My friend Shers Gallagher on the blogspot Catfish Tales is blogging about the creative process. Her current subject is creating something out of nothing. I don't often start there - at zero - when I paint. I most often begin with a photograph; many of which I have taken myself on visits to historical sites and national parks, etc. But sometimes I just go thumbing through magazines. In the case of the Gila Wilderness Cliff Dwelling above I was thumbing through some old New Mexico Magazines a friend gave me.
In the interest of reducing clutter I was ripping out the photographs which I thought had potential to generate an interesting painting or two. The one I used for Hidden Away was from a slightly different angle then the one above.
I often tell visitors to my studio or booth at a fair, when they remark about my colors, that I do not paint what you saw but what you think you saw. My paintings fit into the Visionary School definition, but I painted like this before I knew there was such a thing. And it is not all my imagination. Various angles of the sun, time of day, quality of light for the day can change the colors of the sandstone. It is like a canvas upon which the atmosphere paints the colors. On the day the picture was taken at the top there was no magic afoot.
I would rather work from a photograph I personally took because it means I was there and whether I captured it or not I remember the magic. It is a more difficult road if I work from a cold picture in a magazine or on the internet. Preparing for this blog I Googled images of the Gila Cliff dwellings and also came up with the one below. There is more magic afoot. And I immediately stored it in my Art Ideas folder.
The photographs provide the basis for the drawings. I say basis because I get to "crop" and "alter" to make a good composition. Then if I am really, really wise I put the photograph away. I didn't with Hidden Away. I had it before me to check for shadows and light and found my mind wanting to follow the colors. Once, a long time ago, I was very, very good at rendering a subject faithfully. Digital cameras do that now. I can even take the above photo into Photoshop and apply sketch to it and come up with a delightful drawing.
Following religiously a photograph or a scene before you allows no room for magic. So when I was having problems with Hidden Away I put the magazine picture away into my folder of ideas. And walked away from the painting process for a few days. When I went back to it things had changed. It was then a painting and not a rendition. I had entered the world I had created and it took over. And the flock of ravens came.