Thursday, July 24, 2014

Studio Strategies--The Treadmill!

Consider this idea as you have started to gain momentum in the studio, or have a problem area in your current artwork.

Over the winter I got into the habit of using our treadmill in my studio.  What a great way to look at art!  With nothing else to distract, aesthetic issues get an in-depth viewing with plenty of time to consider, “What if…”

I saw an article on CBS Sunday Morning about incorporating treadmills into the office, with workstations outfitted for pacing.  They made the point that endorphins are released, increasing creative thinking.  I’ve definitely experienced this as I tread before my paintings.

I regularly have concerns about my abstract images.  What’s working, what isn’t; what’s the matter, why doesn’t it work?  Often I will put off decisions about that next step until I’ve had a chance to tread before the artwork.

Sometimes I am anxious as I enter my studio:  what needs doing, deadlines, or ordering my day.  The treadmill is a great way to sort it all out.  It’s perhaps counter intuitive, because I feel urgency about getting started.  But the exercise orders my thinking.  Inevitably, I end my workout knowing what to do and how to do it.

I go for 45 minutes at the beginning of my studio day.  I slowly build up to 3.5 mph at 6 degrees incline.  It takes about 20 minutes to get there; I hold it for 10 minutes, and then back off for the final 15 minutes.  Not a grueling pace, but it gets the job done.  Hydrate!

I’m considering including treadmills in exhibitions of my artwork.  I want to encourage viewers to regard my pieces more thoroughly.  It’s an accomplishment to get 30 seconds of serious consideration for a painting from exhibit attendees…how about 5 minutes from treading? 

5 minutes while looking at an artwork won’t release any endorphins, but that’s a significant increase in viewing time.  What if a treadmill was installed for every painting—or maybe every 2 or 3 pieces?  That would be a more practical arrangement as a number of artworks could be viewed per station.  What about groups of treadmills, so more than one viewer could participate at once? 

Would this encourage interaction between viewers?  Would people become self-conscious? 

The treadmill creates an interactive element, which is novel for a standard exhibition of paintings.  Perhaps this would create opportunities for different kinds of exhibits and venues?  Maybe the gym!

At any rate, if you’ve got the machine give it a try!  I’ve been surprised by the quality of viewing experience.  By the end of my session any aesthetic choices have been well considered.  I have utter confidence going forward.  I've weighed my options, visualized the results and resolved the situation...all before touching brush to canvas.

It’s a great approach to problem solving!  

Monday, July 7, 2014

Idea Generation Drawings--Getting ReStarted

This series is geared towards artists who want to get re-started in the studio after a long break.
Also referred to as “Ideations”, the Idea Generation Drawing is all about producing ideas quickly.  Each drawing builds upon the last.  It’s a fast way to discover and explore ideas.  One day you may find that your sheets are finished works in themselves.

Take a sheet of 18”x24” drawing paper and divide it into 16 equal sections.  In art school we were told to fold the sheet in half, then again, again and again—16 quick equal sections.  Now get your kitchen timer and set it for 5 minutes.  Yes, 5 minutes.
GO!  At this pace you have less than 20 seconds to fill each section.  I encourage you to finish your first sheets in under 5 minutes.  

Why?  We are most interested in getting restarted through this series of posts.  It is extremely important to see yourself produce a full sheet of drawings, regardless of what you think about the level of finish or quality.  In fact, do not think at all about quality or finish with this work.  Our interest lies in the flow of ideas, their encouragement and their direction.
Do a second sheet of idea generation drawings.  Make sure you follow the time limit and get all the spaces filled.  It may not be easy for you, but again, we are approaching this exercise as a re-starting technique.  Don’t spend any energy fighting it, use all of your energy making yourself produce quickly, right now.
Do you need to do a third?  Go ahead then.

Page one of drawings for sculpture, 2014 (Technically, thumbnail sketches)
Be conscious of where your ideas are going.  Have you discovered an idea that interests you?  If so, do your next idea generation drawing based on exploring that one idea.  See where it goes.  16 versions of an idea borders on an in-depth exploration, which can only yield well founded results.  Not only are you starting again in the studio, but you are building quality into your new artworks by exploring ideas this way.

Page two, drawings for sculpture
Do not give up—you will not fail if you do not quit.  Do you see any marks that are compelling, independent of an “idea”?  Maybe that’s the idea to pursue…be flexible at this point.  You are casting a lot of seeds out there and something is going to take root.
This is the equivalent of a “Free Writing” exercise for writers.  Getting the creative juices flowing is the main point, but you WILL hit an idea that is very interesting using this technique.  Look for that one tiny drawing with the je ne sais qua worth pursuing as a work in its own right. 
How about taking a photo of it and projecting it to scale it up?
There are multiple benefits to this exercise.  You’ll unearth ideas, explore and develop them; you’ll find surprise sections that stand on their own as images, you’ll develop diptychs or triptychs, even book sequences; not to mention how this process enables working in a series.  This is a fruitful approach as a general studio practice as well as for beginning new artworks.

Page three.

I fully encourage you to engage with this exercise.  Do you have a friend who might join you?  Sometimes it is easier to see how the process works when you look at someone else’s efforts.
Idea generation drawing is a valuable skill to acquire and serves well in the lifelong pursuit of art.  You can go through dozens of ideas quickly, arriving at images which are already proven worthy of pursuit.  It will increase your chances for success and a lot of new artwork.

Go get ‘em!

One of three sculptures based on above drawings, James Thatcher  ©  2014