I had a conversation with one of my students this week that I just had to share because it’s one I’ve had with so many students, so I think maybe you’ll be able to relate.
What she asked me about was finding something to paint that inspired her. She was really struggling with that. She was looking for the perfect spot, the perfect place. If you ever done that, the trouble is there is no such thing as the perfect spot.
Have you ever watched a whole bunch of plein air painters at a paint out? All rushing around trying to find the prime place to paint. In reality, the best place to paint is the place where you are right now.
Don’t wait around for the perfect spot or the perfect photograph. The perfect fill-in-the-blank with whatever.
Instead, try this, what’s right in front of you. Most of the time you don’t need to go find that perfect spot or need to find the perfect subject. You just need to paint. So instead of looking for inspiration somewhere else, look right in front of you. Look and see what’s right there. Don’t wait for perfection. Just get started.
Avoid the predictable, and counteract the expected. You want to avoid the predictable. What I mean by that is that you don’t want to do the cliched subject. You want to do something that is a little bit different and that might mean that you take a different perspective. You get up above it; you get below it; you get from a funky angle; you look at it in a little bit different way; or you get up close to it or you pull way far back away from it, but you avoid the stereotypical view of it.
The other thing that you can do is to make sure that where ever you are you’re looking for interesting value patterns, because you can find that in the most mundane subject. In fact, I’m going to show you. I have just a mason jar sitting here on the table. You could make an interesting painting of that mason jar as long as you look for interesting value relationships, interesting value and color patterns.
It’s not just the subject matter; it’s what you do with it. And think about how those value patterns and the color masses are created by the light. When you do that, you can make anything look interesting because truth of the matter is everything is interesting.
It’s the attention you pay to it that makes it interesting. You can paint whatever is around you. And those of you who are my course, Catch the Light, let me turn just a little bit. You’ll recognize the edge of that building and the streetlight that’s right up there because that’s one of the modules in the course.
So it doesn’t have to be something grand, something elaborate, or something extraordinarily outstanding. You can make it that just by what you do with it.