An Ode to Painting: The Power of Meaningful Play

The topic of what painting means to me—what I have learned from its practice and the appreciation and study of art—could fill more than one blogpost. I explored some questions relating to the power of art in general in my academic work, which was always an attempt or a beginning too. In this post, I am trying to summarize something that has always held a significant place in my life: whether it was during times of daily practice or during times of dormancy. Painting, to me, means serious—or better, meaningful, play.

I’ve always considered painting as something sort of magical yet rooted in the tangible (its materiality). We can play with colour, shape, size, and perspective. As I start the day with clean brushes and freshly squeezed paint, I feel simultaneously excited and calm (sounds like a good definition of … happy?). Anything can happen and I get to decide! Objects can be studied and tried to be rendered realistically or abstractly but whatever our initial inspiration, a painting will always be our own interpretation of what we are seeing and feeling about the world around us. At the same time—and this is what I find magical—through the practice of painting (and of viewing a painting) a whole world can open up or the world may seem to become different through our expression of it.

Painting has given me the insight that we all see things differently. This is why painting is both very individual and yet is made to be shared (to be engaged with, contemplated, enjoyed). This individual/communal duality of painting is what makes the practice and appreciation of painting a lesson in empathy: my way of seeing is both unique and multiple and is one/many ways of seeing in an infinite sea of other perspectives. Painting is about connection.  

I love painting because through the practice I also get to know myself. I get to know myself by connecting to my own intuition. Part of what I rely on in the making of a painting, in addition to my previous experience of studio practice and theory, is a creativity that takes off on its own: suddenly I feel that a dash of white or yellow is needed here or there. A detail, or usually many, is the key that, to me, makes the whole painting work. In this way, painting gives me confidence that I can trust my own vision. In that way it is serious and meaningful, but it is also play—I follow my own lead, I make and break certain rules, I feel focused, both lost and found…alive!

While I often work from the initial inspiration of my photographs, the idea is not one of duplication. Rather, I like to look at photographs as a jumping off point for my theme/subject and then abstract—select and emphasize certain aspects—to capture the feeling of the subject. I want to answer the question of what this place/scene/subject means to me. Usually the “answer” is joy and I communicate that through exaggerated colour and light. When I pay attention to what I see (maybe it is a leaf) and then express my experience of it (maybe with a patch of colour), I feel that my attention is an attempt at honouring the world around me (of which I am a part).

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1 thought on “An Ode to Painting: The Power of Meaningful Play

  1. […] When a scene catches my eye, I take a series of reference photos as a jumping off point. As explained in my blog post, “The Joys of Painting on Commission” , photographic references should not limit a painting. My favourite part of painting is what I think of as the second phase of the process (or the third, if we include the inspiration walks). At this point, I have completed my composition sketch, done my wash, and the main forms and colour values are taking shape. Now I am ready to let the painting come to life and evolve in its own, often surprising, ways. I put away any references and focus on making the painting work by itself. It is here that intuition plays an important role: a splash of green or yellow seems to announce itself as necessary. Following Bob Ross, I ask myself if maybe there’s a little tree here or, one over there, in the distance. It is during this intuitive play that I see familiar elements reappear in my new work (see my blog post on “play” here). […]

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