Being an Art Hermit

We don’t just enjoy drawing and painting, we also like looking at work by other arts. No matter how many hours we create, it’s still inspiring to witness a created piece. We know how it’s done and it still feels like alchemy to turn a 2 dimensional surface into what looks like a tangible thing. So obviously we love consuming art. But sometimes it’s healthy to take a break from looking at other peoples’ art.

Sometimes artists compare our art to others’ to an unhealthy degree. It’s good critique ourselves, because our work has to stand out in the crowd. Critique brings about improvement. But everyone has the potential to add unique content to the world. We may have positive attributes in our work. But sometimes we appreciate the art of others so much we think ours is disappointing by comparison. In our constant appreciation of colleagues we fail to appreciate our own positives. Just because you like someone else style, or subject matter, or technique doesn’t mean yours has be the exact same.

Beaugureau Drawing Study
“Bouguereau Drawing Study” by Taisa Willoughby

 

Consuming artwork makes you aware of trends and what other people like. This is useful, because if you want to have a career in art, it has to appeal to people besides yourself. But when viewing art, we have to remember just because something is a trend and works for others doesn’t mean we are all beholden to that. Creating beautiful, funny, or engaging art isn’t about ticking off all the checkboxes to making the perfect painting. It comes from an individual’s skills, thoughts, experiences, interests, etc. There is no recipe to making the perfect thing everyone likes. New things are born from all the aspects of the art-making process. We have found our most satisfying work doesn’t come from making the appealing things we think an audience will accept.  Nor does our technical improvement come from going down the list of fundamentals without second thought. On a subjective level, ideas can come from experiences, interests, internal places. Technically, art is such a vast discipline, it’s daunting to know where to start. We study most effectively when we concentrate on fundamental skills as they become relevant. Looking at other peoples’ art can give an idea of where to start, but know one knows your mind better than you. You know what you want out of your art, so it’s up to you to learn what you need.

So examining our art independent of others enables honesty. Do I really like the type of work I do? What do I like so much that I have to be the one to make it? What do I have to say through my art? What styles, subjects, aesthetics appeal to me? Not my family, social media, art teachers, magazines. Me. Whatever the answers are, proceeding to create it in a closed environment makes it more comfortable without fear of consequences. It allows you to recalibrate your art, so it’s about why you loved art in the first place. Recapturing the naïveté of drawing purely for personal work. So the art has been distilled to the essence of Taisa or Tyra.

Consuming art while brainstorming leads to absorbing other artist’s ideas, styles, subjects, etc, subconsciously. This isn’t necessarily bad, since there is no such thing as a 100% original idea. It can be a problem, though, if we shut down our own work just because we saw something else. Or we run to other artists’ solutions before we give ourselves a chance to try. The artistic equivalent of asking the teacher for the answers because you’re scared of getting it wrong. Even if I’m not being an Art Hermit for the day, I don’t like looking at art while I’m doing preliminary sketches because I want to exhaust my ideas before I look to others. I don’t want to eliminate an idea just because someone else or no one else did it.

The variant of going to outside art for all the answers is that we fall so in love with an artist or style that we copy only that directly. Especially if you have a small amount of influences. As I said, nothing is completely original. We all have things we see in others we are inspired by and want to copy. But we should understand or selves and why it appeals to us, so we can incorporate it in a meaningful way. We see art we like, but we aren’t that artist. That artist has their own life, experiences, education, influences, etc. Copying another artist directly on every single aspect will leave your work looking derivative. We all have more than one influences, we don’t have to do the same work as a few favorites. Evaluate and bring various sources into art, not just the one favorite artist.

All of this does not mean we hate the idea of taking inspiration. But if you have lost sight of what your doing with your artistic life, it’s good to take a day or a few to remember what you are doing. You’re the one that is making your art. If you aren’t content with it, you have to be the one to figure out why. No one else can tell you what you like. At Jaunty Cat, we sometimes evaluate our art, technically and subjectively and ask if this is what we want. How should we make our art. Do you sometime need a break from art consumption? What did you learn about your art while you became an art hermit?

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Video: Drawing foliage

Our newest video is up on YouTube!  It contains Taisa working on the pen and ink drawing phase of what will become an acrylic wash painting.  She explains her process, a few tips and tricks and there’s even some of our twin banter on there.  Comment if there is content you’d like to see from us and share with someone who would find this type of content interesting.

 

Conclusion of Inktober2017

October has concluded and it kicked my butt.  I am working on a few oil paintings that I’d like to get done by the end of the year.  Taisa, however, went all in with it.  She got some amazing ideas out of it including but not limited to a full blown narrative!

In conclusion of this awesome art community event, it’s very important to use these community events as a learning experience.  We implore you guys out there to not use these things as a means of drawing just to say you’ve drawn but to use it to hone specific aspects of your work.  That’s my inspirational blerb for today.  Have a great week!

No Half-Baking

As an artist, facing an empty piece of paper is always daunting. Even worse is making that last brushstroke and seeing all the things that you could have changed. I don’t think there’s anyway to avoid that feeling, but it can be reduced. A lot of problems at the end would have been easier to solve in the beginning. As we have learned by trial and error do not half-bake your art.

original doodle
Tyra’s original sketch of “Escape From Babylon”

Any idea sounds like a groundbreaking masterpiece at first. But as you go along things can fall-apart along the way. When you analyze the problems after completing a painting, what went wrong was the fundamental structure. The idea wasn’t thought through, the design wasn’t solidified, or perspective or value wasn’t drawn correctly. These errors are near impossible to repair with final glazes. The sooner you can fix your mistakes, the better. It’s always tragic to erase a lovely detailed part or a drawing because you put it there as an after thought.

Epic Couple sketches
Notes and Sketches

Tyra and I make narrative paintings, so we start with stories. Our ideas for narrative and composition get more fleshed out as we go along but we like to start out with an idea of what we want. As a painting is worked more questions get raised, what does the environment look like, what is the lighting, what is the subject wearing. We have found through painful painful error that it is best to answer these questions as soon as possible. If you notice something is not turning out successfully, that’s not the time to procrastinate. Go ahead and change it while it’s easier to do so. Going further won’t make that part go away.

We try our best to have the best art we can. Every time we draw and paint we treat it as if it is going to be the best thing we’ve made. Not every thing will be successful, but that’s okay. Even when we catch errors in finished work the important thing is that we learned something from it. If you forget to add something in your painting and notice it later, that artwork will always be there to remind you not to forgot about that aspect the next time you paint.

Escape From Babylon complete
Tyra’s “Escape From Babylon” completed

– Taisa Willoughby