Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Finding "The Flow"... and Freedom

As I previously mentioned... "I" am often paralyzed and overpowered by sensory input in a particular place or situation. Colour and too much visual information shuts down my ability to both process and act upon what "I" am experiencing... no matter how beautiful the subject may be.

In order to deal with this sensory overload... "I" reduce my expectations of my Self... use my sketching materials... either pencil or pens to record impressions... or the "Idea" that causes "Me" to look upon it as a subject of high interest. My camera serves to back up (not replace) my sifting through impressions... along with notes that "I" find interesting and that might trigger and recapture some of the initial excitement later in the studio.

This secondary approach to entering the painting "mode" or process usually results in my finding "The Flow"... as I' ll refer to it... meaning that state in creating when everything else around and inside you ... even Time... ceases to effect, or for that matter even exist. It is in my opinion, another plane of "existence"... a "place"where many artists spend time.... a place where they say that they "play" with their Muse.

It is this space... one of complete solitude and Freedom that "I" seek before launching into painting. Often it can be reached easily and can last lengthy periods of time. There are other times when it is difficult... even impossible to enter -EXCEPT... through the series of rituals and exercises that I have created for my Self to help "Me" slide into that state slowly... but surely.

My Scotland adventure was simply overwhelming for "Me" physically and spiritually. So many outside factors were "playing against" my desire to paint. By choosing watercolours and pen and ink as my tools to record ... "I" reduced the internal pressure and my own usual desire to become involved in adding detail. "I" made the activity free-flowing by lowering my expectation from "a painting" final product... to a journalistic "sketch". This allowed "Me" to gather ideas and data to support a much more finished record later in the studio.

Upon my return to Canada, it took "Me" a full week of looking at the sketches and reviewing my photo references to finally settle upon a direction for the first painting. A Crail subject was the obvious place to start... simply because that site most excited "Me". In that broad sense... "I" singled out the "moment" that "I" had recorded with my camera... high on the Hen's Ladder... looking down and out to sea as the most memorable moment visually. That prompted my preliminary watercolour/pen and ink sketch at the monitor.... which led a week later to the 30x24 inch toned canvas drawing in vine charcoal. This is the lay in stage after three hours of continuous painting shown in today's post. Canvas filled... nothing final... "possibilities" there for further consideration and development are there for the exploring in today's session... but it is from here that "I" am finally have the final freedom... "to create"... no maps... no sketches... no photos... no preconceived ideas. I have no idea where and when the painting will end.

Yesterday... "I" completed the ritual of setting out the palette of colour early in the morning... in preparation for the start of the lay in process later in the day. Before heading to the easel... I returned coffee in hand... to the reading of my new book; The Artist's Mentor, Ian Jackman , Editor published by Random House. Is is indeed a Mentor... in every sense of the word. I heartily recommend it to anyone needing... wanting... or open to new ideas... from a host of masters and major artists.

Here is a sample of what "You" might expect within its pages:

"The most precious factor in the creative life of an artist in any medium is freedom. Totalitarian, political, or national idelologues that seek to direct or channel the arts are pernicious; they can strangle the work of individual artists and cripple their own culture. They are not, however, the only things that hamper an artist's freedom. It can also be curtailed by commercial conditions of the theaters of aesthetics ordained by various groups, cults, cliques, or "isms". It seems to me that the most damaging restrictions on an artist's liberty are self-imposed. So often what may have begun as fresh thinking and discovery is turned into a routine and is reduced to mere habit. Habits in thinking or technique are always stultifying in the long run. They are also contagious, and when a certain set of habits becomes general, a whole art period can condemn itself to the loss of freedom..."

Food for thought ... for all of "Us"!
I'll post the final painting when complete. Stay tuned,,,,,

Good Painting to ALL!


  1. Hi Bruce,

    This painting is outstanding, your process is working for you. I love the colors and composition. I feel as though one can enter this beautiful place through the path . Well done Bruce. Thank you for sharing.

    All the best to you.

  2. Hi Bruce:

    Jill from Ayr here.

    I so enjoy your blogs. More than often they bring me to tears (as I have shared with Deb).

    No doubt Scotland and all it meant was overwhelming. What a beautiful path to this work you have shared with us.


  3. Hi Bruce.
    This painting is absolutely beautiful. The colours, well, they are brilliant. The draughtmanship is outstanding. truly a winner. All the best bruce.

