I am a note taker. I enjoy researching new projects; looking at photographs of my subject matter, writing down goals of what I want to accomplish for a new painting. However, I am NOT a patient person, and there is one thing I’ve tried to do but, unfortunately, do not have the patience for, and that’s to do warm-up paintings or quick sketches before starting a new piece of art. There’s an artist I discovered on Facebook not long ago whose techniques and works I greatly admire, and he’s taught me a lot in his short instructional videos. One thing he does every morning, or before starting a new piece, is to paint several preliminary warm-up paintings. It works for him and gets him loose. I, on the other hand, am so impatient to start a new piece, that I typically dispense with any kind of sketching or preplanning, and jump right in. Occasionally, but very rarely, will I do any preplanning. And for the longest time I’ve felt very guilty over the fact that I’m not doing what this artist, whom I admire does, and that I’m SUPPOSED to do it his way. Now, I can totally understand the need for doing warm-up exercises, to loosen up, and I’m sure most art teachers and instructors will tell you that it’s a useful practice to start. But I tend to do my loosening up right there on a fresh, blank canvas. And sometimes the greatest surprises come from working this way. Is it the best way? Probably not for most people, but it is for me, and I’ve decided not to chastise myself anymore because I don’t do warm-up paintings. I do look at my values and contrasting colors there on the canvas, and if I need to make adjustments, I do it. The lesson here? We all have different ways of working, of working out our creative problems, and what works for some may not work for you. There is no exact RIGHT way, or, if there is, it’s whatever the right way is for you.
I’ll share with you a painting I started a couple of days ago of a work in progress, of what will eventually be an abstract interpretation of my favorite painting of all time, Vincent van Gogh’s “Cafe Terrace at Night.” I started with no preliminary paintings, just a quick sketch in charcoal, straight on the canvas, and this is the underpainting to this point, with no planning. The end result will probably hardly resemble this initial start, and it’s probably not the “right” way, but I’m having a blast, and that’s all that counts. So, embrace and celebrate the part of you that rebels. You might find your best work in the process.