Tuesday, October 20, 2009


PART I: Starting on Your Art Project

Sometimes simply starting an art project can seem very daunting. Artists are often wrought with difficult questions regarding their work. What am I trying to say? Do I succeed in conveying what I mean? What is my inspiration? How can I translate the image I see in my mind? Where do I even begin? There are no easy fixes. The more personal or difficult an idea, the more anxiety an artist feels. For Seal, the process of art can be broken down into the following stages: incubation, starting, working, and finishing.

Incubation- is cultivating the initial inspiration or idea for an art piece. Like a snapshot. As mentioned in the watercolor process weekend post, Seal started off with a very vague idea of mahogany wooden counters. Something that feels old, frequented, a gathering, a bar, a Chicago bar. Then from that initial idea, she placed anthropomorphic characters inhabiting that world and a detective story about "looking for noah."

Starting - Some people think that everything up to the point of making the first stroke on a piece of paper is still considered incubation, and not starting on a piece. For Seal, starting means the smallest unit of action that get the idea closer to manifesting into physical art. For example, researching an idea, getting out the paints, cleaning the palette, preparing the image for transfer. Or simply doodling, making small thumbnails for composition.

When starting, an artist are most often in one of three states:
1.) I have a clear idea of what I want.
2.) I have some idea of what I want, but the rest is unclear.
3.) I don't have any idea of what I want to convey.

Starting is one of the most difficult stages for any artist. For Seal, if she has a clear idea (which is very rare), she starts with the smallest unit, like taking out her paint brushes, and laying them next to the blank canvas. Think of it like a child learning how to write. You start with the alphabets, not only that, but with the letter "a." Keep doing so and in time you'll have a novel. She also keeps in mind that even if she fully knows an idea, the idea may change as he/she continues to work. Maybe she doesn't want a complex novel, but just a three-word silly rhyme or something.

If she starts with not having any idea, she doodles. Sometimes the art just stay as doodles and it is what it is. Sometimes she keeps doodling until her brain starts to see pictures, or patterns with what were once incoherent scribbles. Sometimes an idea just doesn't come, in which case she does other things. Some of the things Seal does to help her start on her artwork:

-writing 3 pages before "starting." This process gets rid of all the mundane everyday thoughts out of your brain. ie. (must to laundry, and tomorrow's lunch with . . . I was supposed to have return that library book . . . what was that idea again?)

-get inspired, stimulate your imagination with images. Seal loves the local library, she learns about many different things, like dinosaurs, egypt tombs, architecture, forests, etc. She sees many colors, shapes, stories, and ideas.

-"Keep your palette clean, your markers stocked, and your tea/coffee nearby" It's easier to start on a project when all of your stuff is ready to go. You don't have to go to the store to because your marker ran out, or you don't have to waste time cleaning your palette before you get to the fun of painting, or you don't have to keep interrupting your work flow to refill your tea.

Regardless on how one starts, what's most important is that the artist has "something that keeps them going, keeps them working," whether its the initial inspiration, or excitement of where the piece is going, or finally discovering an idea that was not present before.

There are millions of reasons not to start on a project and a few, but absolutely meaningful, reasons to do so. The "trick" is to constantly remember the purpose of creating your art in the first place.

Please check back for Part II of this post, Seal will cover the topics of working and finishing.

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