Friday, June 8, 2018

Seeing abstractly and getting past the drag of realism

Sketchbook drawing by Titus Castanza, ©2018 Titus Castanza

*Homework exercises on the bottom of this post.

Class Notes 06.07.18
Today's class was about developing strategies to help us see more abstractly and to further build a repertoire of pattern making. We discussed how our emotions play an integral part of our imagination. We tried to let our imagination have a say and inform us – rather than just trying to replicate what is physically in front of us.

Hopefully, this exercise will help build authenticity and introduce more creativity. By refocusing our attention in this manner we’ll hopefully let go of trying to draw or paint well and, instead, refocus our attention on more important aspects of creating – producing better results.

A large part of painting is about breaking routines and challenging yourself to see things in a new way. This is where the critic can have a positive contribution. The critic has the ability to see thyself objectively and to identify things which do not work. At times, seeing things in a fresh way can be a challenge, so artists have learned over time to develop strategies to help with this.

It is this internal dialog which builds our individual language and proficiency as an artist. There is no right or wrong here. For some people, painting and drawing realistically may not be the best way to express themselves. I know from personal experience that there is a lot which cannot be expressed if I chose to paint the thing realistically. I'll only borrow certain cues from realism which help contribute to what I'm trying to express. I am more interested in expressing myself than drawing or painting well. I am concerned with being guided by my emotions and how this attitude allows room for making new connections, from an emotional intelligence standpoint. 

Try responding to what you are looking at emotionally and not just simply making a material evaluation based on realism. This has very liberating awareness to it. Maybe a better way of saying it would be: Feel what you see – then paint it. Paint how your imagination and emotions see things because this may be where your true authenticity resides. Admittedly, dealing with your emotions and understanding them is by far a difficult task. However, really try to seek accuracy of these qualities and let go of accuracy of trying to do things well. Let go and trust in your imagination. Takes time to develop further this relationship with your creative-self. It is up to ourselves to understand how to become more intimate with ourselves. This takes trusting ourselves completely, that no matter what we do, it is correct and right, and that it is in every way acceptable. Nothing we do – from a creative standpoint – is wrong. And that, it is up to us to reflect upon the thing we just did.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help build a positive internal dialog:
How do I feel in this moment?
How does this make me feel?
Am I relaxed?
What do I like about it?
What does this remind me of?
What do I want express?
What do I have to say, anything?
What do I have to express in the moment?
How does it look to me now, compared to how would I like it to look?
Am I going in to this with no expectations of self?
Am I allowing room for my creative self, my authenticity?
Are my influences high-jacking me?
What are my influences?

Here are some statements which help your internal dialog:
• Reflect upon my results well after their completion – not during.
• At all costs remain positive. Be positive of my abilities and my overall outlook.
• Anything I do is going to be great! You're gonna' love it.
• I have complete confidence in myself.
• Be the genius I am now.
• Let my imagination have a voice.
• Positivity promotes creativity and negativity hinders it.

©2018 Titus Castanza

1. Methods which will help you see abstract shapes:
• Simply look for shapes anywhere you see them. Look for big shapes, small shapes or any shapes, really.      
• Utilize the shapes made by light and shadow
• See the negative shapes along with the positive shapes
• Keep any construction lines you may have made. In fact, by reinforcing them you're making them in to more needed shapes.
• Create construction lines that aren't necessarily there, but you know logically (from experience) that they are there, you just can't see them. For example: a cube has six sides. Draw all six sides – as if the cube was transparent. By drawing through an object, you help give the object weight and the object a solid foundation. Try it, it doesn't hurt. Besides, you'll end up with some really cool abstract shapes. 
• Don't feel like you have to record everything. 
• Paint whatever your imagination dishes out, however you see it. The first thing that pops into your head is great – it's probably less conjured and less filtered.
• Take what you see, respond to it emotionally and give it a brush stroke, a texture or a pattern. Look at some of the Masters to see what different mark-making and patterns they came up with: Vuillard, Bonnard, Picasso, Monet, Manet, Cezanne, Klimpt, etc.
• Utilize your internal dialog.
• Look more deeply into the structural forms. For instance with a portrait, look for the side plane 
the head and differentiate it from the frontal plane of the head, the three planes of the
forehead, or the circles of the cheeks. See the side plane of the nose from the frontal top plane
of the, and the bottom downward facing plane. Slow down, paint these shapes honestly as you
see them from an abstract perspective – disassociate yourself from the fact that it is a nose, a
lip or an ear. You may see geometric or organic shapes. Be accurate about your honesty about
what you see. You'll see things differently from anyone else.

2. Give your abstract shapes a texture/pattern.
           This pattern may have some rhyme or reason to it, it’s up to you to figure out and what you may want to express. For instance, the sky/background could have thinly placed horizontal brush strokes. Or, the beard might make you feel like it needs swirly strokes with lots of paint. You may see the skin tone made up of small straight paint strokes (think Van Gogh). Don’t think too hard about it, feel more and just put down the first thing that pops in your head, no matter how crazy. The shirt should have a different pattern from the beard, the shirt and the face. Grouping patterns together is a great way to communicate which shapes are in the same family.

3. Paint from your gut. Appreciate the feel of the brush, the paint and the canvas. Paint with all of who you are in the moment. Paint with your emotional awareness.

*HOMEWORK (if so desired):
1.We are exploring pattern for this assignment. Compile pattern. Create 10-20 patterns in the form of swatches (squares measuring no larger than 3-4 inches). For example: look at a section of a master painting, specifically paying attention to an area of the painting that has pattern. I want you to replicate this pattern as accurately as possible so that it can be used in the future for your reference. If the pattern was done in paint then do it in paint – if done in pencil then do in pencil. Compile your pattern examples: on a poster sized canvas or board, thick paper, in a folder or three ring binder. Hang it in your studio or somewhere it is easily accessible when you paint.

Building your repertoire of pattern making with the paint brush is a crucial (and I mean crucial) part of painting. The lack of pattern understanding is often what kills a painting without the novice even realizing what's not working with a painting. A dead giveaway is when a painting is done entirely with the same brushstroke. 

Another way to go about looking for pattern is to investigate nature. Exercise: cut a vegetable (such as a cucumber) in to a slice and draw or paint the pattern you see (looking at the face of the slice). Do you see the seeds and the skin? That's a pattern. Paint it. It's inspiring.

2. Draw or paint abstract shapes from anything – utilizing all of what we talked about today in this blog post. 

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