Understanding art is a process that requires time, patience, and an open mind. It is not a skill that can be acquired overnight or with a single visit to a museum. Art is a complex form of communication that speaks to individuals in different ways and on different levels. The interpretation of art is subjective, and it depends on the viewer’s personal experiences, cultural background, and artistic knowledge. Hence, understanding art is a dynamic and ongoing process that involves engaging with the artwork, asking questions, and exploring various perspectives. In this sense, art is not just a product to be consumed but a journey to be embarked upon, and the destination is ever-changing.
I invited Lauren Walker, the artist behind ‘An Artist Within’ to share with us about her perspective on art being a process. ~ Lee Down
An Artist Within Begins
When I drift off to sleep, I tend to imagine myself in front of my latest art project. I close my eyes and visualize the painting I’m working on. If there’s a particular problem I’m trying to work out, I employ this technique. The next day I know exactly how to fix it. Most people think it’s a matter of slapping paint on canvas. I can’t count the minutes and hours of thought that go in to it. My heart and soul goes in to each and every piece I create. The time, energy and emotion involved in creating art is immeasurable. Regardless of the outcome, I believe that art is a physical, mental and emotional process through which we learn and develop. It’s not simply a product.
Where does Inspiration come from?
I am often asked, “How do you decide what to paint?” Inspiration is like rain. Sometimes I have dry spells but when a rainstorm hits, it pours out of me. There are moments when I have so many ideas, I don’t know where to begin. I have to take it one step at a time.
Inspiration is the first step in the process of creating art. An opportunity always presents itself and I am never disappointed. My best ideas come when I’m doing menial tasks at work. I could be mopping the floors and it comes to me! This is my process of letting go and not forcing it. Don’t think too hard about your next big idea because it will come to you when you least expect it.
The idea stage is the first stage and it from there you decide what size canvas is appropriate. The next stage requires basic knowledge of sketching and drawing. Building a strong foundation for your painting starts from the ground up.
Build a Strong Foundation for your Art
I learned a valuable lesson from my drawing teacher Chrissy Wysotski She taught me the value of using basic shapes to sketch out a drawing. Sketching out a general outline helps me get the proper perspective. Learning new techniques is imperative to your success . Everything is very geometric at this point and it’s can be difficult to see the end product. Knowing how to start a painting is an important part of the process. I use a reference photo directly in front of me at all times. I tend to outline the photo and break it down in to very basic shapes.
The biggest issue I had was perspective. I wasn’t great at creating distance in my paintings. I took a Plein air course last year with Harvey Walker and he taught me how to create a vanishing point. He explained that it was like the hands of a clock and how those angles effect the over all perspective of a painting. Learning that valuable lesson changed the way I approached my art work. That’s why I say, perspective is everything.
Every artist has a different process. “The process of creation can vary depending on your personal temperament, your artistic style and your medium. For some, the process of creation is actually quite short and much of the work has been done in the previous phases — for instance, a simple line drawing. While it might take minutes to complete the drawing, the thought and time developing that idea was the more time-consuming part of that project.”
Sketch it out first! It’s like the foundation of a building. The initial sketch is like a strong foundation and you build your painting from that. I’ve made the mistake of starting to paint before I had it all laid out. I had to edit the painting as I went and when one aspect is off, it throws everything else off. Make sure your foundation is sound before continuing.
Block In Your Art Work
Blocking in is a pretty straightforward process. To “block in” a painting means coloring it in very loosely. The good news is that any part of your painting is changeable at this point. I find it helps me visualize the overall shape and size of my subject matter. At this stage, here are some things to consider:
Is everything in the right place?
Is the perspective correct?
Is the layout correct?
Are the proportions correct?
Are the colors correct?
When I block in my art work, it looks super messy. I always joke to myself because it looks like something my 5 year old nephew would color. The details are not discernable and the shapes are very geometric. At this stage it’s very simplistic so don’t lose heart. Make sure you’re happy with the initial sketch before continuing.
My palette is super messy. I won’t deny it. I do not organize my colors and pre-mix them whereas some artists do. Often when I create my palette, I use colors I think I’ll need and then mix as necessary. In general I use black, white and burnt umber in combination with other paint colors. If you’re the type who needs more organization, then by all means do so. Your palette is your own. Decide what works for you and go with that.
Knowing which color to use and how to mix them properly comes from experience. I am not formally trained so I tend to fly by the seat of my pants. It comes experimenting and making plenty of mistakes. I’m sure many would argue that as foolishness and I don’t disagree. I encourage artists out there to do what works for you. Learning the basics of color theory is important for any beginner. Regardless of your training or experience, you often learn best by doing.
The Art of Emotion
“Humans are hard-wired to look for recognizable features in everything, so it’s no surprise we make the same associations when we look at art.” The connection between art and emotion is two fold. My fellow artists can agree that creating any work of art is very cathartic. It allows us to release our inner most feelings and express it in each brushstroke. We are doing more than slapping paint on a canvas. Emotions are intangible, we cannot touch them or wrap them in a pretty bow but they exist. Artists put their heart and soul in to each painting. Art is a physical manifestation of emotion. It’s literally giving something intangible more shape and form. We are expressing our vulnerability and that takes courage.
I admit I’m a very simplistic person when it comes to what I do and don’t like. As someone who enjoys creating art, I also love sharing it with people. The purpose is to allow people to have their own reaction. Maybe they like it, maybe they don’t. I don’t take it personally because art is terribly subjective. I believe we can all find something that moves us. I’m often surprised when people look at my art work and insist on sharing a personal story. I revel in that feeling. I believe we have more in common than we think and I’m proud that my art work is relatable and accessible. The emotional benefit is for both artist and audience.
It’s the journey, not the destination
“The importance of art is in the process of doing it, in the learning experience where the artist interacts with whatever is being made.”
Following your own process doesn’t always mean it will turn out exactly the way you want it to. It can be a roller coaster ride! My absolute worst work has led me to my best. You can’t beat yourself up for creating sub par work. Your ability is merely limited by your lack of persistence. When I was bad at painting trees, I kept painting them until I mastered it. I refused to give up! Making mistakes is definitely part of the process.
The ability to get back up and keep going dictates long term success. This and other tips you can find in my article “A Beginners Guide to Success”. Positive self talk is very powerful. When I run in to a problem I tell myself, “You’ll figure it out. You always do.” I do not get fixated on one small detail anymore. When you concentrate on something that is so small, you lose sight of the big picture. Let it go and come back to it when you’re ready.
The mistakes you make lead you to find the solution. You learn what not to do and try to do it differently next time. That’s art and that’s life. Don’t get hung up on the small things and forget to see the bigger picture. It may not always go the way you want it to but it’s yours to create. Enjoy the process.
About the Writer
My name is Lauren Walker and I am “The Artist Within”. I am a professional artist and freelance writer in Port Perry, Ontario. I use the love of my small town as inspiration for my work. I believe the only path to follow is the one you create.