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On starting a painting III

On starting a painting III is my follow-up to my second blog about starting a painting.

Having things to say – what?

Painting is a way of life. This is because it is about communicating who you are and what you have to say – I am asking (in particular because I am a colourist), what are you saying through colour? How are you using and allowing the colour to do the work for your intention, purpose, and ambition?  I ask this because I believe that colour is is the body and soul of a painting.

As we start this conversation, ask yourself, ‘what am I actually saying?’, ‘What do I have to say?’ or ‘what is important to me?’ or ‘what am I articulating?’ You need to understand your song, your saying, in the presence of the world, in your time, for your generation, for the now. I mean this very humbly, no fanfares, no big show at the end, just you making your paintings visible. Firstly, to yourself, then outside of yourself, even if only angels witness the making, it is made and out there existing, being.

So, what is your song?

As artists, we do have a song, our poetry and rhetoric. This is why I so enjoy looking at an individual painter’s retrospective work. This is when we see it all and realise that there is one song, in different parts, but one big unified song. Because, essentially, we do keep saying the same thing over and over.

Sometimes we need to do this in different ways before we can move on. If we can move on, that is. This is not a criticism, because sometimes, we literally cannot move on. Our life can be spent saying the same thing in a multitude of ways. This does not diminish the quality or meaning of the work, or the saying. It is what it is.

The end

When the life of a painter is over and their life’s work is viewed retrospectively, the song or songs are seen in context, for what they are. Many painters’ songs are not appreciated in their lifetime. Sometimes they’re discovered later, or, sadly, never. Does that diminish the work? I think not. When something is made with a genuine intention, it has come into existence. Through this act of creation, it is out there, existing, rather like a platonic form. This brings me on to the subject of success.

What is success?

It’s important to consider what we mean by success.

Do you think that sales mean success? Or perhaps you think success is about being in fashion, or having thousands of followers on social media? Your answers will be very revealing. Asking ourselves about what matters is a delicate, raw, and hard-hitting subject.

Surely success and validation should be found in the actual making of the work. Otherwise, what is the point of being an artist?

The role of the artist

Consider your role in society. Let us not confuse this role with success in monetary terms. Who are you trying to please and why?

Is not the true vocation of an artist to see, reflect and comment on life? I would say yes. That’s probably why you feel like an outsider much of the time.

The future

As AI grows, what is our role in society? Unfortunately, society may not value our low-tech, slow, analogue language. However, painters carry something very special, however small, or large, whether domestic or epic. Our language of paint is not uniform. It doesn’t conform. It’s physical, haptic, embodied and completely human. Remember, AI will never take away our creative imagination. Painting is now counter-culture.

What is the success of your painting, to you?

I’m trying to help you understand your motives. Unfortunately, the monetarisation of art and education has got a grip on success, failure, and the future of painting. If your aim is to make money alone, then you’re looking at different values, rules, and ambitions. Making work to make money, as opposed to your work makes money, are two different mind-sets. There’s a very personal and fine line here. In your heart, you will know if you’ve compromised your integrity as a creator.  

Now ask yourself ‘what is the purpose of this painting?’

What are you carrying?

What are you carrying? What have you seen and felt? What are you beginning to understand? You now need to speak this into paint and let it live outside of yourself. Try to honour the insight and cherish the vision that you have been given. This song is yours and yours alone. Because it’s yours, you can say it in your own time. It’s only when your saying is exhausted or it has finished with you, that your saying will end. We might then, only then, arrive at or develop a new song. To sum up, the intrinsic value of your painting is then tied to the way you have communicated your thoughts.

Visual poetry

Therefore, push, chase, remain with the work. Do not water it down, keep it going, do not give up with its voice. Remember, be honest and authentic.

The work is part of you. It has presence. It is your voice and your song, so get it right. Attempt it, find it, run after it. Keep singing it. This is your unique song until you are given the next song. The song might be small, domestic, even slight and timid but it is valid, real and important. Test it, break it, rephrase it, let it become formed. Let it live, let it be sung in paint to transform you.

The sound needs to make your eyes listen

This is the principal I have tried to apply. As I look back at my work and the work of other artists, I see the song. Having one song may be enough. It might be a rather big song that needs a lifetime to birth. Or, it may be so gentle that it seems insignificant and overlooked. But, who cares about what they think? If it’s on your heart and it’s important to you, that’s enough. So, take your time and sing it to your utmost. You only have this one life, so do it really well. Be true to yourself and paint it to the end.

Who is the audience?

‘Who is the audience?’ you might well ask. All the dead, perhaps the living, but essentially you and the universe watch. Because this work has been created, it could last for ever and you are responsible for it. Your name is on this. Something that didn’t exist is now out there. This work is part of you. It bears the imprint of your soul. It keeps saying.