On Creativity

Falling Water, acrylic, 30 x 30

I just finished reading “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,” by Elizabeth Gilbert. She writes as if she’s sitting across the table with the reader, cup of coffee in hand, leaning forward, and you’re having this great discussion, except she supplies both sides of the discussion. In this case, the discussion is about what qualities we need to cultivate in order to live our most creative lives. It’s all very upbeat and encouraging, whether you think of yourself as a creative person or not. As someone who has to admit to some level of creative impulse in her life, I found it very enlightening.

Speaking of creativity, for a while now, I’ve been exploring abstract shapes, colors, textures and designs in my paintings. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’m certainly not done with that aspect of my ‘colorful journey’, but I was inspired recently to return to a genre I painted earlier – landscapes. In ‘Falling Water,’ I used my recently acquired ‘abstract’ skills to try to capture the almost explosive power of water as it thunders and roars its way down a mountain. I hope this painting manages to capture some of the electric energy I felt looking at scenes like this up in Alaska recently.

Art vs. Craft: What’s the difference?

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                                                   Apple, acrylic, 14 x11  ($125 + $10 shipping)

I just saw a fascinating documentary, “Tim’s Vermeer,” produced by Penn & Teller.  It’s the story of Tim, who theorizes that Vermeer used a camera obscura to create his amazingly realistic paintings.  This theory is well known, but there are problems with it.  Tim set out to overcome the problems.  He made and modified a camera obscura, and actually built the entire scene of “The Music Lesson.”  He then painted the scene, using his invention.  He proved that Vermeer could have similarly used his own camera obscura to achieve the great level of detail in his paintings.  At the end of about 130 days, Tim had recreated an exact replica of Vermeer’s painting.

Yet something was still missing from the painting.  It lacked the magic that Vermeer brought to his work.  Why is that?

An artist must master her craft, surely.  More than that, though, the artist uses composition, the effects of light and color, the choice of subject matter, to elevate the craftman-like work to the level of art.  It’s seeing ordinary things in a different way.  Maybe it’s a sort of magic, after all.