Monday, May 02, 2016

Planning, Intuition, Imagination

"Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success." - Picasso

Cloudburst Over Marsh work in progress
©2016  Katherine Kean
oil on linen 40 x 40 inches
Do your paintings talk back to you as you paint them?

During Anselm Kiefer’s talk at the Getty last week, he mentioned that he starts a piece with an idea in mind, but during the process the artwork will often transform into something else.

Usually I begin a painting with what I think is a clear intention of what the painting is about; the content, the subject, the mood and also the scale, the palette, and to what extent it will be painterly and textured.

Cloudburst Over Marsh sketch 
©2016 Katherine Kean
graphite 8 x 10 inches
I almost always go to Nature as the source of inspiration. I also make use of the many intellectual rules of composition. You know them: the Golden Ratio, the Fibonacci Spiral, the Rule of Thirds, etc. With these ideas in the back of my mind I rearrange the elements of the landscape to align to the framework of the canvas. Clouds up and to the left, tree down and to the right, the curve of a road from here to there, and so on.

Cloudburst Over Marsh study 
©2016 Katherine Kean
oil on linen 6 x 6 inches
Most of the time everything proceeds as imagined, and I’ll think I know when and how the painting will arrive.

Cloudburst Over Marsh work in progress 
©2016 Katherine Kean
oil on linen 40 x 40 inches
“An idea is a point of departure and no more. As soon as you elaborate it, it becomes transformed by thought." - Picasso

Cloudburst Over Marsh work in progress 
©2016 Katherine Kean
oil on linen 40 x 40 inches
Lately I find that as I approach this anticipated completion, I’ll begin to see something else and if I slow down and let it happen the painting seems to suggest a direction it would like to go – which may or may not be what I’d originally intended. 

Cloudburst Over Marsh detail 
©2016 Katherine Kean
oil on linen 40 x 40 inches
Often the shift is subtle, a part I wasn’t too concerned about starts to become more of a focus point. A section of sky asks to be darkened, a carefully painted cloud all but disappears. A faintly suggested tree demands attention and detail. Other times it might as well be a completely different painting. If I take the hint and follow up, the results often make sense and I wonder why it wasn’t part of my “original plan” – or was it? It’s hard for me to tell where imagination ends and intuition begins.


And yet, I’m starting to like this way of working.

“Picasso was writing about this subject when he said: “I consider a work of art as the product of calculations, but calculations which are frequently unknown to the author himself. It is exactly like the carrier pigeon calculating his return to the loft. But the calculation that turns out to be correct is unknown to him; it is a calculation that precedes intelligence.” - Keeper of the Flame, An essay on Max Shertz and his Art of the Unconscious. By Daniel Kaufman, Artist and Writer

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