When I first started painting, I would look at someone else’s work and wonder “How did they do that?”. That is a good question and one you have probably asked yourself whilst admiring a piece of art. It is also a useful question to ask especially when you are just starting out on your art journey. I asked it many times and learned from the replies I got which helped me develop my own style of working.
The question is though – is it the right question?
Jackson Pollack is quoted as saying that he wanted to express his emotions, not illustrate them. Therein lies a clue to a better question to ask an artist, because, if you think about it, the answer to the ‘how’ question is always going to be the same. Does that surprise you? It probably does because you are thinking that every artist will give a different reply to ‘how ‘they did it.
However, the answer is always going to boil down to one word – technique. There are a million different techniques of course based on knowledge, experience and skill which will differ from artist to artist. Fundamentally though, no matter how involved or fascinating the answers you get, the answer to the ‘how’ question is always going to be the same, and that is what techniques were used.
So, what is a better question to ask the artist? Ask ‘why’ and then you really will get more interesting replies because the individuality of the artist will be expressed in the answer.
Let’s try it out. Why did I paint this?
Last year, I was looking through some sketchbooks for inspiration. I came across a sketch of Flamborough from the clifftop carpark. It was annotated ‘waiting for Dilly’. Dilly was our last rescue dog before Meg and Peggy. She had had an awful start in life being used as a breeding machine until being abandoned tied on a dual carriageway when she had become too ill to be useful to the puppy farm. Happily, she was rescued and after many weeks of treatment and loving care she eventually came to us. She lived another four and a half years, and we shared much love and joy. It was hard work though. Due to her condition she had to be groomed once a month. The dog groomer lived in Flamborough, so we took her there. It would take about an hour. Often, we would nip into Bridlington and have a cup of coffee, but if I took her on my own, I would go off and do a bit of sketching to pass the time. This had been one such occasion. Seeing it brought back many happy memories and a little sadness, so I was moved to paint it. As a tribute to her memory, I put her with Merice and I on the cliff top which was a walk we had all enjoyed together many times. It is a painting of love.
I could have told you the techniques I used but hope you have found this more interesting.
So, next time you see a painting you like give it a go and ask yourself ‘why’ instead of ‘how’.
Thanks for reading.