About a year ago I began struggling with these questions: “Why am I painting? What is my real purpose? Why bother when it’s all been done before?”
I needed to find some deeper meaning to my art. I’d become bored with my own art and kept thinking “What more can I say that hasn’t already been said?” It was a bit like the artist’s version of writer’s block, or the philosopher’s classic question “Why are we here and what is our higher purpose?”
I believed my art should extract from deep within some profound statement that shakes the viewer with the ultimate existential reason for humanity. Eventually I started a downward spiral of art avoidance.
I was just too busy to paint (I told myself). And I had other excuses too. . .
• I didn’t have the right canvas
• I was out of white paint
• I was too tired
• I had to get to work in six hours
• I just didn’t feel inspired
• Tomorrow would be better
• I could bake cookies instead
• The dog needs walking
• I don’t know how to paint anymore
. . . you get the idea.
Maybe you’ve been there too. Deep down, I wasn’t giving myself permission to “just paint” for the fun of it.
The simplest of art practices finally did the trick and got me back to my creative center. I took out my sketch pad and pencils and just began doodling—allowing myself to not care what the outcome was. I had no expectations for producing a marketable piece of work; it was just pure fun with a pencil!
The conclusion I came to (which most artists have already discovered!) is this: If you are stuck somewhere along your own art journey, consider that you may be over-intellectualizing what you are trying to say with your art.
Instead—accept that sometimes there may not be anything to say except the art itself.
These are some of my mindless scribbles while listening to my favorite fiddle music.
(I’ve also painted to jazz, blues, Spanish flamenco. . . creativity and music seem go hand in hand. If you’ve never done this, give it a try yourself!)
In the end, those scribbles led me to picking up a brush again. One of my subsequent series was called Triadic Studies, which you can find on my website under Janet’s Cheap Art Store.
These were my way of experimenting and having fun with just the three primaries—red, yellow, and blue plus white. I also limited my brushwork to an overall pattern of simple short strokes. This freed me to then play with a few elements of color—warm or cool, dark or light without the worry creating a finished piece.
There are unlimited variations of this you can try, too! Substitute Yellow Ochre for Cadmium Yellow, Indian Red for Cadmium Red, Cerulean Blue for Ultramarine Blue. Or use one fixed primary like Alizarin Crimson but change the combinations of the blues and yellows.
Introducing white into any or all of the primaries will result in even more combinations.
The key is to stop worrying about the end result and start playing. Get back to the joy of simply creating, and you’ll find your way back to your creative center!
Special thanks to Janet Bonneau for sharing this article! To see more of Janet’s work, please visit her website at www.vermontpleinair.com.