, over what seems a very long time I really feel I have finally managed to integrate very respectable amounts of drawing into my everyday life.
This has had an unexpected effect on my normal day to day working life – which can frankly be mundanely soul destroying sometimes. (I will add this caviat where my job is concerned though – I am well looked after and treated with privilege so cannot complain about some of the other more average groans). Anyway I digress, a higher productivity – much higher has lead to me becoming a happier, more contented employee. As I see it everyone wins here. A happy employee equals a more productive one as does a happy artist.
An old boxing adage says a happy fighter is a dangerous fighter – that applies to every walk of life I think and it has certainly made me more aware of what I am doing – being happier that is has sharpened things and lead to far more productive time being spent – and has given me huge ambition – ambition for which I had long ago given over as lost.
With all of that off of my chest. Whilst driving along a London road several days ago listening to music I had what I can only describe as a vision of a drawing that I knew was the way forward, creatively speaking. Perhaps as a result of what I was listening to precipitated further and unexpected thought on an issue that was already in the forefront of my mind – I have no idea? I will say is this: I am in no way, shape or form religious or believe in any kind of spirit or benevolent deity – therefore bolts of inspiration are an unusual thing for me – usually these things come as a byproduct of many hours of work and careful thought – not a product of some kind of stereotypical, romantic artistic intervention from above. But welcome in whatever form anyway!
Some of the things I have been considering over the last few days are the individual elements within my drawings, what they say, how they could be perceived, how I can develop these elements, what they mean to me, what I like, and what I would like to steer away from. For me critical (maybe blinkered) thinking is a very healthy, objective and essential part of any creative endeavour.
As is per usual thank you for anyone who has read this disjointed piece of writing which has allowed my thoughts to ramble into cyberspace. I wish you all well.
Recently I have had the luxury of some unexpected time away from my day job. This has resulted in some obsessively intense sessions of drawing. These sessions have been incredibly beneficial to my practice and my state of mind. I feel I have crossed another threshold in my drawing, I have actually started to believe that I may just be able to pursue my lifelong passion at a higher level than just scribbling and scrawling in front of the TV as a form of escapism. I have also realised that I have been doing myself a huge disservice in that I have seemingly been on cruise control in terms of artistic rigour (without sounding like an utter prick) – drawing in front of the TV, giving little of no thought to a serious future within the visual arts, lacking the ambition and drive to develop my work – all WITHOUT actually realising.
How delusionally blinkered can one individual be?
Since this latest bout of luxurious activity I feel I have become far more intune with what my work is, what I should be doing, the manner and how in which I should be completing it and I have for the first time since graduating the way it could/ should/ will develop. It is incredibly exciting for me.
The tedious nature of some aspects of my practice mean monotony can be a problem – especially when I am asking a lot of myself on a particular piece so I have taken to putting YouTube on in the background (usually videos of lectures/ documentaries relating to my favourite areas of art history). This I find is just enough of a subconscious distraction to allow part of my mind to remain active without leaving my chair – hence upping output and focus. Brilliant.
Another thing I have found – which is probably completely obvious is the fact that hard work – I mean genuine hard work makes an incredible difference to whatever I am doing. It has shown me the way forward (whilst driving me slowly insane).
I have had enough of unfulfilled potential and what iffing so on this wave of positivity I am going for it and pushing myself harder than I ever have done to see exactly what comes out.
Signed happy artist.
(Please excuse the poor iPhone image)