Strategies: The In’s And Out’s Of Painting
Edited and republished from May 2012
Charles LeClair, in his book, Color In Contemporary Painting (Watson-Guptill), talks about the “strategies” that contemporary painters employ to create their work. Chapter headings include, among others, Color As Visual Idea, Color As Gesture and Advanced Color Games: Transition And Counterpoint. Here the artist chooses how he will proceed based on the color strategies he decides to use.
I compare the process of using one of the above intellectual strategies with painting directly from life (though the one does not negate the other, in fact, direct observation goes hand-in-hand with many of the books ideas), whether still life, figurative, en plein air, etc. The painter here is led by what’s before him; this is a strategy in and of itself but seems counter to the idea of using internal criteria for producing art. This has long been the argument between the realist and the abstractionist, i.e., where does the inspiration for art come from; from external subject matter or from the internal, from the soul of the creator?
My own method is usually a combination of strategies, as in the book. I paint from life and I use other ways of thinking that I find valid. But, for me, everything is predicated on direct observation. I’m not a non-representational artist.
The voyage of the best ship is a zig-zag line of a hundred tacks.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
I vacillate between strategies too (or I could say my focus changes). I may move from, say, a textural focus to a color preoccupation, and then to something else. Sometimes I wonder if this is good, that maybe I need to stay on a narrower path.
Will my approach to painting become naturally straighter as I go, I don’t know? I guess I could decide to make it so at any time. But painting for me is a searching out and I’m not sure there has to be any goal other than expression for the moment.