I don’t wish to appear as though I do this in every painting . . . .but I do notice that when I do, the quality of my paintings goes way up.
The answer is preliminary sketches and sketching to explore possible ideas.
It seems that when I really sit down and concentrate on composition (where to place various parts of an image on the canvas and how big and at what directional attitude), I get great results. Or, as I focus on making decisions about values (what will be dark, what will be light and what will be medium value . . . .and in what proportions), my work becomes simpler and stronger and the painting is executed with much more confidence. I have a greater, more positive sense of what to do next at the easel.
So how much is enough? One sketch? Hardly! Two? Doubtful. Three? Perhaps, but surely there are more alternatives than thaaaaaat ! I really don’t know how much is enough.
This much, however, I do know: when I am prowling through many alternatives and truly thinking about what the overall feel of each composition, some of the sketches will leave me lukewarm . . . . . .and one or two will bark out at me and yell “choose me!” That choice really shouldn’t come because one is tired of sketching and willing to accept any alternate just because “I want to paint, not draw.” There is emotional and mental treasure in being excited about proceeding with the ‘right one.’
The above sketches are all developed (17 of them . . .. and more coming) over a few mornings. One jumped out at me, yesterday (see the previous post), and I painted it. Today, after sketching for more time yesterday and this morning, I see that I have a few more possible good paintings in these. . . . and I am chomping at the bit to ‘get at it.’
What I learn every time I do spend hours (not just haphazard minutes in order to say “there. I did it.”) doing it, is that it becomes an end in itself and I find many possibilities with one subject (a tree on the edge of a cliff). Essentially, this is a shake-out process of evaluating and rejecting or selecting alternatives. I have known artists who spend (literally) years developing the same subject matter . . .it is called working in series . . .and series work is where we lose the insipid anxiety over details and explore our own notions and ideas. That is where the best, most creative work shows up.
The really cool thing about that sort of process (I know; It seems boring as hell. Believe me, it is not boring at all) is the excitement of discovery of what lies inside of me (you) . . . . . .. who knew THAT idea was in there? Wow!!
Answer: It’s never “enough” . . . .there is always just one more idea.