I've been having some great insights recently. I think it's been a result of being more withdrawn and quietly working on myself. I've also been reading a lot recently which has helped me a lot of realizations.
What I wanted to talk about mainly was an idea that I've always loved, which is the idea that there are overarching principles that can apply to all disciplines. In this case one of the main principles in creating a work of art is "value".
Most people think of value monetarily, but value in a work of art means the lightness and darkness of a color. So if you looked at a gray scale photo of the world, how dark or how light would the colors appear? That's what value is. It helps to imagine value as a scale from 0 - 10 such as seen here:
The power of value is that it makes it possible to quantify the world into a range. As artists, we only have a certain range to work within. In the case of drawing and painting, the scale is very specific. I think of it often like a piano that has a certain range of notes to play. Of course, within that range there is a seemingly limitless combination of notes.
So to go deeper, value is a principle that great works of representational art have in common. But what makes value good or bad? I'd say the most important part is to have accurate value. And that means that you can accurately transcribe the darkness or lightness of a tone from your eye to the paper or canvas. This is a super simple idea, but the application of it can be very difficult.
The reason it's difficult is because the world is mostly composed of midtones; midtones are found in the value ranges from 3 to about 7 on a value scale. Now a 3 and a 7 look entirely different, but a 3 compared to a 4 and then a 4 compared to a 5 and so on gets trickier. There's a bit of advice that can help from John Singer Sargent which he received from his teacher, Carolus Duran. He says that the secret of art is in the half tones and to search for the half tones. The idea is to find midtones and then find the darks and the lights, working outwards from the middle. A good painting is mostly midtones, with touches of dark and light on top.
A lot of my own time was spent pursuing techniques; this happened as a beginner before I was open to learning principles. One example of techniques is how materials affect your painting. So you can learn about how poppy seed oil dries slower than linseed oil, so poppy seed oil works well for alla prima painting in order to prolong the drying time.
Another way of thinking about this is that techniques are like tools in a toolbox. It's important to know what a hammer does and what a saw does and how to properly use them, but the principle is like what you're trying to build with those tools. Techniques and principles are often intertwined together and help each other.
Techniques are important, especially for a beginner, but it's important to not get hung up on them and to allow them to facilitate your true creation. This mindset also lets you have the freedom to create your own techniques and just to have fun with the whole process. And that's the most important part!
I wanted to share a recent insight that I've been meditating on. As readers of my blog know, I really value reading and the power of books. And I also enjoy sharing snippets from current books in my Instagram stories. So basically if I come across something that I find interesting I share that section of the text.
Some nights I read for a while and find that there's nothing to share at all. And then other nights I end up sharing multiple lines of text. This led me to scouting for lines to share just for the chance at sharing something. So I searched and searched and of course.........found absolutely nothing. Why is this? Well, I think it's a mysterious law of the universe that lays this ground rule: "Seek and Ye Shall NOT Find".
Then I gave up looking for an interesting passage of text to share and continued my reading and within a paragraph, of course, found a very thought-provoking line to share. This rule applies to many other areas of life: work, relationships, solutions to problems etc. It's especially true while playing the game Cards Against Humanity; anyone who has played the game knows that when you pick up a new card, it would have been the perfect card to have just played, the one you were seeking.
I think this is pretty funny and has taught me a valuable lesson about the definition of "seeking", seeking is defined as "The attempt to find (something)." I think problem lies with the attempting. I don't think the answer to this paradox is the all-to-obvious inverse (to let something find YOU) but instead of that its lesson is to remove the attempt and to simply "Find". Hope everyone has a Happy Memorial Day! 🇺🇸
With 2019 nearing an end, I wanted to share some of my own closing thoughts. The most significant thing that I've been experiencing lately is just the freedom to do things in my own fashion. By this, I mean being unique in my expressions as an artist and as a person. Not overthinking or mimicking or trying to be something other than me.
It feels like a lot of ballast has been removed from me because I no longer care to pursue something outside of myself. It's such a freeing feeling to search for myself. Some books that have helped me with this have been: The Power of Now and A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle and The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I'm currently about halfway through The Four Agreements and highly recommend it to anyone who likes personal development books.
I'm wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year. I wonder what 2020 will bring?
Man, it is really easy to get distracted. Just looking at my phone can lead to a whole morning, afternoon or evening down the tubes. How many days am I willing to let sail by me without engaging and accomplishing what I want to accomplish? I've hit a wall with the constant checking on things, emails, apps, etc. I took a step forwards today by deleting my email app on my phone. Even after I deleted the app, I instinctively tapped the spot where it used to be! That seems like a borderline addiction or something to me. I'll check my email once a day on my computer, but that's all.
There's enough hours in the day, but how many of them do I fritter away? What excuses am I making that stop me? There's no one actively stopping me from doing any of the things I want to do. If I want to go paint en plein air tomorrow, I can, but what excuses will I make? As my 20's are slowly drawing to a close, I'm becoming frightfully aware of how precious time is. I don't want to let the beautiful moments of the day disappear into a smartphone, computer, tv, etc.
I need to be hard on myself. There's a lot of things I want to do and making lists of them doesn't help; it requires actually doing them with a level of focus and presence. Many of these lessons I learned on my bootcamp last weekend (or was that two weekends ago? 😳) I still need to write a review about that whole experience, but you can check out Infinite Man Summit to learn more about truly becoming your best self.
For me, the good stuff is the real stuff. Spending time with my mom, skateboarding, reading, writing in my journal, petting my dog, riding my motorcycle, having a beer with my friends, painting from life, etc. That's what makes me happy. Grrr, it's tough, but at least it's simple.