Dynamic painting

December 2, 2008

Robert Genn


The making of every work of art is a series of fated moves. Sometimes, bad moves are so frequent that work goes into self-destruct. Professionals and amateurs alike are prone to the problem. An occasional mess comes with the territory.

A way to minimize the tyranny is to see your art in a state of adjustment and creative development, rather than trying to fulfill some preconceived vision. I call it "dynamic painting" and it's quite magic. It could be called "dynamic writing" or even "dynamic living."

The dynamic artist improvises as she goes along. She thinks on her feet. Her eyes and her mind are constantly weighing opportunities and making judgments and adjustments. Somewhat dependent on intuition, she also has knowledge of the variety of ways each passage might be handled.  

Perhaps the most valuable dynamic ploy is to constantly ask the question, "What could be?" With this question, the work of art evolves and comes out of itself. One need go no further than to watch a six year old (not a sixteen year old) paint. She paints the general idea and soon decides this or that would be nice to add or subtract. She throws in a new colour because she likes it. In more sophisticated terms, she "thinks it might work." This is dynamic painting, and professionals appropriate this magic.

There are further ploys to unlock the magic of dynamism. It's valuable to squint a lot, stand back, go here and there on the work, take breaks and vary your tools. While not relaxing the possible intervention of your cerebral cortex, you try to get into a state of natural flow--in the "zone," as they say. For a few visual ideas on this, we've included illustrations at the top of the current clickback.

The act of art is not so much a business of making things look like something, it's more a business of enhancing things that are already on the canvas. "What could be?" becomes, "What could that be?" Making art is 90% seeing and 10% stroking. When watching professional demo-doers, the seeing part often comes in the blink of an eye. Observers might conclude that pros are really talented folks. It's really just dynamic painting.

Best regards,


PS: "We paint best when we lean on our nervous system." (Francis Bacon)

Esoterica: So many of our painting problems are really problems of sight. The great writer, lecturer and professor of comparative mythology, Joseph Campbell advised, "Look, look long, and the world comes in." This applies to the making of art. The art historian Ernst Gombrich made the idea into a poem:

Seeing depends on your knowledge
And knowledge, of course, on your college,
But when you are erudite and wise
What matters is to use your eyes.