How Those That Did it Did it,
And How You Can do it too!
RAISING YOUR ARTISTIC ABILITY
(This whole section has to do with the theory of visualization. It is very important to really get this. I really hope you do, although it is a lot of reading. You should best do it at home.)
What are ‘levels of ability’?
What are the various levels of ability from person to person, in art or anything else? Why is it that someone can do something ‘better’ than someone else? Why is it that some can learn faster than someone else?
A major, if not the primary aspect of these differences, is the ability to visualize what to do next! These ‘levels of ability’ from person to person are in fact levels of the ability to visualize what to do next.
When you cannot visualize what to do next, you have hit your own ceiling of what you can do; that is as far as you can go. It is not a fixed ceiling, you can move on from there, but when you notice ‘I don’t know what to do next’, what you are in fact saying is, ‘I can’t see what to do next’, which is the same as saying ‘I can’t visualize what to do next.”
It is all the same comment. It also contains its own solution, as commented on earlier.
So, here we have a clue as to what is ‘ability’. It may be that ‘ability’ in anything is being able to get a visualization of what to do next.
(Another of Bob’s meaningless rants follows, you can safely skip it. –ed.)
‘Schooling’ is just the amassing of unexamined and unevaluated data, stored in those pictures; producing a biological library full of misinformation. There is no agreed upon standard to which all this data can be compared to determine their relative value to you. In this system, the ‘Napoleonic Code’ is as important to you as ‘how to balance your bank account’, is as important to you as, ‘the name of the 13 Prime Minister of Australia’, is as important to you as, ‘how to pee out of the back of a truck’, and so forth. Sheer insanity, everything is as important as everything else, and it produces a not-quite bright citizen. (In the examples above, knowing how to pee out of the back of a truck is quite valuable when you are hitchhiking across the country. You have to be careful, because it blows back atcha.)
‘Education’ has to do with the evaluation of relative importances of data, and thus a prediction of where data will be placed relative to other data. Not all things are of equal value, and things of great value are not of great value in all circumstances. Prediction is necessary for any controlled motion.
Thus, we can conclude that ‘learning’ something is gaining the ability to visualize what you have to do next; you now have a prediction of where/how something should be placed, (relative to something else). We could even come up with a new definition of ‘learning’, such as ‘gaining the ability to visualize what to do to next towards the completion of some project.
Thus, ‘knowing’ would be having the ability to predict where/how something is to be place relative to something else. You can visualize it, thus you know it.
What is ‘certainty’ really, if not the ability to visualize what to do next and to for you to know that you do have that ability to visualize what to do next. The more one is able to visualize, the more certain one is of what they are doing. The further along the line of steps one can visualize, seeing what to do into the future beyond what one is doing now, is what knowledge is.
The more accurate the alignment of data, the more certain and able one is. This is what prediction really is; correct alignment of data. The correct estimation of the effort required to produce a product is essential to survival. Why do you think gymnasts continually run their routine through their heads over and over again, before they go on the mat? Visualizing. Why do ball players visualize the bat hitting the ball before they even walk to the plate? Why do golfers visualize where the ball is headed before they even hit it? The ‘greats!’ are great for a reason, and this ‘visualization’ is the reason.
(Okay, rant subsided. –ed.)
It is no different when producing a work of art. What is the reason for all those ‘thumbnail’ sketches, all those studies, by artists? What exactly are they ‘figuring out?’ What does it mean when they do the thumbnails and go, “Ah ha! Got it!”
That great statement echoing up through history, “Eureka”, was exactly the same thing.
It should be obvious by now; they are figuring out what to do next! They are doing something that will help them visualize what to do next! Then they go and do it.
You will now get a brief demonstration by the supervisor on how artists figure out what to do ‘next’.
The purpose of this demonstration and the drills to follow it is to get you aware of primary methods that artists in the past have used in order what to figure out what to do next in their work.
CALL THE INSTRUCTOR, AND LET HIM/HER KNOW YOU ARE READY FOR THUMBNAILS SKETCHES DRILL
NOW YOU DRILL IT!
Go to the bookshelf and grab some books with drawings in them. If you are not sure which one, wake up the instructor and have him go get some for you. Scan through these drawing books. What you are looking for are sketches where the artist had to go and study something he/she couldn’t quite visualize how to do, and you’ll know them because off to the side of the drawing, on the same page, are little studies the artist made, of a hand, and arm, a nose, whatever. These indicate that the artist was trying to figure out what to do next. Why do you think they did this?
Look at as many as you can find.
When you are drawing something, and you are having a problem with a part of it, it just means you can’t see what to do next, so go off to the side of the drawing and do a thumbnail. Once you can see what to do next, you’ll know it, and then you can go back to the drawing. This works for tones, colours, styles of drawing or painting, it works for everything.
