How do I choose what to paint? And why do I choose what I do? Those are both good questions worth looking at more closely, but not easily answered. Deciding how to choose subject matter for a painting for me is not a straightforward process, but it's so important as artists to think about our own processes- our own paths to the things that resonate with our souls. I go about it basically two ways.
One way is immediate, when I am hit with the sudden need to get something on paper. An example of this would be watching Amanda Gorman's inaugural poem, with her yellow coat and red hat and youthful energy- I took photos of her from my television and painted her that day. ,
Every day I see hundreds of things that resonate with me on a visual level. Whether it's the patchwork bark on a sycamore tree, sunlight on an old window, or my dogs perky ears, I see something that strikes me and I file it away in my mind. These "seeds" take root as I see and collect similar images and over time, they grow into full blown, complete ideas that I want to paint. And sometimes I want to paint a series to work out all of the layers of visual information planted over months or even years. At some point, I take a photo, work out some color ideas, and any other visuals I need, and start painting with that beautiful repertoire of visual memory- the color, values, mood, pattern, and my perception of all of it- to work from.
Whichever way I paint, my unique visual history enters in and influences every brushstroke, every decision, every puddle of pigment and water..
There have been times when I have visited the most beautiful places, with paint and paper, but have been unable to produce anything while I'm there because my visual capacity is on overload. I am taking in so much, but it hasn't had time to sit and "simmer". I have to go home and wait, look at photos, maybe even go back and visit again On the other hand, growing up in Kansas, I have a menu of pictures in my mind's eye- of incoming storms rolling over fields, golden wheat waving under a blue sky, thunderheads building thousands of feet high, grain elevators lit by a sunset.
For me, there is a period of time that I have to absorb a subject, think about it, study it, look at it, live in it. At some point, my brain, eyes and hand begin communicating and I can begin. Actually, I have to paint it. It's not a question, it is something I need to do and it can't wait. But up until that moment, I cannot force it, or make it happen.
There is always that bit of magic in art. The part of you that responds to something- completely unique to your experience, your eyes, your soul. It's a feeling of completion when something nudging at you finally comes into being- but only in it's own time and in it's own way.
- Art is magic - waiting for each one of us- to believe, and begin.