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If You Think It, Do It! – Advice for Artists

January 28, 2010

oblivion2006A common misconception about artists is that they can see things in their minds. They can envision colour combinations and imagine the way different patterns and textures go together. While this is true to some extent, we shouldn’t always make creative decisions based on these visions. As artists, we are visual and it’s essential for us to see.

As a teenager, I did a lot of sewing. The most difficult part of that process for me was choosing the fabrics. I would be overwhelmed by the choices and, to my poor mother’s frustration, would have no idea about what colours and patterns would work with each other. I relied mostly on her judgement for this, and it wasn’t until my garment was finished that I was able to see that she had been right.

People seem to think it’s really strange that an artist can’t tell what colours and patterns should go together, but without actually seeing them in a composition, it’s impossible to know how they will relate to each other.

This is the reason that many artists do thumbnail studies. It allows them to see several different compositions before choosing the one that is right. Some artists even do colour studies before starting on a painting to work out the best colour combinations. How many times have you gotten deep into an artwork and realized, “that yellow is the wrong yellow.”

And that’s not a bad thing! A big part of the artistic process is identifying and fixing problems, which is where today’s advice comes in: if you think it, do it

Sometimes, as the artist, we become so attached to a piece that we are afraid to change it. The artwork becomes precious to us and this limits our creativity to the point where we avoid anything that we think might “ruin” it.

Have you ever finished a piece and had a niggling thought in the back of your mind that something should be different?┬áThat an area needs to be darker or lighter, that there should be a splodge of blue somewhere? A thought that just won’t go away no matter how many times you tell yourself the piece is done?

I think we all have! The question is: do you act on these persistent urges?

If you don’t, you could be missing out on something new and exciting.

When you have a thought that just won’t leave you alone, when you get that urge to do something dramatically different, act on it. Don’t worry about ruining your piece. You need to have the confidence that if you’ve done something once, you can do it again. If whatever change you make detract from your work, you need to know that you will be able to fix it.

Don’t rely on your imagination to make aesthetic decisions. You need to do it, see it, and evaluate it.

If you’re really and truly concerned about making any permanent changes to something, consider using an alternative method. With the painting above, it started out as all reds and pinks. I had this thought that it might look more interesting with some bits of blue peeking through. Instead painting over my piece, I painted blue on some paper, then glued it in different places on the painting. This allowed me to find the places where the blue would be most effective.

Also consider using digital means. With a program like Photoshop, or Corel Draw, or Gimp, you can edit and make changes on the computer without affecting your finished piece. This lets you change colours, change composition, change whatever.

The bottom line is this: don’t ignore those persistent ideas in the back of your mind. Run with it and see what happens because it could be the thing that sparks a whole new series of work. If you always do the same old, you’ll always do the same old! Art is about change and growth, so don’t hold yourself back. If you think it, do it!

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3 Comments
  1. stopped by thru wetcanvas, nice forum

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  1. Easy Composition Tips: Thumbnail Drawings | Learn to... Art!

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