July 9, 2012
Liz published this at 1:00 pm
The Games Artists Play
In his earlier days, the artist Chuck Close was a painter of gestural abstractions. After a personal crisis, he decided to take photographs, and square inch by square inch, make a large painting of the photograph. The process, to Close, was a game of sorts. If you get the opportunity to see one of his large scale paintings in a museum, the results are quite staggering.
Artists like to play games within their work. After all, there is no rule book on how to make a piece of art. Instead, you have total and absolute freedom. You can do anything you want â€“ a freedom which can actually be paralyzing. Thus, by creating little games, the artist has a self-imposed framework in which to work.
My own game is to paint alla prima â€“ which means at first attempt, and to paint all wet-into-wet; never onto dry paint. While Iâ€™ve found a way to keep my own paintings wet for weeks, and thus to sustain the game over a longer period of time, the historical idea of an alla prima painting, like those of the impressionists, was to create a painting in one sitting.
This is hardly a constraint taken on by all painters. In fact, Monet said something to the effect that youâ€™re not worth your salt as a painter if you couldnâ€™t put a painting away for a couple of months, come back to it, and not see what it needed. Bonnard was said to sneak into museums with a brush and colors under his coat to touch up his own paintings.
How Artists’ Games Can Help Our Work
Reworking a piece over a long period of time can certainly bring richness to any work. Itâ€™s over time that we are able to reinforce subtle patterns, or refine smaller ideas within the larger piece. But sometimes, itâ€™s difficult to let go of a piece. Our anxiety about getting it right takes over.
The idea, though, of saying that a painting, or even a piece of writing, is going to be done in one period of time â€“ that Iâ€™ll do the best I can NOW, and that Iâ€™ll do this and move on to the next â€“ can mitigate compulsiveness. We can bring this idea to writing too â€“ Iâ€™ll write a piece â€“ but after Iâ€™m done, Iâ€™m done. No going back and improving. Blogging is ideal for this â€“ after all, changing a post after itâ€™s been published, and after people have participated in the piece by commenting just doesnâ€™t feel right.
If you find yourself stuck in your endeavors, and unable to break through some invisible barrier, try creating your own parameters and games. After all, itâ€™s your game, and thereâ€™s not a person in the world who can say that itâ€™s wrong.