The Laws of Nature

Sunday, February 3, 2013


Archimedes' Principle
watercolor on paper,  26" x 20"
Katharine A. Cartwright
Thank you to those who have rejoined my discussions after my prolonged absence. As you know, a few years ago I reviewed over a dozen books on art theory on this blog and you enhanced my reviews with your insightful discussion. Priceless! If you're new to this blog and want to read those posts, they're archived according to author and title on the sidebar of this page. Just select the author's name to get to the book and discussion.

In the couple of years that have lapsed since my book reviews, I've spent a lot of time developing this new series entitled "The Laws of Nature" and showing it at various exhibitions around the country. I've completed 28 of these so far, and have another going in my studio.

What's become most obvious to me over the past half decade is the importance of decision making when it comes to art making. I'm not a great fan of happy accidents. Rather, I like to think things through and then make a decision about what to say, how to say it, and when I should stop.

The decision about what to say arrives after much introspection. What is my internal perception of the external world? What single point can I make in this painting or series of related paintings? How is reality altered by my perception and how can I exaggerate that?

The decision about how to say what I want to say arrives after even more deliberation. What ideosyncracies in my mark-making can I exploit to express my own unique style? What color relationships reflect the mood I want to impart to my work? What values do the same? How can I best construct forms and relationships between forms to express my idea?

The decision about when to stop a painting or a series of related paintings occurs when I consciously realize that the work is becoming repetitive and I have nothing new to say about it.

At that point, I must begin the decision making process again and create a new series.

Some have teased and even criticized me for being so deliberate in my approach to art. The only defense I have is that I'm introspective, analytical, and meticulous and must, therefore, express who I am in my work. In other words, I won't deny who I am and I won't try to be someone else when I make art.

How 'bout you?


Ross Lynem said...

Thank you for this. It was perfect and brilliant. Love your work by the way.

M said...

I enjoyed reading this post because it is so not the way my work develops. Mostly. Now that I wrote that I've decided it isn't true. I think quite a bit about a series and immerse myself in the subject matter and my response to it. It is the actual painting process that is different. I never plan the painting in any great detail. It's more about the exploration of an idea through the process of painting. I really think quite a bit as I paint but it's in response to what I've just done and a building on it.

The questions you ask are excellent and I want to think some more about them. Great to have you back blogging.

Mary Paquet said...

Kathy, so nice to hear from you. I've followed your development of the series and the successes you've had in exhibitions. Great work! I look forward to your next series.

I believe each of us is unique in the way we approach our work. I find I need a personal attachment to objects, people, and places that I paint. I would like to be more deliberate than I am about where my art is going.

Dan Kent said...

I love the colors in this one!
The pictures within the picture are almost magical, as I suppose buoyancy is a bit magical.

Many times when I plan, I get a boring result, then if I reach a point when I get in the "zone" my hand starts moving all by itself and the work comes to life! So my work is a combination of deliberate and free. I like happy accidents because they lead to unexpected results (except when they don't - lol).

Anonymous said...

Hi Katharine, I enjoyed gaining insight to your creative process. I have often thought of my drawing and painting as problem solving. I think its similar, though not as deliberate as what you have developed. At my current level, I'm more of a "let's try this pallet and see how it influences mood". Lots to think about!

Unknown said...

Hi Ross, Thank you! It's good to have you participate in our discussion and hope you'll continue.

Hi Margaret - You've made a good point about how each painter has a different approach. It really seems to depend upon our own personal psychology and behavior.

Hi Mary - thanks so much! It's good to hear from you and to learn about your developing process. It is a journey for all of us, isn't it?

Hi Dan - Yes! I really do believe in letting the subconscious take over. My planning is more or less a combination of conscious and subconscious decisions, but the development of a concept (for me) begins with a conscious effort to tap deep inside and identify what I want to say, and also a conscious choice of how to say it. Once that mental scaffolding is in place I can let the subconscious play a larger role.

Hi Peggy - I've loved following your experiments! Your approach is practically scientific as you slightly alter each experiment to see the outcome and then try another. Fascinating!

Chris Beck said...

So glad to see you back in the blog world! Your posts are always food for thought.

Like you, I have gotten feedback that I'm too left-brain in my approach to art, but until reading your post here, I never had much of a response to that. In reality, I would describe myself as "whole brain" -- yes I do a lot of left-brain processing, but behind that is a very active right brain. I suspect all artists operate in this way, but perhaps the point is set at different spots along a continuum.

Unknown said...

Hi Chris, Good point! Thanks so much.