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What Inquiring Minds Want to Know

The question I am asked the most is: "Do you know what you are going to paint before you start, or does the art just create itself?"

I wish it would just create itself because I am a fan a big fan of easy, and I would much prefer to be lazy; but no, the art definitely does not create itself. I will attempt to answer the question in detail, in this blog post, by explaining what I do not do, and then by explaining what I actually do. I will also use three of my abstract paintings as examples.

I do not start with a photograph and attempt to reproduce it. I do not try to replicate exactly what I see in the natural world. Of course, I do not try to reproduce what other artists have created. That last one would be stealing.

What do I do? I start with inspiration. I am drawn to the details in nature. Examples include: The way the sun reflects off the water creating what looks like a multitude of diamonds. The patterns that form on the sea floor under gentle wave action. Circles that form on the driveway when the light filters through the trees.

Using the last example as inspiration, I have created three distinctly different paintings. These are Blissful Moments, Marimo, and Syzygy, which are shown here from left to right.

None of these paintings resemble the circles on my driveway, nor do they look like each other. For each of these paintings, I started off by creating circular patterns on the steel using acids and paint, and I allowed the materials to react. Then the dance begins…

Because the chemical reactions that take place are a result of the physical laws of the universe, I feel like I am dancing with God. I am co-creating, and I am the dance partner. With each additional layer that I add, I must look at where the reactions are leading and follow along by adjusting my original ideas and intentions. I spend time studying the paintings with each added layer to determine how to proceed. For example, the first several layers for "Blissful Moments" looked like boring circles with the rust having created some interesting patterns that can be seen on close inspection. With the next layers I added more circles and a color wash to make it more like a watery abyss because that's where I felt I was being led by what was developing. Ultimately it started looking like bubbles arising from the deep, so on the last layer I chose three circles and painted them as bubbles.

I look at my art as being analogous to life. Both life and art require my participation. If I don’t actively participate in either, nothing of value happens. If I try to force things to conform to my original plan, and refuse to make adjustments where required, or am impatient, the result is only frustration and failure. My journey in life and in art is about learning how to be a good dance partner.

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