Archive for March 14th, 2023

Picasso/ Making Do

Pablo Picasso harlequin-with-glass 1905

Pablo Picasso- Harlequin with Glass, 1905

How often have I found that wanting to use blue, I didn’t have it so I used a red instead of the blue.

–Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso is probably the most quoted of artists, though many things are mistakenly attributed to him. It’s a case that if it sounds interesting and you’re not sure who might have said it, you credit him or Shakespeare or Lincoln or some other iconic and highly quotable figure.

But I have a feeling that the quote I chose here today is actually his. I can’t see Lincoln saying it.

I certainly know the circumstance to which he refers.

Been there, done that.

In a pinch, you just make do with what you have because you can’t always wait until you have perfect conditions, all the materials you desire and a moment of inspiration are in complete alignment. Sometimes inspiration is there and you don’t have what you would ideally want to use but you still want to make that mark.

A number of years back, I was having some real back problems. I had to that point always painted in a standing position but the pain forced me to sit. I found that there were points where I would reach for a color that I would normally use in certain instances and find it out of reach, often on the other side of the studio. Instead of straining out of my seat and limping to get it, I would take whatever was within my reach and try to either attempt to replicate the color or completely substitute another color.

In many ways, it was a good experience. Certainly a learning one. Where I had used reds before, there were sometimes blues or greens. Turquoise tended to turn to purples and maroons.

Because my work doesn’t depend on accuracy in depicting natural color, it actually stretched the work a bit more. It also reinforced that idea that one must make do with what one has at hand. It’s something I have often tried to impress on young artists, that they should never use not having everything they think they need to start as an excuse to not start.

If they have a real creative urge, then they will make do, they will find a way.

The results may exceed what their mind had imagined.

The above is a post from about 5 years back. I was reminded of it at a recent opening when I was asked about my process. The person asked how many brushes I employed on a particular painting. They were surprised when I told them it was one or two larger brushes for most of the painting and a smaller brush for the details that finished off the piece. This idea of making do with what is at hand has influenced my process in many ways, including my brush selection. Sometimes, I just don’t have the exact brush I might want at hand so being able to work with what is at hand become important.

I usually start a period of painting with a couple of new fresh brushes and stick with them until they are beyond use. Usually only a couple of weeks because I am pretty hard on my brushes. But in the time that they are in the rotation, I become accustomed to each brush as it wears down. I notice how each takes on a unique quality in its way of making marks which allows wider use of the brush. That’s important to me because it means I can do things on the surface of the painting without having to stop to move to another brush. Plus, the marks made by using the brush in different ways is often more interesting to me. It often feels a bit rougher and more organic, adding a dimension to the depth of the surface.

It’s a small thing but it keeps the work constantly flowing which is what making do is really about. Well, that and the surprises and changes that occur when having to use colors and brushes in different ways. A lot of the evolution of my work over the years has come about from making do, of having to figure out how to do things in with different tools and materials.

Life or art seldom occurs under perfect conditions. We have to make do. And that is where beauty often shows itself.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: