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On starting a painting II

It’s a new year, so start something new.

We ended On starting a painting I with the statement that an artist needs eyes that listen.

Remember that a painter is a conduit for the language of paint. You are a vessel for the power, purity, and energy of this form of communication. Energy will flow through you when you open your aperture wide.

I believe that each painter is a unique person carrying their own history and experiences that belong to them alone. My role as a teacher and painter is to help you to sing your own song, a song that is entirely yours. This way, you can be authentic and honest. Your song should be filled with content that’s important to you. However big or small, domestic, or insignificant you might think it is, this is your personal conversation. As a result, this is your ‘saying’ or song that you’re carrying. This is nobody else’s song because your painting is bringing your thinking into being.

This is a human language that lies outside of words.

What are you aiming for with colour?

Your content and colours will sing when you make sure your ego doesn’t get in the way. This is how you will be able to express more of who you are, and your conversation will shine. Consequently, your painting will start to resonate like a spinning top.

The wonder of the colour will become the soul of your painting.

How and when will you make space for the painting to happen? It should be like dew settling, or a nightingale singing.

This is what you are aiming for.

Applying the paint

Remember that the way you apply the paint is just as important as the actual paint. Are you applying your paint with a brush, hands, or a knife? Or will it be a mix of all three, or other mediums? Maybe each stage of development might call for a different application that’s appropriate to the gesture? What quantities do you need? What about the flatness, texture, and vigour?

Not knowing

As this is a unique experience, your visual poem needs to be found not through what you know or through procedures, habit, and knowledge, but rather through not knowing. So, this journey should embrace what has yet to be discovered, felt, or arrived at. It is painting on the ‘hither side’ of knowing. You need to position your imagination so that it can leap and hallucinate rather than resort to tricks.

Avoid habit

Try not to resort to those habitual remedies because they are like stale bread and hold no surprises or wonder. I call this ‘complacency of style’. Style over substance is the worst trap.

If you hear yourself say, ‘this is the way I do it’, or ‘this is my way’, or ‘I always do it like this’, then you know there’s no creativity involved. This is because this person has closed to adventure. As a result, nothing new will happen. For example, if you are laying out one palette for every painting with the same eight or twelve colours, that’s just another system.

For each new journey, ask yourself ‘what palette is appropriate for this conversation?’ What ground colour, size and shape will release your idea? These are all significant choices as you begin to work.

Getting your colour to do the work

Your colour can release its song and energy when it goes beyond your original intention.

Your colour should resonate a bigger eternal energy so that it can exist outside of words. It should have a sense of ‘otherness’ and become a language of its own. When your own unique language is switched on, you will discover, align, and connect to the point at which your painting sparkles and crackles in an eternal union.

Allow the colour to do the work for you.

What about your composition?

Your entire composition should be filled with your conversation.

Aligning body and soul

The painter is both the container and the contained. We penetrate and we are penetrated as we paint. We are analysts and we analyse. As we paint, we bring our body and soul together with our song so that we are singing, making, painting, and communicating.

What is your song?

What is your song? Can you answer this question easily? What is the ‘other’ asking of you? How should your song look? How should it feel?

Your thoughts made visible

Painting is about making your thoughts visible through matter, alchemised to form. This way, you will be able to bare your soul when you have empathy for both the feminine and the masculine. When you search for that union, you will be able to bare your soul within the pigment. It is soul to soul, through the pigment and you – your body to pure paint made into colour, manifest and aligned, body with body, soul to soul, singing and communicating one to the other.

The wonder of colour

Wonder can be found in the difference, uniqueness, and otherness of colour. It is not for us to consume, overtake, mix, pollute or adulterate. Instead, we must honour, wonder, and puzzle over its beauty, and enter its conversation. The painter must enter a sublimity of mind to achieve this.

You will be drawn to the ‘other’ when you seek wisdom – the wisdom of not knowing. This is how you will communicate otherness through colour.

So, start something new and let the wonder of the colour become the soul of your painting.

I started this blog a couple of months ago. However, I was inspired to re-write this Part II after we spent a lovely New Year’s Eve with friend and artist Elisabeth de las Casas. She had just finished a series of seven paintings, and, after a family bereavement, she was ready to start a new chapter. Seven prepared canvases were inviting her response. We discussed how she could move forward into something fresh in 2024 and this is my follow-up to our conversation.