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Inspired Art

Even artists who confess no particular belief in God, cannot deny moments or periods of inspiration. Inspired art however continues to be decried by the critics as something to be downplayed. The opposite of de-bunking any kind of inspiration is not painting at all until a supernatural feeling or image is conjured.
Living near the California coast I often watch surfers. They will surf set after set of mediocre waves before catching anything good. They might be out there day after day waiting for a truly good wave. They know however that they must practice on the average to be ready for those which have excellent shape and length. When an experienced surfer catches and rides really good waves it is truly wonderful to see.
It seems to be an inspired moment but perhaps I am stretching the meaning to broadly.
Being inspired means experiencing something quite beyond our normal range of awareness. We see something we never quite saw before. We are able to follow a line of nature that had eluded us, a particular hue is mixed that was unattainable before, a look or feel is imparted to a painting that goes beyond a natural ability. In between these apparent bursts of insight are often long periods of mechanically working out a composition. We follow principals, work on balance, symmetry and contrast for effect. We are like the surfer catching all those mediocre waves while trying to perfect technique.
Inspired art translates into all phases of life. In business we come up with a solution we never imagined before. It just comes to us. It seems to have been inside us all the time, but from beyond us as well. We see inspired moments in sports, in music, in carpentry, in architecture, in the way a nurse treats a patient. There is a certain joy we experience. Because it is so illusive, it is a waste of time to seek after it. All that we can do is be about our task, pay attention, concentrate, be aware. It is the process that we must enjoy…the journey.
If God, a supernatural understanding, the Muse somehow pays us a visit and expands our experience, then all the better. Regardless, inspired art comes in remarkably small portions. If we are not paying attention it might elude us time after time. If we are not busy with our craft we will of course, never notice at all. It is my feeling that even the greats like Delacroix or Picasso or Rembrandt, out of the hundreds and hundreds of completed works, count to themselves but ten or twelve they hold especially dear.

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Now there’s a catchy title for an Article, ‘How to stop painting’.  We have all seen those 18″ x 24″ paintings so completely overworked that the very life has been drubbed out of the piece.  There is no vitality because the artist had no conception of when to stop but just kept daubing on.  Knowing when to walk away is vital.  Fortunately I have a garden out back and I will retreat to weeding when I begin to sense that I am mindlessly daubing.picasso-girl-with-boat

It is imperative to study your work and make some critical determinations along the way, especially when you feel that the painting is nearing completion.  One excellent way to do this is by dividing up your work into quarters.  If the painting is especially large and elongated you can divide it by thirds across the top and then by thirds across the bottom for six equal panels.  Assuming that your work is sufficiently dry, take the smallest width blue painters tape and divide up the canvas…press the tape on lightly.

This will be an invaluable aide to study the painting by sections though I prefer to call them passages.  Does the panel have its own inherent interest?  Do the applied colors work well with each other?  Is there vitality or a sense of energy in each panel ?  I am of course primarily talking about abstract work here.  Then ask yourself if the panels or passages are relating to its neighbor?  Is there an implied tension between the parts?  Always look to see if the principle of balance is working in each panel, and then in relation to the other panels.

Eventually as you mature as a painter it will be unnecessary to use the tape because the eye will be able to divide up the canvas by experience.  You will learn to make every passage ‘work’, first within itself and then in relation to the whole.  I learned from Kandinsky how to make my backgrounds (those massed areas of color behind defined forms) more interesting, more energetic and more related to the entire piece.

There is always an impetus to any abstract painting, often short-lived.  It is therefore imperative to keep the painting fresh and responsive to that initial impetus…even days later.  This is why we find those photos of Picasso standing for an hour before applying a critical brush of color – especially as the painting is nearing completion.  I read of Sargent who would get a painting 98% and then go out to his studio for one last application of certain, final highlights that would make the final painting zing.  Then he would put the brush down.

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Corrections in Abstract Painting

In previous articles I have stressed the need to accept accidents in painting abstracts.  I have even gone so far to suggest that the accidental occurrences may even be more authentic and more alive than the attenuated brushstrokes.  Especially employing the techniques I use…that of drag painting,  it is impossible to determine precise outcomes.  It is shocking sometimes when effects are created which considerably exceed anything planned or anything executed by a skilled hand.  This is a wonderful thing.  It is like good jazz.  The static surface begins to resonate from an inner resource.  So, there is this constant tension as a painting develops between un-planned and planned executions of paint.  This tension creates a surface, visual dynamic.  The Title, Corrections in Abstract Painting, refers to the necessary process of harmonizing the various  tensions which appear all over the surface.  Visually, they should dynamically relate to one another…disharmonies need to be corrected.Alexander Sadoyan

It is important however to understand that as a painting nears completion there will inevitably be immensely strong areas.  These may result from semi planned accidents or specifically painted areas.  Conversely there  will inevitably be areas that do not work.  These are areas that are not in  harmony with the rest of the painting.  There is inconsistency in style, in rendering, in feeling or the color may be off.   This is when you will have to study your painting.  It may not be apparent at first.  You sense something is not right so you keep studying it.  The painting is basically almost done and you keep looking at it.  Lucien Freud insists he is not analytical but clearly his paintings indicate his countless refinements.  These refinements come from studying the painting carefully.  You will have to decide where the strong areas are and where there are weaknesses.  This sometimes needs to be done before the paint is dry.

Making corrections in abstract painting is critical to the final outcome.  By now you will have a good idea what the painting is trying to manifest.  You may be surprised to find that the painting is very close to what you had sub-consciously intended.  Still, your keen sense is needed now to bring those weak areas up to or near the level of the over-all painting.  Often a weak area cannot get to the high dramas (the more successful areas) of the painting but the weaknesses can be mitigated so that they do not detract from the whole.   This is what I mean by making corrections.  It is important that the entire painting works as a whole and that there are disengenuous parts that detract.  Sometimes a good artist friend who is honest can come in and give an opinion.  Regardless this is an important part of finishing up a painting.  One tip, look that there is sufficient contrast in the key elements.  Often times many of my corrections have more to do with contrast than with actual hue.