What exactly is it you are drawing?
At the beginning of this workbook there was some discussion about what it is the artist is actually trying to do, trying to accomplish by doing what he is doing, and that had to do with him attempting to grab hold of an experience that some subject had upon him, remember that? Very inspirational.
Well, we need to see how he does this, and it is really quite simple to understand, though definitely a challenge to pull it off.
Once the artist has the experience and they want to ‘capture’ it, what do they do?
They visualize it!
They get mental image of the initial effect upon them, a fading echo of it at best, and they create a mental image of how they want to draw it, or paint it, or write it, or sing it, or choreograph it.
This vision is what they are creating! And that is what they are attempting to ‘capture’.
You are not painting your subject, you are using your subject to paint a painting. Do you understand the difference?
So as an artist, what you are drawing, is your mental picture, your vision. The subject helps to anchor that vision for you, helps you to recreate it as you work it.
I think this was all commented upon earlier, but it is important to bring up now.
As far as we are concerned, you and I, I cannot help you with your vision, I can only help remove the barriers that get in the way of you expressing your vision, removing the barrier of not being able to draw, not being able to get the three dimensions, the forms, the shapes, working, not being able to mix the colours you want, not getting the composition to work. That I can help you with. As far as your vision, you don’t need any help with that, you never did, you never will, your vision is no less than that of any other person.
So, we will pass all that vision stuff, since you don’t need me for that, and get right into the understandings of what it is you are wanting to do and how to do that.
When you are drawing, what you are drawing are the decisions you are making about that subject! You are drawing what you are visualizing! The translation from a 3d world onto a 2d piece of paper occurs in the mind.
What does this mean? It means that if you are in fact drawing or painting your mental picture of something, then you better visualize your subject according to what you are doing with it. In other words, if you are doing a line drawing of a setup using a black pencil on white paper, you better visualize that drawing as a black pencil drawing on white paper. That means it has no colour, no shading, and is only black lines on white paper. If you are painting a tree in oils, you’d better visualize how that tree would look as an oil painting! How would those branches look as a stroke of paint? How would the leaves look as a stroke of paint? And the sky, how would that look in paint? If you are ‘seeing’ a tree, you are missing the boat, because you are not painting a tree! You are creating the illusion of a tree using oils on canvas, etc. Your mental image better reflect that, or you’ll will end up trying to ‘copy’ a tree, and eventually go nuts because you can’t!
Visualize the paint, because that is what you are doing!
If drawing, visualize the subject as a drawing.
(Another rant you can skip. –ed.)
Maybe what ‘art’ really is, is an attempt to bring into this physical universe a personal experience, something that one has experienced in the mental or spiritual or emotional universe, a bridge between the spiritual, or mental, whatever, and the physical universe. Maybe the only real ‘create’ we are capable of is spiritual or mental in essence. Perhaps the only thing any of us really create is our mental image of something, music, paintings, dancing, business, whatever. The rest is skill and craftsmanship to bring that ‘creation’ into the real world for others to also experience. This view, if true, would set out the actual relationships, sequences, between various art ‘movements’ relative to one another with respect to the initial inspiration, realism, abstraction, abstract impressionism, abstract expressionism, all those ‘ism’s. It aligns a tremendous amount of data for anyone who wants to think with it. It is all well covered in “Bob’s Kernel Theory of Creativity”, which maybe someday I’ll actually tell to someone.
Further, the role played by skill and craftsmanship is the producing in the physical world, of what already exists in the mental or spiritual ‘world.’ This producing in the physical world is where all the ‘work’ is, and where all the integrity of artists lay.
This has great significance. This means that the problem for the artist is to find a way to create the illusion in the physical world, of that image they have in their own world, which they created because of an experience. Thus, what you see when you see the work of a true artist, are the solutions to all the problems he encountered while trying to create that illusion. The art work you are looking at is the total sum of the solutions to the problem that artist had in moving his visualizations into the real world. You are looking at their visualization. What you ‘see’ when you look at a painting, is the mental image the artist had when they did it. You are peering into their mind, or perhaps even into their soul.
As an artist, you have the potential of being able to visualize each and every step that a work of art goes through, as you progress from a blank canvas to the completed work, even before you begin! That is an awesome ability to have! And, it is one you must acquire. This can come naturally as a result of having done it so often; you have built up an experience you can draw upon and you can see far into the work.
I think the only exception to this is when you are exploring, and really don’t know where you may end up. Doodling, perhaps the highest form of creativity, abstraction, these usually lead the artist, not the other way around. Just my opinion.
