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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Thinking vs. Over-Thinking a Painting

'You are Like a Rose' 8x10 pastel ©Karen Margulis
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I learned a valuable lesson in my figure painting class today. Sometimes you just have to trust yourself and just paint. Sometimes you have to stop thinking and let your intuition guide you. You have to have confidence to let go and just paint and not be tentative and afraid of doing it the wrong way. It is hard to do this when you are learning something new. You want to think about everything the teacher told you to do. You want to get it right. So you think about it and think about it and then finally make a tentative mark. Then you think some more. That's what happened today. I wanted to do what I thought was the right thing but I was afraid I would be wrong so I didn't do it. ( my intuition was correct) Remind yourself not to let all of this thinking get in the way of actually painting.

I do believe there is a place for thinking in the painting process. I do a lot of thinking before I start a painting. I do thumbnail sketches and value studies and color studies and choose my color palette. Once I get all the thinking out of the way I am ready to let go and just respond to my painting. I let things happen. I let go of my inhibitions and fear of doing it wrong. And I have fun!

I put on my thinking hat again at the finish line....when I think I am almost done with a painting I will slow down and think....what could I do to make this a better painting? I put my knowledge to use and hopefully make the right decisions. But I am confident that I didn't over-think the painting. I planned it and then just let it happen.
Note to self: I will study and practice the figure so I will have the knowledge to paint without over-thinking. And I will have fun!


Mariela said...


robertsloan2art said...

This is so true and so important.

Planning ahead of time is great. That always gives me confidence that the painting's going to come out well. Doing a series and telling myself that I can fool around with different variations of the same thing lets me relax and just accept the painting as it flows.

During a successful painting, it's a completely nonverbal, intuitive process. That's what makes art relaxing to do. If I'm thoroughly in my right brain focused on my artistic perceptions, I paint with confidence and enjoy what I'm doing. That emotion goes into the painting, it provides a subtext of joy that comes through loud and clear to anyone else seeing the painting.

All those preliminaries do something else. They're practice observing and sketching the subject - every single one of them is. I might be focusing consciously on composition, but doing that tree five times before I start the painting makes that particular tree one that I know pretty well. I trust myself to get it right. It's easier to soar and play with color and texture in it. It's easier to loosen up and express its identity in shorthand, paint more concise, get across its essentials easier.

The benefits of your approach are many and there's no points against it. The time to think is in the preliminaries and finishing touches. Painting itself should be as liberating and expressive as a dance.