I've been looking at my new painting a lot recently and it's really making me think about the purpose of art. These thoughts also extend to my influences and what I enjoy about painting and story-telling.
Idealization and escapism seem to be the thread that ties everything I love together. In terms of painting (techniques and aesthetics) the French academics are my inspirations (Bouguereau). The main power of academic art is in creating unseen idealizations. It always makes me laugh when I see Bouguereau under the category of Realism. His images, although seemingly photographic (realistic), are constructed idealizations. The level of skill was simply high enough to create a perfect illusion. This is the main technique I have studied and employ.
I have to also pay homage to Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Musically, Porter Robinson and his album, Worlds. For writing, I'm really into Haruki Murakami, Edgar Allen Poe and many other creative writers. But what do all these poetic souls have in common? They are all world builders, creating worlds which we can feel a part of. Poe and Murakami represent a darker, more surreal world, which I also find fascinating, although not as 'beautiful'. I've thought many times about how nice it would be to wake up in a Studio Ghibli movie or a Bouguereau painting.
These artists provide a respite from the problems of the real world. This is what I consider to be the highest form of art and the true goal of art. The feeling found in a Bouguereau or Studio Ghibli movie is very close in terms of what I want to capture. The goals I have are to create idealized worlds, which provide a window of narrative relief.
The ultimate pleasure, for me, is to have other people look at my paintings and feel this same feeling. It's hard to put it into words, but I'll keep trying with paint.
I've mentioned this book before, but anyone looking for a good read on this topic should check out:
Starting Point, 1979-1996 - Hayao Miyazaki
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.