Saturday, February 14, 2009

TIP: 10 Ways To ABP

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How do you manage an art career/studies, kids, spouse, other employment, and the rest of your responsibilities? Painting may be a consuming obsession, but for most adults, the necessary mental and visual training required is practically impossible if you have anything like a regular life.

We can't all be at our easels at every moment. But then again, there's still a lot of time left over, just wasted standing on line in the grocery store.... doing dishes... bathing the dog... whatever. All of that is potentially art education time. It's ABP. * Always Be Painting.

Here are 10 ideas to stuff more training and productivity into your life. See if you can work these in between doing leg lifts while on hold at work.

1. Carry a sketchbook with you. Those little moleskin things come in all sizes. Do 3-value sketches while on the train, waiting at the deli counter, watching the kids at the playground. When you have time to paint, you also have a sketchbook full of ideas, and you've spent a lot of hours doing pain-free drawing training. The better you draw, the better (and faster) you'll paint.

2. Spend your insomnia wisely. The inability to sleep can be a real gift if you need extra time to make to-do lists, write a business plan or think out new compositions.

3. Be prepared. There are few more frustrating things than finally getting a few uninterrupted easel hours and finding you have to clean your palette or brushes before you begin. Or worse - finding you have to run to the art supply store. Eliminate all excuses for procrastination, including "I have to organize my studio," or "I have to buy more white paint."

4. Get kids to work with (for) you. They get quality time - you get work done. You can arrange some crafty-type things you can do together, take them to galleries and museums with you, and show them the joys of priming panels and assembling frames. As Peter Fonda said in On Golden Pond, "What's the point of having dwarves if they don't do chores?"

5. Carry a viewfinder. Either make one out of L-shaped pieces of paper or use your thumb and forefinger. There are compositions for paintings all around you. Train your brain to think about them all the time. And don't be shy! Whip that thing out while you're staring down the aisle at Target so the composition (not to mention persepctive lines) become plain. Sing or dance a little too. Everyone wishes they were the sort of person who would sing in public - or be arty in public, I'm asserting.

6. Make the viewfinder neutral grey. Another training goal is to be able to see warm and cool, and relative chroma. Quiz yourself, "How yellow is that near daffodil compared to that far daffodil?" And that sort of thing.

7. Squint. Squinting is how you see values in a composition, but it's also sort of fun. Look around you at red lights and explore the value composition of the scene around you. If you do this all the time, you're training yourself to see values better and also collecting observations about how common scenes change with the weather, season, time of day, etc. This is my favorite one. Crowsfeet are a small price to pay for being able to judge values correctly.

8. Immerse yourself. Get a painting-a-day calendar. Bring art magazines to work. Keep them in the car. Collect art books. Collect objects you might like to paint. Make your life all about paint. The more you think about paint, the more you'll think about paint. And you know innovation favors the prepared mind. Somebody else said that. It's a good one.

9. Schedule tasks at the right time. If you're working around an infant, figure out how to parse your work into 2 hour nap-ready increments. If you need natural light, paint in the day. Leave the value work for night when the light and color are all weird. You can draw while your family watches Survivor. You can draw your family! Use prime painting time for painting, and pack the non-prime hours for non-painting work, like shipping, reading art books, prepping panels, etc.

10. Figure out your Scooby Snack. Everybody (I think) has some mental hang-up that keeps them back in ways big or small. Personally, I let self-doubt trick me into procrastinating. What a waste of time! If people are going to reject me I should let them, and not do it in advance, to myself. So over the years I've learned to give myself little pep talks as I'm painting like, "Yeah! Great job! That looks awesome!" And in this way, I trick myself into completing the painting. Completely true, if slightly nuts.

This rather compulsive-sounding pep talk is probably a little hard to swallow all at once. But I really do all this stuff. Except for #3, OK. I'll bet you have great ABP tips too - let us know in the comments section.

* With apologies to Robert Altman and anyone else associated with Glengarry Glenross.

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1 comment:

  1. Great list. Some I do, like always picking out compositions with my 2 hand viewfinder and thinking is that just darker or is it more yellow too, some I don't, I should squint more and I should sketch more. The one that really made me sit up though was #10. Maybe my bigest problem is talking myself out of things. I have been know to convince myself that I can't get it the way I want it and then not start. Pep talks you say? I may have to try that!
    Thanks,
    Steve Baker

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