Here’s a simple system that builds creativity immediately. (Writing that line made me feel like a snake-oil salesman. But I digress.) I’m talking about pushing yourself to doing just one more thing every day. Results are guaranteed if you do it for a week. (Sorry, there I go again.)
With personal biorhythms, obligations, as well as climate, season, and other factors, we all have our times of maximum creativity and efficiency. In my case I seem to be at my best in the early morning before my studio staff arrives and the phone starts ringing. I run out of steam in mid-afternoon and often break for a Dorothy-walk or a snooze. The evening finds me cranking things up again, but the energy and focus level can be short-lived and I’m soon ready for bed.
The idea is to perform one more creative act before turning out the lights. Tiredness contributes in a way one does not expect. Casualness and the feeling of “something extra” make their mark. A lackadaisical twenty-minute afterthought becomes a creative bonus.
The system has some practical advantages. Using leftover paint is one of them. Renoir was known to have relished the system. He made ever smaller sketches until his day’s palette was clean. In my case I often find large blobs of unused colour on the palette. This “waste” is often the springboard to a new direction. Freshly eyed in the cold grey light of dawn the now-dry afterthought is again ready for action. The pump has been primed. Sometimes I can’t wait to play with the darned thing.
The afterthought bonus slyly adds further variety and range to your body of work. The human psyche is a deep well of untapped resources. While you may be mentally and physically fading, you are still “hot” enough to plunge in. Another thing — it’s easy to think of what we do as precious and deserving of major preparation. Not always. In my experience some of the best stuff comes from inconsequential, even happenstance beginnings. If you try this idea in your studio, be prepared for surprises, and don’t be surprised when some of the nighttime bonuses are substandard as well. It’s part of the game.
Seizing the day, even in its dying hour, gives another chance to be bold — a new beginning that just happens to be at the end.
PS: “Boldness has genius, power and magic. Engage, and the mind grows heated. Begin, and the work will be completed.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
Esoterica: After looking at those little videos that Michelle and I have been making lately, many subscribers have written to ask what’s going on when I rub the canvas with a rag. Actually, rag-action is generally one of the first things that happens to my half-finished, late-night afterthoughts–particularly the garish ones. Compositions are toned down and pulled together with a glaze or two. I generally work in Acrylic, so it’s often a thin mixture of medium, water, and a small amount of Phthalo blue, but it can be any number of darker colours. The rag rubs it on and takes it off. Not too much, not too little. This sets up the painting to “go back into” and to fine-tune the shapes and colours — a sort of two-step process that also gives an opportunity for half-time contemplation. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but useful.
This letter was originally published as “Bonus creativity” on August 14, 2007.
Sara Genn: New Paintings opens this coming Thursday, September 13th, 2018 at Voltz Clarke Gallery, 141 East 62nd Street, New York City. If you’re in the neighbourhood, I would love to see you there.
“The ideas come afterwards, when the picture is finished.” (Pierre-Auguste Renoir)
October 1st to October 5th 2018
The Aspens turning golden, blue mountain streams rushing, and migrating flocks of birds and animals that call the National Park their home are grazing in the autumn fields. We will be staying in comfortable historic accommodations near the entrance to the park. All ground transfers, en-suite accommodations, a delicious chef-prepared welcome dinner, boxed lunches and painting with professional artist Sharon Rusch Shaver.
All inclusive* $1,450. Beginner to Advanced, oil, watercolor, pastel, pencil, and photography are welcome. We work together daily sharing our knowledge of capturing a moment in time in such a wonderful and historic location.
Register before July 30th and receive a discount, and more workshop information. Adventure-Artists Website Join us!
A professional painter in both watercolor and oil for over 35 years, I have been creating plein air workshops in Europe for artists to join me since 1996. Plein air is one of the most exciting methods of painting, and I teach a very easy to learn way of capturing the light quickly, that any artist can apply to their own work during our adventures to Europe. Travel for artists is a great way to immerse yourself in painting and make great advances in your techniques by watching other professionals work, and by sharing your own ideas with other artists we all grow! Authentic locations, such as a 12th Century Castle in Ireland, a French Maison in the countryside of France, or an Italian Villa in an historic hilltop village in Italy are carefully chosen. We want our artists and non-painting guests to feel relaxed and at home, with en-suite bedrooms, excellent chef prepared cuisine, and convenient transfers to painting and exploring locations so you can be where you want to be to create. Join me on our next exciting journey!