The canvas as battleground

Painting. Should it be a battle? No, I don’t think so. Can it be a battle? Yes.
What is the battle about? Who are the protagonists? Me vs the canvas? or the fast-drying paint? Technical things should have been resolved long ago. Some persist, but there’s always need for improvement. Is the battle about impulse vs planning? Creative burst and flow vs intellectual decision-making?

I suspect it is all about finding the balance – enough thoughtful practice and problem solving in our experience to allow creative flow. The background experience helps the foreground activity. Decisions are made with every brush-stroke. The brain monitors without always being consciously switched on.

One of my most memorable painting experiences was a session at home while listening to a radio transcript of “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. When the reading ended I looked at the painting and realised it was time to stop. At the same time I couldn’t actually remember actually creating the painting. It was my first brush with the Muse. Since then, I have seen the painting often on my mother’s wall. There are some lovely passages in it, but clearly the bottle was painted too close to the lower edge of the canvas. It seems to sit on the frame.

Too late of course, but now I see that despite the flow I had achieved, an early decision about composition could have made it really good.

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia
King Protea, framed

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia
King Protea (frame cropped from image)

It is a painting bursting from its frame – on all sides I see now! An oops moment, but a very pleasant painting session with the conscious brain turned off.
Does it happen to you too?


8 thoughts on “The canvas as battleground

  1. Philippa, are you familiar at all with Miriam at She is a fiber and mixed-media artist from NSW who addressed almost this same predicament in a blog post earlier this year. I told her what I will say here: I admit this happens to me when I’m writing about art – like the muse comes from “somewhere else” – NOT the case ever when I’m doing my metalsmithing art. Anyways – I love your “King Protea” painting and can completely see how this sort of mind-release can occur. I’m a bit envious, as I’ve not experienced it during my art-making process. Cheers and a good weekend to you!

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