A subscriber wrote, “I’ve been a photographer for longer than I care to mention and have recently taken up painting in acrylic. I find that all the subject matter has been expressed through my photography and not much, if anything, catches my eye for painting. There are always subjects to paint, but none that I want to paint. My wife and I are packing up and moving to the B.C. Gulf Islands in an attempt to spark the creative juices again. Have you ever run into this kind of block?”
Your block is called PFS (Photo Familiarity Syndrome) and it’s as common as influenza. Some of us fight it daily. There are many ways of looking at it and several ways of dealing with it. Taking photos is a creative act in itself. Some artists, as they move through their life-images, find that less and less interests or moves them. As it becomes more difficult to be surprised by joy in the external world, reality-based images become used up. The trouble with photography is that it uses up joy too quickly. Also, by stealthily teaching dependence, photography can turn out to be dangerous. Unlike the purist and pre-photographic masters of landscape — Courbet, Corot, Millet, etc., by visual volume alone it is possible to become jaded. Moving to a new environment may not solve the problem. You need to realize that painting can exploit a different — I didn’t say greater — range of feelings than does photography. Painting, in its most exalted forms, can bring another kind of creative imagination into the mix. With painting you have an opportunity to add a unique personal spin — to put a different kind of style and signature to your product.
For most of us, photography, in all of its marvelous manifestations, is one of a number of tools in the kit. An extreme purgation is to take your photo apparatus and shove it into a vault for a year. Forget you ever did it. I know it’s tough for those of us who love to look through viewfinders and are used to collecting images in nanoseconds. In this deprivation, painting becomes more of a savoured event — a timely act of deliberation, consideration and contemplation. Painting becomes less capture and more conception. Worthwhile subjects begin to appear from nowhere. With independent painting you move into the lively and mysterious darkroom of your own mind. In this place something else again is sure to catch your eye.
PS: “The expression of beauty is in direct ratio to the power of conception the artist has acquired.” (Gustave Courbet)
Esoterica: “What do I want to paint?” is not only the main question, it’s perhaps the only question. Many painters find they bump along and somehow inadvertently touch on a “hot spot” where an idea or a motif suddenly gels. It’s important that these golden occasions are recognized and noted. The artist pauses and looks around for related and peripheral ideas that can also be exploited. It’s often in this “second generation” where the most involving and exciting work is done. “Paintings come out of themselves,” said the great Canadian landscape painter Lawren Harris. “The idea,” said Damien Hirst, “is more important than the object.”
This letter was originally published as “Catching the eye” on October 14, 2005.
Sara Genn: New Paintings runs until November 2, 2018 at Voltz Clarke Gallery, 141 East 62nd Street, New York City. If you’re in the neighbourhood, we would love to see you there.
“Beauty, like truth, is relative to the time when one lives and to the individual who can grasp it.” (Gustave Courbet)
Location: between Puerto Vallarta & Mazatlan, Mexico
Week-long workshop in gorgeous paradise retreat for beginning and intermediate students in oils (or acrylics with experience). You will learn how to create a painting with beautiful light that captures viewers’ attention and keeps them fascinated. Small group size guarantees personal attention.
While you’re busy creating art and exploring, your friendly hosts at Casa Buena will ensure that your stay is memorable. Outstanding accommodations, food, and field trips will satisfy your desire for both comfort and adventure. Spouses are welcome!
For more info, visit: http://www.casabuenaartretreat.com/Retreat_Carol.htm or contact Carole at: email@example.com or call: 001-757-678-3340 (EST).
Gardens are my enduring inspiration, and getting to the heart of the flower, my passion.