Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Art Blog: Visions or Blank Canvas?

There are times when people ask questions about my art and art making process. One question that is asked often is: “Do you have a vision in your head before you paint or do you just start painting?” My reply is “Both”. Sometimes I have a complete and total vision of a work before I have even set up a canvas. Other times, there is no vision, no idea, and no clue. I start painting anyway.

There are pros and cons to both methods. The “vision” mode is fun because some of the work is already done. I have the image in my mind. All I have to do is make that image concrete. When this happens, things go fast. I gather up reference materials, sketch things out, and paint like a mad woman. It is fun and amazing to see imagery from my head appear in front of me. It can be a bit frustrating if I can’t get it exactly like my mental picture, but I usually get pretty close. The down side of this method is it can be mechanical. Also, I get inpatient because I know what is going to happen and I just want it to be done!

When I stare at a "blank canvas" with no preconceived notion of what I am going to do it is much scarier. Sometimes the brushstrokes quickly suggest a direction. Other times, it can be brutal. I struggle and argue with the work. This way of working can be very stressful.

Then again, some really terrific things can happen too when we work blindly. I started my “Treasure Maps” series about a year ago. I have never finished even one. In fact, they were close to becoming “orphans”. (I will write about orphans tomorrow.) Little by little I worked on them while working on other things. I didn’t understand what I was doing. I couldn’t see where I was going. I was very frustrated and exasperated. This week I have been working long hours in my studio. Three of the pieces I have been working on are from that series. Yesterday, I had a lightning bolt moment. I realized what this series is about and what I want it to say. I slept on this revelation. This morning, I went into the studio and POOF! I finished all three! Two of them still need varnish. Here is the first one. FINALLY done!

Click pics for detail view

“Can’t Go Home Again”
Sheree Rensel
Acrylic/Mixed Media/Canvas, 24” X 36”

You sure can’t tell from this picture, but there has to be at least 20 layers of paint on this canvas. I just kept painting over and over and over it. It actually weighs a lot! I like the connection of looking for treasure and all the layers of this painting. However in this case, the treasure wasn’t buried, it rose to the top!

Here is a detail of the collage map portion. I am going to make a “Treasure Map” series webpage. I will put up the other maps online soon!


JafaBrit's Art said...

I love the treasure maps, they are really cool!

I seem to not paint something when I have completely visualized it in my mind lol! It is like I have processed the idea already and have no need to take it further. When I have an idea of what I want to say but haven't figured out how to say it then the piece evolves. Interesting to see all the different approaches.

Sheree Rensel said...

Jaf, For years, I made work from visions. This is happening less lately. I am not sure why. I guess I am going through some kind of passage.
I LOVE your painting on plastic I saw on your blog. Great job!

deb said...

I watched the movie on Jackson Pollock this weekend. I had a migraine on Saturday and TV was all I could process. Anyway your blank canvas thought made me think of it, there's a scene where he is just fighting with the empty canvas. I like Pollock's work, although I doubt I would have liked the man. I guess I usually have a sot of idea when I start, but my work talks to me and grows from there... except for painting, most of those come to me in dreams, although I don't paint much anymore, but have been thinking about it alot this summer, so maybe that's about to change!