Permission to play!

Here’s a controversial quote from the French impressionist painter Edgar Degas:
Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things“.

Why is the controversial? because I’m not sure he is right! Any good painter must know what he or she is doing. Good paintings rarely just happen by accident. There are “rules” or guidelines that help us create good compositions. we need to know about colour choices, tonal values and focal points, brushwork, leading the eye, edges… the list goes on. These are the technicalities of making a good piece of art. And just as a musician needs to constantly practice the scales, so we need to learn and practice these techniques.

However, I do know what he was trying to say, and that is we have permission to play. Sometimes in the act of trying something new, or just letting go and seeing what happens, then a whole new direction opens up for us. When we no longer know what we are doing, then we can create better art. Or perhaps the art creates itself as we watch!

When was the last time you just played at art instead of attempting to paint a picture? I know that for me I don’t do this enough. Every time I settle down to paint I want to produce a finished masterpiece! Sometimes I feel I don’t have time to play. I want to spend the limited hours I have in creating a painting worthy of hanging on the wall.

But this is where we may be missing a trick that could catapult us into a new creative direction. We may be missing out on a whole new style of painting, a whole new way of creating. Perhaps in playing we will discover our real style, we will discover our unique voice.

Here are some ideas for creative play

  • Don’t always paint on your best paper/ canvas etc..
    Grab yourself a sketchbook or some cheap notepads and have fun filling them up!
  • Don’t show your experiments to anyone else. This will free you up to explore without the anxiety of wondering what others might think…
  • There is no failure as you play. Every experiment is a success.
  • Look for the good in every practice session. See what you can learn from each playtime. Is there anything that you could use in a future painting?
  • Try using a different medium.
  • Mix media together in new ways
  • Forget any art “rules” you know and play with perspective, colour and shapes.
  • Try adding abstract elements to your painting
  • Mix landscape and still life in one painting
  • Give yourself a time limit – if you need to set a timer for a half hour and finish when the beeper sounds, even if you haven’t “finished”.

I hope that has given you (and myself) permission to play. I’m excited to see what new direction my art will take!


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