About a year ago I bumped into these thoughts of Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist and other bestselling books:
Try this: Next time you come across someone’s work and you’re not sure exactly how they do it, don’t ask them how it’s done. Don’t go after the “right answer” like some eager honors student. Look closer. Listen harder. Then use your imagination and experiment with the tools you have. Your bad approximation will lead to something of your own.
A photograph on a book cover caught my attention recently. Each time I saw it, it pulled at me. How to capture its essence in paint? I took Kleon's words as a guide. Just kept looking closely at that photograph every so often, listening harder to what song it was singing.
Then, today, I took what my imagination had been turning this way and that, grabbed some of my tools, and started experimenting, happy to bumble along to an approximation.
Wish you could have seen me.
We had a contractor/carpenter here all day ripping up and rebuilding our 100+ year old upstairs bathroom floor. Many of his tools and materials were in—and obstructing the doorway to—my studio. Hammer was banging, power saw screaming, sawdust flying.
I navigated the obstacle course more than once, took supplies outdoors, and had just the sweetest time painting in the May sunshine.
First, I collaged wrinkly sandwich paper to a new patch on my Core Values project.
Then, I brushed black latex house paint over the whole patch.
Next, I mixed a few different blues, adjusting with black and white till I was satisfied.
After that, using a cheap castoff paintbrush that must have belonged to my kids back in the day, I painted stripes, letting the black peek through the space between the 'boards' I was creating.
Then, using a poultry lacer from the kitchen, I scratched 'wood grain' into the boards.
You know how your eyes/mind can flip back and forth between two perceptions of an optical illusion? I enjoyed that same alternating current as I painted—seeing stripes, seeing boards, seeing abstract, seeing representational. Way fun!
Tomorrow I'll continue experimenting and approximating and adventuring.