Sunday, June 22, 2008

Extraordinary Periods of Awareness

Recently I was asked by a friend Mike Woody, how long it takes to create a painting. The answer to the question came to me after several days. For the best work to occur it seems that I need to be totally isolated with the painting, and the time must be conducive for the level of thinking you have to have to complete a painting. That painting is a record of an extraordinary period of awareness.

This is not a state of bliss where one is simply painting along and it comes flowing out naturally. But it has to be a learned thing. Knowledge precedes execution. Below is a quote by Winston S. Churchill, these are well written words that capture the fine art of painting using the unlikely comparison to engaging in battle:

Painting a picture is like fighting a battle. The principle is the same. In all battles two things are usually required of the Commander-in-Chief: to make a good plan for his army and secondly, to keep a strong reserve. both these are also obligatory upon the painter. To make a plan, thorough reconnaissance of the country where the battle is to be fought is needed. Its fields, its mountains, its rivers, its bridges, its trees, it flowers, its atmosphere--all require and repay attentive observation from a special point of view. But it is in the use and withholding of their reserves that the great Commanders have generally excelled. After all, when once the last reserve has been thrown in, the Commander's part is played. If that does not win the battle, he has nothing else to give. The event must be left to luck and to the fighting troops. But these last, in the absence of high direction, are apt to get into sad confusion, all mixed together in a nasty mess, without order or plan--and consequently without effect. Mere masses count no more. The largest brush, the brightest colours, cannot even make an impression. The pictorial battlefield becomes a sea of mud mercifully veiled by the fog of war. It is evident there has been a serious defeat. Even though the General plunges in himself and emerges bespattered, as he sometimes does, he will not retrieve the day.


Donna T said...

Interesting quote, Donna. Painting is truly like fighting a battle; there's so much organization of thoughts to be done ahead of time and split-second decisions that need to be made in the midst of the action. My latest enemies are the gnats!

Donna Van Tuyl said...

Hi Donna T! I was wondering if other artists felt this same sense of a battle. And yes part of that battle is certainly the bugs. We wait all winter for nice weather and forget....the bugs. Bugs or snakes, or poison oak, or bears can certainly take one out of any sense of an extraordinary period of awareness. Donna V.