This collaborative project (part self-help, part creativity notebook, part memoir, written by Irma Mento and Pilar Alderete-Diez and illustrated by me) is now out in book form. More information to follow!
"Layering a vivid orange across an arsenic green, crouched under a line of cobalt, sends messages to the brain; and those messages can be communicated, however inadequately, in language.
...dark greens, particularly dappled with apple greens, and strong verticals may produce a feeling of security in a hominid species that emerged relatively recently from the protection of forests.
Hodgkins uses colour in ways that may be at times highly personal and autobiographical but are more often in a long tradition, fully alive today."
- from this piece by Andrew Marr on the artist Howard Hodgkin, essential reading for anyone interested in the visceral power of colour combinations and why they affect us in that way
P.S.: The Howard Hodgkin page on Artsy.net is a brilliant resource.
"Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children's letters - sometimes very hastily - but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote: 'Dear Jim: I loved your card.' Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said 'Jim loved your card so much he ate it.' That to me was one of the highest compliments I've ever received. He didn't care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it; he loved it; he ate it."
We adult artists can learn a lot from kids: they are generally very good and intuitive about composition and mixing colours and have no preconceptions and thus work from a much more right-brain approach. For that reason very young children are brilliant at abstract art, and their figurative art is free from deliberation and over-working. You rarely see a child hesitate before a white sheet of paper; they jump straight into it with abandon. We were all like that when we were little. Then comes the point where someone tells you the sky is blue and the grass is green, and that is when we start to lose that pure creativity. Once we attain the notion of concepts, we are more limited. A child's universe is full of wonder and discovery, excitement and potential, and this translates into their art-making. So in a sense all artists attempt to go back to the state of early childhood.
On a more practical note, here are two tips for painting with children:
- If they aren't wearing old clothes and you don't have an apron for them, someone suggested this great solution: Take a medium-size bin bag and cut a hole for the head and two small holes for the arms in it (and make sure the kids roll back their sleeves). Don't leave them unsupervised, and store the bin-bag-aprons somewhere safe.
- Poster paint and the like are fine (and cheap) for everyday art-making, but children really like the creamy consistency of acrylics (and oils, but acrylics are more child-friendly and dry fast), so occasionally it is nice to let them use those, along with grown-ups' brushes (I once bought a set of brushes for children, and the bristles were made of horribly scratchy plastic - it was very frustrating to paint with them, almost impossible).
If anyone else feels stuck creatively, the prompts (and the quotes) in this book will get you back into the zone again (Thank you, Marie!) - for instance, "Draw for you", "Draw without restrictions", "Don't think, just draw", as well as more specific ones, such as "Create a list of words about water", "Fill these pages with birds in flight" and "Draw the inside of your house from the outside".
Or try Keri Smith's 100 ideas.
_ "The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he's always doing both."
James A Michener
"Many artists have spoken of the lifelong search for the 'innocent eye' in their work. In other words, they are expressing a desire to unlearn, to cast off skills and mannerisms and learn to see the world through the eyes of a child. Such a common yearning reveals the subtle relationship between artistic vision and the means by which we articulate it - how facility or skill can begin to feel as if it is getting in the way of pure expression."
( Salisbury, Martin and Morag Styles: Children's Picturebooks. The Art of Visual Storytelling; Laurence King, London 2012, p.56)
A beautiful book on the history and the art of the picturebook with examples from various countries, interviews with illustrators and case studies.
_"Life doesn't last; art doesn't last. It doesn't matter." (Eva Hesse)
Eva Hesse (1936-1970) is best known as an innovative sculptor working with unusual (and fragile, perishable) materials such as latex. This book focuses on the importance of her drawings, both as preparation for her sculptural work and as finished pieces in their own right. I love her line and find her work very moving, especially the drawings incorporating circles. I have an obsession with circles (Patrick Scott's work comes to mind - we have some of his tapestries in the University's art collection.)
This book was a gift from a dear friend and artist and is one I keep revisiting.
_[De Zegher, Catherine (editor): Eva Hesse Drawing; The Drawing Centre, Yale University Press, 2006]
"Give me books, fruit, French wine and fine weather, and a little music out of doors, played by someone I do not know" - John Keats
I'm on the French wine right now.