It must be because Spring is in the air - as for the first time in a number of years, I am actually starting a painting in a colour other then blue! I suspect blue will make its way into the painting at some point though. Sometimes, I don’t work on a theme like water. Sometimes it is all about the colour. Can’t imagine a world without colour, I wonder how much we take it for granted? Today I am celebrating colour - one of life’s pleasures is to take a blank canvas and create a splash!
Why do I use blue? Perhaps it can be explained by psychologists or the late artist Yves Klein, I don’t know. I do know though that I am drawn to it, almost magnetised by it. It feels infinite and open, peaceful, tranquil. It reminds me of a particular time when I was scuba diving; we were all looking at the coral wall and the wonderful sea life living on it but something told me to turn around….to look into ‘the blue’ - there was nothing but blue but then…..a second later ….a Manta Ray ‘flew’ in from the blue, her grace and beauty made me cry!
Of all the colors, blue is the most liked by both men and women. It is no surprise then, that many artists—Louise Bourgeois, Yves Klein, and Wassily Kandinsky among them—have expressed a preference for it. According to psychologists, the popularity of the hue may take root in our evolutionary development. In the hunting-and-gathering days, those drawn to positive things—like, say, clear skies and clean water—were more likely to survive, and, over time, this preference for the color blue may have become hard-wired.
Yet, scientifically speaking, the sky and the oceans aren’t really blue—or at least not in the same way the soil is brown or leaves are green. This posed a big problem for most of art history. You can’t take the blue of the sky, grind it up with a mortar and pestle, then throw it on a canvas. Unlike certain reds, browns, and yellows, blue pigment isn’t quite as easily made.
Rather than art movements themselves, I feel my work has been influenced most by my creative interpretation of the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi and a belief in the positive outcomes of serendipity i.e. the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way!
Many Japanese philosophies embrace living in the moment and accepting 'the flow' and it is these concepts that influence my practice most. I work with the paint, with the colours and see where they take me - places I didn't even know I wanted to go!
It is important to me that the space I work in is set up so Wabi-Sabi can take place so I prepare the creative environment by setting out the 'palette', the tools and the 'blank canvas'. I am conscious of the theme I am working with e.g. water, co-existence, love and then I let the work just happen!
Some people call it intuition, some call it instinct or being in touch with our inner child! For me, it is about clearing my mind - getting thoughts out of the way so the creativity can take their place! I guess it is a form of meditation. I work on at least 2 pieces at a time. The next morning I will come in and take a look at what has been created the day before and work out what the pieces need next and how they need 'nurturing' with maybe some colour, some depth or some texture. The hardest part by far is knowing when to stop.
“Art is not about thinking something up. It is the opposite -- getting something down.” The Artist's Way Julia Cameron
As the kettle bubbles away, it is with fresh eyes that I view the canvasses I worked on the day before. Which ones feel complete? Which ones need more time and tlc? Which canvas is really ‘speaking’ to me today? Not forgetting to remind myself that less is more!
It is important not to think too much. The best thing is to let myself get lost in the colours, no thinking, just doing. Just being.
Each work may have some qualities that are similar to the others but each piece is different to all the others, just like a cloud, just like a person.
And if I have truly lost myself in its creation - when the work is finished, it is as if I am ‘meeting' and seeing it for the first time.
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep”. Scott Adams
On sunny days like today, I often ponder some more about the nature of colour and the relationship with light. It is said that the Impressionists were actually realists, as they believed that truth came from light. I’m not exactly sure how this belief would have informed their everyday practice but I do know that they were believed to have been the first artists to mix colour right on the canvas as opposed to using palettes for mixing.
When I am truly in the ‘moments’ of creativity and painting, I mix colour by instinct and on the canvas so it is comforting to know that not keeping strict records of the colour ratios for each piece is a practice I share with the Impressionists! The colour wheel is something I have hanging in my studio but it is not something that I refer to. Why not? For me, it is too precise and scientific and therefore can constrain rather than open up possibilities.
There are many fascinating theories about colour and mood, spectrums and science, reflection and absorption but perhaps the thing that fascinates me most of all is our varied perception of light and colour. How could I ever experience how you experience blue? Can we even imagine a new colour made up of colours beyond our perceived spectrum?
It is tricky for us to know if you and I see or experience the same blue because each of us has a unique way of seeing the world based on biology and how we have decided to ‘log’ purple, violet or aubergine! To me, this is yet another reason why visual art is so exciting – the experience of any piece will always be unique, even to the same ‘viewer’ under different light conditions and from one day to another. So…. there are first impressions, second impressions and if we are lucky there are also lasting impressions.