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Painting Tip : The Creative Mode

September 27, 2018
By Richard Robinson
Painting Tip : The Creative Mode logo

Hi guys, had a bit of a rough start to the day today - had the blues, but gave myself a good 2 hour dose of outdoor painting and that seemed to sort me out. Just popped down the road a few miles, checking out different spots as I went but nothing grabbed my eye (perhaps due to the blues) so eventually I stopped at the most likely place and decided to try and make do with what I found.

Your artist's licence is really a double edged sword. It's exciting, but scary! Fun to swing around, but WHOA! watch out it can really ruin your day. Faced with an infinite number of possibilites it's easy to choke and make a bad choice, or worse, make none at all, so it takes a certain amount of courage even to unsheath your sword.

You can see in this painting how I used my sword today, chopping and changing things to make a more pleasing arrangement. What you're not seeing is the whole landscape I had to choose from and all the options that presented - I've already simplified it for you by framing it with my camera and flattening it into two dimensions. When I started this painting I didn't have much idea about what I would do, and I didn't have the patience to do a notan sketch first, so I just threw myself into it and consciously made my brain shift into 'creative mode' where I'm not seeing trees and buildings anymore - I'm seeing coloured shapes, value gradations, hard and soft edges and all the myriad relationships between those interconnected elements.

It's really a wonderful calming / fluid / living place to be and my guess is that it's this state of being that has always attracted me to art and to creating things with my hands, to playing music and surfing, and all those activities which put me in this special place.

David Leffel says "You know when you're out of the zone because you are thinking and making decisions." That's not to say that you don't need to make concious decisions when you're painting - I do it all the time, but I need to drop out of 'the zone' to do it. We don't need to be taught how to get in the zone or the 'flow', because we all do that naturally when involved with creative activity. What CAN be taught, or rather reminded, is that we need to focus more on staying within that creative state rather than clinically thinking our way through an entire painting, because the joy we find in that place translates directly into the joy witnessed by the final work of art.

In the end it could be argued that the goal of painting itself might not be a finished painting at all, but rather the journey the artist experiences during the act of creation. Something to mull over. Perhaps in your next painting you'll make the journey itself your goal instead of the finished piece, and in so doing you'll have your masterpiece.

Happy Flowing!


Pamela Wissinger 22/02/2020 Thanks, came at a good time. Love the sky and the bright light on the building. I can feel the cool colors which is a nice change from the golden yellows. I like learning to use many different palettes. You captured the outdoor freshness of the scene.
Mira Kamada 07/11/2019 This is a wonderful painting!