Let’s be honest: It is very rare for an artist to create a valuable work of art without planning or forethought. Plein Air myths not withstanding, that’s not how art is made. Art is a cerebral activity at its core. A lot of thought goes into a well made work of art. What do I mean by that?
Whether you are painting plein air, a still life or a figure or portrait, you have to start with three critical elements:
- Choosing your elements
- Designing your work
- Composing your painting
Many excellent artists spend most of their time working on these three elements. Reams of paper, charcoal, pencils etc. are spent testing, scrapping, reworking until a clear picture of composed concept and design is put together. The rest is the easy part really.
I know that if I setup a workshop on Concept Design and Composition and told people that they will be spending three days NOT painting but thinking and planning, no one would show up. But honestly, a workshop like that would help so many artists today because I see so many who have good skills in everything else but these three key elements.
I have to blame it in large part on plein air. Something I enjoy a lot, but have come to recognize as an excuse for bad art. It is as if the fact that you hiked half a day in the snow or waded through alligator infested waters to paint a badly designed work makes it valuable. It should be valuable for you as a study, but a badly designed work is not really art. It is a sketch that needs more thought on its way to become an artwork.
OK I hope I haven’t pissed off anyone with this post. I am as guilty of all the faults stated above as anyone. I just hope to get us all thinking creatively. What do you think?