Painting Influences (part 4)

Several artists have inspired me to paint. I’ve already written about some of them and I will write about more at a later time.
These people have shown me what art is and what it can be.
They can help inspire ideas and they can challenge me to try different approaches and different techniques.

But no matter what I can gain from the art of others – one of the most important sources of inspiration is much closer to home:


Does that sound arrogant and self-centred? I’m sure it does – but the claim isn’t intended to convey self-importance or to elevate myself in anyway. What I mean is that inspiration comes from actually DOING the work. Ideas flow from action.

I found the same thing true when I was studying writing at University. I found it fruitless to sit around waiting for inspiration, waiting for ideas before putting words on the page. The best ideas and work came out of the act of writing. As I wrote the ideas came – one step at a time.

It was better to start writing poorly than to sit around trying to think of the perfect opening sentence. It’s not such a hard thing to go back later and edit – it’s not such a hard thing to throw out a few poorly written initial paragraphs. In fact it’s harder to throw out those perfectly formed opening sentences, over which you spent hours of thought, when you realise they don’t fit into the overall work you’ve created.

Likewise with painting.

I seem to work best when I don’t try to work things out too much beforehand. I work best when I’m putting paint on canvas with little idea of what’s going to come out of it. The best things often come when I abandon initial plans and work with what I’m seeing on the canvas instead of trying to work too closely with the often over adventurous image I’d being holding in my head.

I write this partly as a personal encouragement. I haven’t had time to paint this week and after my disappointing attempt on the weekend my confidence is low. I have to remind myself how so often my “failures” have become some of the better paintings I’ve done. “Failures” are often not as bad as we think; they merely didn’t meet our initial intention.
Like throwing out those well thought-out sentences as subsequent writing takes on its own life, those initial artistic intentions sometimes need to give way to whatever develops during the process of painting.