December 2, 2008
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
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.
PS: "We paint best when we lean on our nervous system." (Francis
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.