This article was originally published 7 years ago right at this time of the year. At the time I was "winging it" on a piece. If I could remember what piece it was, I'd post it here for reference. Currently, I'm in the complete opposite mode--a little unsure about how to tackle a piece which was very successful as a sketch. So rather than dive in I'm doing way more preparation, underpainting and so on than usual. Making distinct palette decisions before laying the first dab of color down. Using the analogy below, I'm trying to write out the sheet music entirely ahead of time, to minimize the worry that I'll mess something up along the way. Leaving nothing to chance, as it were. Here, then, is the original article:
When I used to play bass guitar, having begun late and without the
level of commitment I had for my painting and drawing, I was never
really able to jam. You know, pick a key, start a beat and just let the
music flow spontaneously. This was no surprise--I lacked a lot of music
theory and the chops, to boot. What I played I played by ear, it sounded
right so I played it. But I had to sit there working out my lines, and
then put it to music. Towards the end there I was learning theory and
the concepts that allow one to jam were becoming clear to me. But I
never got to that point.
With painting, however, I am
able to jam. I'm not the painting equivalent of a "guitar god" by any
stretch, but I can hold my own, I guess. What I mean is that I can
attack a canvas with very little pre-conceived structure and usually
work my way through it to a satisfying end. usually. As an illustrator
who often works rapid-fire either due to deadline or payment
constraints, I've had to do my share of jamming. It's always a little
scary to start a painting sometimes without even a color theme in mind.
I'll decide something on the fly, lay it down and the rest of the
painting must then be constructed in the key of, say, yellow. From there
I usually attack it without much more thought, and my hands take over
like a guitarist's must--my brain being taxed but not in a particularly
deliberate way--sort of reacting and adjusting to the visual music
happening spontaneously before me.
Some artists I know are excellent at jamming; in fact I'd say it's their forte. There are guys like my buddy Scott Fischer
who kick ass. His ability to jam on a piece is incredible, as are his
chops. Some guys like myself are more into constructing music, I mean,
paintings. I listen to a lot of constructed music and not so much to
jazz or jamming rock bands. If it were up to me I'd plan out and be very
deliberate about each painting, trying to maximize what I'm trying to
communicate by bending my skills towards a pre-determined end. I can jam
some, and like it to an extent, but I identify better with more
"constructing" artists like Michael Whelan or, classically, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. of course I don't compare to either of them either.
I am in jamming-mode, which is full of surprise on the one hand but
full of anxiety on the other. Less anxiety than I used to have--that's
the product of practice. But I'm 2/3 through a piece and I still have no
idea how it'll turn out.
I make a lot of analogies in
my mind between music and painting, so don't be surprised if you see
that cropping up in these entries. These analogies helped me do what I
was able to do when I did dabble in music, even if my education was
lacking. I would "see" the music and mood I was trying to accomplish and
would be fairly successful in squeezing it out of my amateur fingers. I
believe this phenomenon is called synesthesia, and it's one that's
interested me in general since then.
Some aspects that
will never be analagous are the muli-million dollar rock star mansion
and the ladies throwing themselves at me. That's a shame.
1 day ago