I’ve just finished reading Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting for the third time in ten years and finding it as inspiring and eye opening as ever. Written by John Carlson in 1929 it’s not a flashy book, no color pictures, no flowery language, doesn’t even mention paints, color or canvas. What it does offer up is how to see and think like an artist.
Thought I would unpack three of my favorite quotes from Carlson;
“An artist must first be a dreamer, and than a sane analyzer of those dreams.”
I believe this speaks to imposing your own preferences on a subject. How can I make this subject more appealing to me? It’s letting your imagination run wild, then reining it into something that can actually be painted. Here is an example below of a reference photo and the changes that took place that transformed it into what was in my head.
The real story here is a neighbor of mine sitting in front of a window in my dining room. Not very interesting. What I’d like her to be, an Eastern European immigrant, traveling with her favorite chicken. “At The Station”
“There can be no expression without previous impression.”
This is about actually getting emotional about your subject. Look at it, really look at it, how does it make you feel? Let it filter through your heart as well as your head. If you can’t come up with anything , move along, this isn’t a good subject for you.
This subject just exploded with youth and freedom, warmth and escaping the normal world. Infusing her into a bubbling atmosphere of weightlessness, moving toward nowhere in particular was my vision for her. “Going in Circles”
“In Art, knowledge assists invention.”
As artists, we can never believe we draw well enough or understand color enough. It’s life long training that help us gain the skill and knowledge to invent within our paintings. To create something that is unique to our personal vision.
A photo of a friend’s daughter in the back, overgrown yard of a neighbor.
There happened to be a broom resting against the dilapidated porch, she grabbed it. What I saw, a mystical being, walking through the tall sun lite grass, searching for some work to do with her broom. She might physically clean something up or help someone to “clean up” a problem in their life. “Summer Spirit”
Next time you’re faced with a new subject take some time to dig deep into the possibilities.