(Rant subsided, you can continuereading here. -ed)
NOW YOU DO IT
You will do a series of drills to help you increase your artistic ability.
The purpose of these drills is to get you more causative over visualizing the ‘future’ steps a piece of work, to see before you do, and will go through from a blank piece of paper to a completed sketch, seeing each step before you actually do it.
In this drill, you don’t draw anything, you are drilling what to visualize.
Create a simple setup, no more than three or four simple props, of simple shapes. I know you can dive much deeper than this, but for the purposes of learning this … technique, keep the setup simple. Later you can go nuts.
When you look at your setup, what you want to do is to visualize how it would look as a sketch, dark pencil on a lighter paper, what it would look like once you have finished sketching it. In other words, try to picture now, before you even start, what the completed drawing would look like. Nothing fancy, just a simple sketch, maybe not even fully developed into a complete work. When you visualize what you want to do, that mental picture you are looking at, visualize it already down on the paper. In other words, don’t keep that mental picture in your head. Put it down on the paper, and look at it there. See it as if you already did it.
Call the instructor before you start and tell him how you plan to go about doing the drill. This way the instructor will know if you are ‘visualizing’ how to do the drill properly.
Now sit down and start the sketch. Do all you have been taught thus far, standing back and such and visualizing what to do next before you do it, and then sit and do it, but remember this, keep that original idea of what the finished drawing would look like in mind, literally, and always compare your sketch to that idea. The setup will serve to reinforce that mental idea, since mental ideas can get foggy and elusive at times. As you are doing this, you are always comparing what you have on the pad, to what you want to have, which is that idea you have in your head. That idea, not your setup, is what you are comparing the sketch on the pad to!
You will find that you tend to slack off a bit, and begin to copy lines you see on the setup onto the paper, without any visualization from you. This will happen, it will always happen, but when you notice it, stop, and start visualizing again. See what you want to do before you do it.
Do a few corrections until the sketch begins to approximate what that original image looked like. Don’t worry if it is not exact, that’s not why we are doing this drill, the reason you are doing it is to get familiar at knowingly visualizing, and that takes doing a lot of it.
Now change your setup, keep it simple, and visualize what the completed sketch may look like, and follow the steps of the drill outlined above. Remember, use the setup only to keep that mental image under control.
Do several of these sketches, until you can see that your sketching is beginning to approximate your initial mental image quite regularly.
This is not a short step. It may take a while until you feel you are doing it the way you want it done. Then again, maybe you’ll ace it right away. The point is, this is a vital ability you want to gain, so don’t shortchange yourself. Once you feel quite confident, call the instructor for a checkout.
How Do You Know When You Are Done?
You can have the final product visualized even before you begin to work on it. This isn’t always the case, because sometimes you still have much to learn more before you can visualize the next step. But regardless of where you are on this visualization highway, you are always visualizing! Always. Even when you have no idea what you are doing, whatever it is you are doing you are doing because you have already visualized it. Everything you do, you’ve already visualized. Throwing paint against a wall. How could anyone visualize how that would look? Well, obviously they have some idea, don’t they, or they wouldn’t be doing it, they are at least visualizing throwing paint against the wall, aren’t they, and they must have some vision as how they think it would look, otherwise why do it, something got their attention didn’t it?
Your target is to achieve such competence that you can visualize each step to the completion of your work. I doubt anyone ever gets there, but it is where you are heading. Whether you know it or not, that is the skill level you are trying to achieve. It doesn’t mean that things won’t pop up unexpectedly, and throw you a little curve in your work. (That is to be expected, and I personally think that it has to happen for you to learn more. If it is all totally predicted, why bother doing it?)
How do you know if your work is done, unless you already have an idea, a vision, of what it will look like, or feel like, when it is done? When your work approximates that vision, then it is most likely done. It probably is never exactly like you intended, unless your ability exceeds your ambition, which sounds pretty boring. Your great joy as an artist is demonstrating to yourself your competence in achieving as close an effect in your work as is possible to what you intended that effect to be. The better you are, the happier you are. This is your skill and craftsmanship coming into play.
That is why in this school you are taught that you need to make these decisions, and if you get ‘new’ ideas as you work on what you are working on now, don’t jump in and put these new ideas into your present work. This could be disastrous. What is wise is that you make a note of what you discovered, what you ‘saw’, and put it in your next work. Keep your original purpose for this work in mind, don’t go changing what it will eventually look like every time you blossom a little more as an artist while doing it. Keep those little blooms in mind, jot them down if you must, finish off what you have started, and then plan your next work/s around those little blossoms.
If you keep altering what you have visualized to do every time you get a new idea, you’d never get anything done. That doesn’t mean you can’t apply something to your present work to make it even better, something you just realized. It means that you have to make that decision and draw that line, and get the work you are now on, done.
