Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Waltz of the Colors


Last month we had a benefit sale for 1+1, the charity that the Guerrilla Painter started for rural development in Latin America. There were all kinds of things from Bolivia & Peru for sale. One of my friends, who had been to Bolivia, was commenting about how she liked the oddball things: antique aguayos (hand-woven woolen pack-cloths) and a lantern from the silver mines in Potosi, where she had actually been inside a mine. She remembered how amazing it was to see the miners, working hard and smoking cigarettes inside the mines and using these lanterns, which burned up oxygen which was already scarce enough at over 13,000’ altitude. Obviously, when she looked at this little lantern, she saw something different from what most people saw.

This is what happens when we look at our surroundings for things to paint…we see things differently from anyone else. Sometimes we end up looking for subject matter similar to what we’ve seen other people paint, but this conventional wisdom can often result in uninteresting paintings and frustrating experiences. It’s more work to see things with fresh eyes, and it’s hard to value our own vision sometimes, but isn’t that what painting is all about?

I happened to be in Denver yesterday, standing in a parking lot near a highway, waiting for a few minutes. I focused on a highway sign and the cars going by. I wondered how I would paint such a mundane scene, and then I noticed how colorful it really was. Blocks of bright colors interacting, like a dance.

One palette, many visions. You choose. Austere or rich, or a combination of the two...traditional or edgy, ambiguous or vivid...

"In self-trust all virtues are comprehended." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

4 comments:

vickiandrandyrossart said...

Beautiful article! I can just see the colors doing their dance. I am at the stage with my painting where I am comfortable with the 'tools' (my boxes, brushes and pigments) and beginning to ask 'where is the painting'?

I see nothing, and another artist sees color and shape in that dead bush...

lady guerrilla painter said...

Thanks Vicki!
Some people can paint a field of grass and make it interesting, or a grey sky, and make it evocative. I think it comes from paying as much attention to the paint as to the scene in front of you. Texture and play of colors...maybe an energetic composition. I think you have to practice *seeing* as much as you practice painting (and practice seeing your *painting* as a painting.)

Helen Opie said...

Sometimes forcing yourself to paint fast, faster than you are comfortable with, gets the pizzaz out of the hidden recesses of your innards and onto the panel. There is no time for the Inner Critic to step in, no time todecide whether you are doing it "right" or doing a "good job"; just rush in (yes, angels fear to tread in some of these places, but not Painitng Angels) and see what happens. Do it again, preferably right away. Intend to make three painitngs in 2 or 3 hours. Intend to make 3 bad paintings quickly; you will probably see energetic qualities appearing in them. When you've learnt to "force" them out, they will learn to come out without forcing.

lady guerrilla painter said...

Great idea, Helen. Thanks!