Sunday, July 20, 2014

Creative Process

"To the Lowest Place" 48x60, Oil on Canvas
Available at Mary Tomas Gallery
I've been challenged lately by my sister, Dee Jones to share a little more behind the scenes of HOW I create. She is an incredible artist and I encourage you all to check out her work. I appreciate so much our dialogue in this and being able to ask each other into the process of creativity.
There were really 4 questions that she asked me (and she also answered on her blog) and I'd like to share them with you.
The first question was: How does my creative process work?
The entire process takes about three stages. The first stage is the idea, meditation, prayer stage followed by the painting of a small study to get the idea out on canvas. The 2nd stage is to reformulate what worked and didn't work and begin the final painting (usually larger). This also takes thought into what types of mediums to use along the way. The choice between Oleogel and a Linseed Painting Medium. One helps me oil in areas that I need to have flowing and one helps the paint to become "tacky" or sticky so that other layers can sit on top of it (I can paint faster). The 3rd stage is the finished details and highlights. Usually this is where the surprises happen. I don't plan for things that just naturally occur in the paint. This is a very spiritual point as I feel I let myself be open to changes that need to happen (shifts of light, color change or elimination of objects that were planned).
For certain paintings I usually begin with a scripture in mind:
The Scripture I wrote out for "Cain and Abel."
These were the particular passages that moved me the most to want to paint.
I sketch out the idea and write out the colors I believe will work.
I will see how this looks when I do the study for the bigger piece.
I usually check what are my 2 main color groups and what are the neutrals that will happen in those color groups. For example if the main painting is mostly a yellow hue (light in the sky, land etc) then I know it's opposite color is purple and that will give me my neutral.
I will choose my yellow, red and blue family that will come together to make the painting. After the study I will probably enhance the painting with more colors (not too many). Here I used one more yellow and red. I also added another green that I could not mix with the blues and yellows I chose.
The little 6x6 study to see the colors and idea
For the larger work I think through the mediums I will use.
Olegel and a Linseed Painting Medium (not just straight Linseed).
 I used ALL linseed based mediums because I like the way they smell (natural) and work with the paint. There are many different kinds but for me these do the two things I want the most: help me work into a wet canvas the next day without having to repaint the entire portion AND help me paint in one sitting a series of overlapping details.
In the final layers and process I go back to a question that hangs on my wall:
Prayer must guide the painting as that opens me to having my "ego" get out of the way
 (the way I want it to go and perhaps NOT exactly the way it should go).
 It also helps align my heart with God as I ask God to show me.
The 2nd question she asked was: How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Perhaps the Viewer would be better to answer this than the Artist. BUT, I believe something I am trying to get at in my work is the emotional truth in the landscape. That may sound weird but I believe nature is the symbol that scripture invites us to use to speak truths that are sometimes deeper than words. C.S. Lewis in his wonderful essay, Weight of Glory says it this way:
"...At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendors we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in. When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch. For you must not think that I am putting forward any heathen fancy of being absorbed into Nature. Nature is mortal; we shall outlive her. When all the suns and nebulae have passed away, each one of you will still be alive. Nature is only the image, the symbol, but it is the symbol Scripture invites me to use. We are summoned to pass in through Nature, beyond her, into that splendor which she fitfully reflects."
In my own words I believe nature has been enchanted with the fingerprints of God. This is why we can look at sunsets or oceans or great vistas of mountains and exclaim, "Thank you." Because our hearts have been quickened by that enchantment that nature drives us towards. There is a God and He is good. Even in the horror of this planet Earth there are still places of immeasurable beauty and awe. It is not explainable only something felt. I try to hit upon that feeling as I paint the landscape. I want cloud, water, mist, tree to become a metaphor of the stories of God and Man.
My work differs from most landscape in that I do not end with just landscape. It is just the vehicle I use to the truth. A truth sometimes I don't even know but will be revealed to me in the process of painting. When asked what I paint I say, "I paint the emotional landscape." That always leads to good questions for myself and hopefully the viewer.
"Soft Woodlands" 8x8, Oil on Gessobord

The 3rd question my sister asked was: What am I working on?
Right now, on my easel, is a the bigger painting for "Cain and Abel." I am still not finished but I hope to be by the end of the week. One thing I've noticed already is that the sky has changed along with the tree line. I had two trees to represent the brothers in the foreground and have now gone with one lone tree that is crooked. I am still wrestling through the colors in the foreground as I want a more burnt, red landscape. Hope to show you what it looks like very soon.
The 4th and final question was: Why do I create what I do?
There is something about landscape and nature that compels me to paint. It quickens my heart, stirs my soul. I used to draw and paint more figurative work (and sometimes still do that to take a break) but I found that there was more emotional range in the landscape (for me). It lends itself to a feeling of exploration, a pilgrimage, a wandering through the woods and forests, through skies and places of heavy atmosphere. I like the mystery that is embedded in the landscape. There is no end to it's mystery. I don't mean scientific explanations of what a rock or tree or fog IS but more what it gives me glimpses OF. More specifically the glimpse of the mysteries that line human hearts: loneliness, grief, sorrow, loss, joy, hope, refreshment and peace. I find as I read through the Bible that I am continually affirmed in this as God uses storms to speak from, clouds to guide, rocks to explain strength and rain to bring hope. Why do I create what I do? Because I love the landscape. It compels me to feel deeply and teaches me how to see.

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