The Energies of Paintings

Leland Fishing Shanties

What energy goes into the painting when the artist touches brush to canvas? This may not be a common question, but much is revealed in the answers. I learned many times over that what I hold in my personal energy when I paint is what shows in the painting.

As a simple example, long ago in high school I was attempting to paint the portrait of a friend of mine. It was not going too badly until I got to the chin. No matter how carefully and precisely I rendered it, the chin looked wrong. I checked angles, proportions, etc. and nothing helped. Finally, in a fit of temper I grabbed my brush and made one fast swoop thinking nothing but “Judy’s chin.”

At that moment it turned into Judy’s chin on the canvas. Dead measurements made a dead chin that did not work. Getting angry enough to bypass all my mental calculations, however briefly, allowed a different energy to enter, the essential energy of how I saw Judy’s chin.

My great Uncle Mike was an accomplished artist and also well known in our family for the powerful temper we called The Lanshaw Roar. I once went to look at one of his most recent paintings of the Leland fishing shanties.

The painting was done in soft grays typical of weathered wood buildings. The small yellow flower splats in the foreground caught my eye and I started to chuckle. He wanted to know why. I said he must have really been having a fit of temper when he painted those flowers.

He looked surprised, a little embarrassed to be caught, and then started harrumphing about how the foreground had been annoying him. He did not have to tell me, those flowers had already said it.

Paintings by their nature evoke energetic responses in those who see them. The same pile of materials lying there not yet made into a painting does not evoke those same responses. Something happens in the painting process that transcends the materials and the overtly physical nature of those materials.

After mastering the basic techniques of their medium, artists can then turn their attention to harnessing and focusing the energies within them to create work which takes the viewer into a different energetic realm. This is the arena where I personally find creative work most interesting and challenging.

Now I invite you to share with me stories of the energies of paintings you have seen or created. What were those energies like and what was the result for those who viewed the paintings?



Copyright © Lexi Sundell 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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