The Artistic Process

"Truth is a pathless land." - J. Krishamurti

Materials, working methods, techniques, tools, process. All of these are one in the same to me. What does it mean to make a distinction between the brush, the paint and the hand? Is it useful to understand that one painting gains its power from thick masses of paint thrust onto the canvas via brush moved across the canvas by the large muscle groups of the shoulder, while another soars owing to its delicate layering applied by brush carefully controlled by well practiced finger tips? Perhaps. But an explanation of the technique and method only goes so far.

Many art enthusiasts are keen to understand an artist's working methods. I am often asked how I make my paintings, especially since I rarely use brushes. I understand this interest well because I sometimes seek it for myself when talking with other artists. I welcome such questions. I could go on and on about how I choose colors, what tools I use, how I use them, how many layers of paint it takes to arrive at an interesting image, etc. I find such conversations fun and personally rewarding. However, in the end I find that this information, while it may be of great value to a student of art, is of only superficial value to the viewer who is trying to comprehend what actually went into the creation of a painting they love.

For the viewer, I think asking how the paint got there and by which precise technique is of far less value than simply looking. Most of the time the "how" simply puts a stop to seeing, enjoying or expanding one's awareness. Better to ignore the artist's methods and ask more difficult and interesting questions. Such as why was this vision realized in paint instead of sculpture? How did leaving that large negative space in the composition somehow create space in my mind? Why does that abstract smear of paint remind me of looking at clouds—is it some optical illusion, or is it just my own personal psychology at work? If the artist is unavailable or unwilling to entertain questions beyond his working process, then by all means put such questions to yourself. And then stop and just look again. Just look. Feel your way around the painting. Let the painting answer questions that cannot be answered, even by the artist.

I am eternally grateful to all the teachers and painters whose gift of sharing their working methods has inspired me and eased my growing pains as an artist. However, in the end, to make an honest, personal and authentic painting, as to find one's own way through life, there is no roadmap. No best practice, no singular methodology. The artist, the material, the system of choice, even the extra cup of coffee is all of a single process, the breakdown of which simply causes comprehension itself to break down.

So I say to the viewer once again, simply look. And to the artist I say that someone else's technique may indeed inspired you to grow, and don't be afraid of adopting it and making it your own. But don't become seduced by the methods alone. You must wrestle with your own process fearlessly, tirelessly and privately. I have learned through many lessons and my own trial and error that ultimately I must find my own way of working, and once found (as it must be found with each new image) it cannot be shared, much as I may want to.

So, intrepid artists and devoted art lovers, I implore you. Put process and technique in its valuable but small little place. Set out on your own. Unarmed and unquestioning of others. Find your own techniques for making and seeing.

What is my artistic process? I'll share the mechanics with you if you need me to, perhaps keeping a few little secrets to myself. But to answer your question as fully and honestly as I can: I have no artistic process, apart from me. I am the process.