I was recently reading that when Hayao Miyazaki needs to paint something, he goes into the painting department and grabs random brushes and paint. He doesn't care at all what materials he uses because all that is important is his internal idea.
Taking this to heart, I've been experimenting by taking out materials that I thought were necessary and seeing if I really need them. You only really know if you need something by taking it away. And the majority of the time, what you really need is not external. Of course, a lot of outside resources make the job a lot easier and you may develop preferences. Just like when you go grocery shopping, you may not use a shopping cart, but it makes the job a lot easier.
This applies to a lot of situations, both artistically and not, when you think that you really need something, but remember "you only lose what you cling to."
Between the internet and libraries, we all have access to the ultimate world of images. The only down-side is that it's easy to get swept away in a flood of inspiration and beautiful stories. Instead, I think everyone should use their own internal resource which can prove to be far more powerful.
As I fawn over Miyazaki, Bouguereau, Mozart and Edgar Allen Poe, I try and figure out "How could such amazing worlds come from the mind?" I've spent a lot of time analyzing these musicians, writers and artists and what attracts me to them is the fact that they are world builders. They are creators, but they are also grounded in their own world. I learned while I was at Penn that all works of fiction must have some ties to reality; this is evident in Miyazaki's movies because they combine realism and imagination in appropriate parts. A good combo is half real/half ideal.
So today, after I put my oil paint brushes down from working on a commission, I sat with my watercolors and used my imagination.
I engaged the switch between passive fan who absorbs images--to an active creator to depict a little girl tumbling in the grass. As far as a little about technique--I like using a basic palette of watercolor because it dries quickly and the color doesn't get in the way. I have my yellows, reds, blues greens and blacks ready to go to create grass, sky, a stone well, a tree or anything that I wish. I know it's a life-long pursuit to create my own world, but it's something that I know I can do...(with lots of practice).
Post Scriptum-- I need to thank the writer, Professor and friend who opened my eyes to many of the concepts that I discuss regularly-- Melissa Jensen. I was lucky enough to be able to take Melissa's class on writing for children and fairy-tale writing that she taught while she was at Penn.
The Basics + Practice = Success
The art library that I am amassing is pretty stacked. And it's all to help me learn the language of art. The analogy is: art is a language, but what does that mean?
Well, it means a couple things.
1) You're never done learning.
2). Once you have the basics down, you have nothing but practice.
3. Learning becomes a tool to express your ideas.
Why do children learn languages so rapidly? It used to be thought that it's because your brain as a child is different, but recent studies show that's false. It's about expressing an idea. If a child sees something he or she wants, then they must learn the words to get that.
The same is true of art. You must learn a set of rules (almost a grammar) and a lexicon in order to express your ideas. So if you study painting, you will see that the colors of your palette, the mediums and the canvas are part of your dictionary. You will never completely learn the entire dictionary, but that is a good thing.
The creativity comes into play when the language becomes a part of you. Then you can use your words to express an idea. This is a lesson that all great artists have understood and accepted through hours and hours of practice.
Don't get overwhelmed by the entire dictionary of information that you are learning. Have the spirit of a child and learn in order to translate your message.