  4. Hi Joan!.... Thank "You" for the encouraging comments!

    If one develops a process... one that allows for flexibility of thought and actions during it.... then the outcome will always be more solid and creative than... "flying entirely by the seat of one's pants".

    The path is the compositional vehicle for sure... to lead the eye where it is meant to travel.

    Good Painting Joan@
    Warmest regards,

  5. Hi Jill.... From Ayr!.... So glad that "You" are enjoying the blog! Blogging is a wonderful way to reach out and share ideas and feelings with others. It also provides new ideas and support back.... a dual street!

    Glad to be part of the "Ayr Force"... and look forward to exhibiting at The Summertime Dreams Show! "I" will certainly be "Plein Ayring" around the village that day. Hope that others will take part as well... and that the weather cooperates!

    See "You" soon Jill!
    Cheers!... and warmest regards,

  6. Thank "You" for all of your positive feedback and encouragement Vic!

    "I" absolutely love colour.... try to create solid compositions with good draughtsmanship."I" really "was into" this subject. It is fairly... "painting itself"... if you know what I mean!

    Good Painting to "You vic! Keep those green studies flowing! They're great!

    Warmest regards,

  7. Love hearing your thoughts and processes, Bruce. I also manage to end up with sensory overload. I think for me, the totality of everything I see in a potential painting is important to the piece, to the sense I got from seeing the spot originally. I don't want to leave anything out and I end up overwhelmed to the point of not doing anything at all and thinking it too difficult to tackle.

    This piece is beautiful and I find myself wishing I could be walking through this little village towards the distant sea, enjoying the homes, the gardens, the architecture...

  8. beautiful.
    Did you key-up the intensity of the values?

  9. Hi again Autumn!..... Thank "You" for your ever supportive comments... meaningful observations and your sharing of your own ideas!

    We all suffer from self-imposed doubt and fear of failure... and from that the paralysis that accompanies those uncertainties.

    The key to overcoming them is "the meat" of what "I" was trying to express in the post. "You" identified the problem-trying to say "everything"... becoming "overloaded" visually and emotionally... then leaving the task!

    Therein lies the solution. Choose ONE aspect of what you are looking at... in my case the pathway...in the preliminary watercolour and the toned sketch... it is strongly there. It was the path "IDEA"... that arrested my attention. Despite all of the colour.... variety of forms... details... it comes down... SIMPLY... to "following the path(IDEA)"!

    It is no surprise to "Me" that nearly everyone who has commented... has "taken" the path. Therefore "I" have managed to convey what "I" felt most. The rest of the painting process MUST NOT detract from that!

    "I" purposely left it untouched yesterday.... just to think my way around my usual "Shermanesque" perpensity for adding (too much) detail. "I" have tried to imagine the final image...
    "using less to say more".Perhaps "I" am now more ready... Hope so!

    Good luck with dealing with your own demons Autumn... we all must... each of us in our own ways. "I" sincerely hope that showing you my own ways... that it gives "You" courage to forge ahead with more confidence in your (wonderful) Self!

    Good Painting,
    Warmest regards,

  10. Hi Susan.....Did I key of my colour values? Not intentionally in any respect. I always begin a piece by placing my darkest "darks" and lightest "lights" in general proximity to the subject (IDEA) that "I" wish to expand and develop. Everything else in my mind is painted in the mid value range to help tighten the focus on the subject.

    "I" must truthfully admit however.... that the light in Scotland was very different than the light we experience here in Canada. Summer light in Scotland lasts longer and remains stronger during the day than in our Canadian summer. Therefore the intensity of hue is obviously stronger... and does effect the final outcome of sketches and paintings done under those more constant and intense lighting situations.

    Hope that answers your good question!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  11. Hi Bruce,

    Your painting is a "feast for the eyes"! I love your palette. Visiting your blog is a learning experience. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. The best to you.

  12. Hi Sue!.....Always a pleasure to chat with "You"! Thank you for your encouraging and gracious comments regarding the new picture... and the contents of the blog!

    If only a few feel the way that "You" do... then the effort is worthwhile. I truly enjoy the interaction with other like-minded and aspiring artists... the sharing of ideas and visiting other artists sites to see their processes.

    We all learn Sue... from each other and that is highly encouraging and is growth-oriented in itself!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,