Artistic license

Robert Genn

March 2, 2007

"If you want to be an artist--try being artistic." This
deceptively minor slip of info was given to me by a fellow
painter, Maurice Golleau, somewhere in Provence many years ago.
I've come to realize that it's the life breath of our business.
In other words, don't just paint the boat, paint the most
expressive boaty-boat you can drag out of your reference or
your imagination.

How to do that? Here are a few ideas to think about and perhaps
apply to your own subject or style:

Pattern Integrity

Most of these are self-explanatory. Some may seem to overlap,
but in my mind they all have independent value. Of them all,
pattern integrity is perhaps the most important. It means
composition. Without careful planning, the artist often has to
go back in and rework a composition in such a way that it
becomes more artistic. In other words, you don't want to leave
your patterns to the vagaries of nature or the limitations of
your initial conception--but rather to your own higher nature
and finer sensibilities.

Many people don't understand paucity either. This means
smallness of number or quantity. In other words, "the absence
of." Very often it means simple disappearance--the old lost
lines and edges business.

Then there's abstraction. Unless things modify or become other
things, or in some way interact through colour, shape or line,
they're merely the straight goods, which tend to be boring to
both artist and observer. Don't be boring.

Best regards,


PS: "My great longing is to make those very incorrectnesses,
those deviations, remodellings, changes in reality, so that
they may become, yes, lies if you like--but truer than the
literal truth." (Vincent Van Gogh)

Esoterica: I drove south from Arles and headed for
Saintes-Maries de la Mer. I wanted to go where Vincent, in
1888, had painted some fishing boats. I guess I was looking to
see if they were still there, lined up with the same pattern
integrity as he had painted them. I was disappointed. The boats
were now replaced by plastic ones with Evinrudes on the stern.
If I was any kind of an artist I would have brought artistry to
the ones I found, but I was, at the time, too much into the
past. And besides, that artistry I admired came from Vincent's
mind, and was his solution. It was a lesson.