The “What if” attitude

I often begin a painting by throwing paint on the surface immediately. There is something in that white, empty space that sends fear into my heart. It is commonly known amongst artists as “white paper syndrome”. Once the color is applied the fear subsides and my mind immediately goes into what is termed the “what if” mindset. This is a response process to any mark made on your surface.

In the process of art-making it is important to ask questions along the way. The better formulated the questions, of course, the better result you might obtain. Think of it as adaptation or trying on shoes. The lines, like the shoes, may be too tight, too large, too short, etc… Then of course the color may be problematic so you go back to square one and regroup.

Every work of art requires decisions as it evolves. Asking “what if”,assessing the work as you go along, reminding yourself of the original motivation for picking up your brush, the emotion behind what you initially sought to convey can all help. There are always other less orthodox methods of pushing your work forward when you are at a standstill. These can vary between listening to music, talking to yourself, walking away and going for a short walk, changing your tools or brushes, giving yourself a refresher lesson out loud about color or composition, re-analyzing your reference material (if you work with any), squinting so you are better able to assess values and, failing that, screaming at your work can all have some value. It can serve to release stress and re-ignite the call to battle. You will not be defeated by this painting!

Ask yourself more questions. Be adventurous. What would you create if you didn’t care what the world would say? What if it’s all about the learning along the way? The “what if” attitude keeps your work and the learning going forward. If all else fails, a call to the Gods and a serious discussion with your Muse may prove effective, then get back to “what if”.


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