Paintings of Imagined Spaces & Mis-Remembered Places

Musings

The importance of process

This article about process is sparked by some recent studio visits I did with some local Pittsburgh artists and conversations I had with them (Lisa Koi www.lisabergantkoi.com and Annie Heisey www.annieheisey.com). 

In talking to someone about their artwork there is always the question of what is the overlaying meaning that gets put into someone's artist statement (and sparking some overblown statements that don't seem to relate at all to the artwork such as these you can find on Instant Artist Statement http://www.artybollocks.com). As there is some philosophical debate as to whether art is about the aesthetics or the message (or maybe it is best if it is both!), I thought it was interesting to look instead, not at the finished product, but instead, at the process. 

Process gets hidden. A painting is finished, the mess in the studio is left behind, the original inspiration nowhere to be seen as the work is viewed on a gallery wall. And for this reason, I think that the process is both part of the magic juice of the personality of the artist. Yet how they get from start to finish is just as interesting and revealing as how a person gets through their day. 

Let's imagine two people. One is a little OCD, and likes to plan out her day and week in advance with lists that break things into categories. She's bad enough that she will rewrite her list if something is out of order (though this is also a procrastination tool). She loves the planning and not the doing and tends to put off larger projects till the end. She is very focused on the details. She hates it when people come and interrupt her plan for the day with asking for help. She prefers things planned in advance.

Now let's look at person number two. He is very unorganized, can't find notes or receipts he needs for work, yet somehow has enough of a sense of how things run that he can answer a call on the fly make everybody happy with what he got done.

Yet at the end of the day, both people got the same work accomplished. But the process of how they got there is revealing.

Now looking back at art, say you are looking at two figurative works that are similar in composition, subject matter, and general style. But what becomes interesting (in my mind) is how these two works were made. What layers of ruined paintings are underneath? What planning if any went into this work? Why were those colors chosen? These questions are sometimes answered in an artist statement but sometimes it is the studio that is most revealing. There are things that never get told such as working on multiple pieces at a time or using one brush for the whole painting. 

And so, as I go to studio visits, I am becoming endlessly fascinated with the process. 

Nicole RyanComment