… something something”, I think is how that quote ends.
OK, so here was my plan, to write a post showing step by step how I make my paintings. I thought I could touch on things like how I think of tones next to one another and their relationship rather than in layers of tone atop one another. Or how I use crappy brushes to make really cool marks and how I find myself less enchanted with nice brushes because they pretty much give you what they’re designed to give you, which can be awfully boring. Or how I work a wash, then hammer in some black paint, look at how things dry, maybe try another wash, sprinkle a bit of white paint in for effect and then wrap it all up with some virtuosity with the last strokes of black.
Yeah, I had all of that in mind and more. The plan was to use the painting I posted last Friday (on my website and twitter feed) as my example. I drew the sketch, I took a photo of it, then I went to the easel and got ready to work. Next thing I know, 30 or 40 minutes were gone and the painting was done. That whole, pause and take photos while I do things, yeah, that went right out the window the second the brush hit the paper.
Unfortunately, all you get to see is the initial sketch, and this pretty much what I use as the basis for any illustration or painting. I know, it looks like there’s nothing there.
And the finished painting.
Obviously, I need a biographer with serious photography skilz to document my life and bring it to you in HD.
However, this failure in execution does allow me to refer to the crazy focus I wrote about last week. It’s not something that happens occasionally, like a gift from the gods. It’s something that happens every day. And most importantly, it’s a learned skill. We all do it, at one level or another, but if you want to bring your A Game to anything creative, you simple must master the ability to do your thing when it’s time to shine. Otherwise, you’re not going to survive.
In a world of endless distractions and opportunities, getting down to work on something that only has value (at the moment of creation at least) to you and you alone is very hard to do. The only advice I can give that is practical is to say do it every single day. I don’t know what it is for you and I don’t care. Do it anyway. It is only through constant practice that you can achieve the clear headed thinking required to not give a damn about anything beyond the task at hand.
Each day, well I am trying to take weekends off which is proving to be more difficult than I imagined, I find myself before the easel, blank sheet of paper on the board, and I make myself work. Some days it’s awesome. Things work, accidents lead to revelations and I am giddy with excitement at the results of my labor. Some days is sucks. Nothing goes right, accidents lead to crumpled balls of paper in the trash can and I am exhausted after two hours of painting like a drunk chimp. The annoying thing is that I never know if it’s going to be a giddy day or drunk chimp day. There is no omen or sign to warn me. I can take the greatest, liveliest sketch and turn it into something amazing or turn it into recycling material.
Regardless, it’s what I do. Which means each day, I get down to business, giddy or chimpy, it hardly matters which. And really, compared to the profound dislocation of time and space that came with 12 or 15 or 18 hours of pen and ink drawing, putting in 2 hours at the easel is like drinking a whole can of Diet Art. All the taste and none of the calories.
So that’s what’s going on around here. I crank out paintings and then get on with my day. Slowly but surely, the paintings get better and better. I would like to think in a year, they’d be at least 365% better. Or more, since the reality is I’m making more than one painting per day.
The next trick is going to be creating a format which allows me to bring all the cool things I’m doing with paintings together with what I like to do with writing and get them out the door. As part of the overhaul of my book making system, I’m trying to invent a format which is as quick and flexible as the painting and the writing. I have a few ideas, but I’ll have to finish everything on my desk before I can really go crazy with something “new”. But I’m itching to get to work on new things, which means I need to keep my head down and plow through all the nearly done work thus clearing a path for a very different, productive world. Good times, good times.
With that, I’m off to do my thing. Get out there and do your thing.