Then on your next work, explore those avenues that opened up to you in your present work.
I’ve learned that from where you are as an artist to where you want to be as an artist, the degree of skill you are looking for, there is a direct line from where you are now, to there, a line of visions you need to explore. You will know you are on that line when the vision you are now exploring suddenly opens up to you another vision to explore, and another, and another. this painting you are on now is the exact painting you should have been doing, because it brought out these visions, so now you know the next 6 or 7 paintings you are going to do, all of a sudden you can see them.
It’s is a most wonderful state to be in.
These visions are your next series of paintings, in that order, all built around exploring that series of visions.
Now I’m going to tell you something I don’t know. When you are painting, and suddenly you have a new vision, I don’t know if you should stop working on the painting you are one and jump to the new one, or finish the one you are on. What I have learned is that if the one you are on is causing you to see into your future, showing you your next series of paintings, you should stick with it because it is for sure helping you, isn’t it, you are growing. If you jump into the next vision, and drop the one you are on … I don’t know what would happen. Try it and see, I never did, try it and see if the visions keep on opening up to you. If not, next time you get a vision don’t drop what you are doing, finish it then start a new work around the new vision.
(The real reason I never did it was because I had to get paintings done, I made my living from selling paintings, so I needed to get something done and sold. If you don’t need to do that, then by all means, jump away, and let me know how it works out, I’d really, really, like to know. Maybe I’ve been doing this wrong all my life.)
When you experience this, man, are you on a roll, you are very much on that direct line and you are progressing. If this doesn’t happen, then you are off in the mud somewhere and you need to get back on that line. This is where faith and integrity come in. When you explore a vision, don’t do the same ol’ same ol’ explore, and the visions will soon become visible. Pay attention, the path is there for you even when you are neck deep in mud.
Anyway, this is not a minor point, there is a reason why you are suddenly blooming as you do this work, and to suddenly shift lanes will, I suspect, will shift you off that path and hinder the blooming! But as I said above, I don’t know for sure. If something is working, I figure stick with it until you’ve drained from it all you can get. If a work is giving you new ideas, new visualizations of what you can do, then you are probably doing exactly what it is you should be doing, and maybe it will continue to give you new visualizations as you do it. So finish it as you originally intended, the vision that started it all. You definitely had the right idea with this painting, that’s for sure!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Drawing ‘From’ the Future
There is a very interesting phenomenon that occurs when you apply this tech on visualization; in a sense you will be ‘drawing from the future.’ You will be looking at your work from a future stage, back to where you are now, in order to determine what to do now so you can do something then. Seems kinda strange, actually.
When you are able to visualize what to do all the way through your work, or most of it, from a blank canvas or paper to a completed product, you can visualize what each stage of the work will look like from stage to stage up to the final product. You will know what each stage adds to the previous stage to the overall final effect, thus you will know what you need to do in each of those stages before you even start. So, you visualize a stage in your work later than where you are now, that the painting must be in a certain way at that time for you to do then what you want to do then, but in order for it to be ready to do that then, you must do this specific thing now to be able to do that, then. Your attention is up in the future, at this future stage of your painting, and you know what you have to do at that point in the painting, but to be able to do that then, these things must be done first, and so you are really looking back to where you are in your work now, to do now what you need to do now so you can do that then? You have to set up your work to be ready at that time to do then what you need to do, then.
I hope you are able to visualize what I just said. It is an interesting phenomenon.
This phenomenon is very evident in certain styles of painting where you are ‘glazing’, putting transparent layers over transparent layers, which means you can see deep into the painting, actually into it … oh … wait … yeah, I’d better tell you what ‘glazing’ paint is; if you could imagine a transparent sheet placed over a drawing, well, you can see that drawing, can’t you. If that transparent sheet had a tint of colour in it, say red, you’d still see the drawing as clear as before, except it would have a pink tint over it. And if you then added over that sheet of transparent pink, but only some part of it, another sheet of, say, transparent yellow, then the drawing would have the pink look to it, but that one area with the transparent yellow would have an orange tint to it. Well, if in a painting you can see that several steps into that painting you want a certain effect, you need to do something now so that you can do that then. This is called, ‘glazing’; thin layers of transparent colours over other thin layers of transparent colours, the end result being the sum total of all the transparencies, etc. Obviously, you’d need to know what to do now so you can get that end result later. If you missed, then you’d not get it. So, you are looking from the view you have of the completed painting to ‘now’ so you know what to do ‘now’. In glazing, this is of paramount importance.
No matter how far along you are in your ability to visualize, when you are using it, you are putting your attention into the future. You are in fact, creating the future now. Interesting, huh!