PHOTOS AND TEXT BY DON WODJENSKI
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
June 8, 2016
When it comes to looking at art, there’s always more than meets the eye. A painting, sculpture, story or song doesn’t simply materialize. The piece you’re viewing, listening to or watching takes a long time to move from conception to final realization. In the span from inspiration to exhibition, a piece goes through many modes in its creation.
An artist, initially, massages and develops an idea to achieve an intentionally expressed, imaginary vision. And then he or she must conceptualize a process to assemble and construct various components into an eventual piece. Essentially, a finished piece is the product of thought, feeling and skill.
“I probably spend as much or more time thinking about a painting than actually applying the paint,” said Bruce Morrow, a painter and printmaker. A germ of an idea, he added, typically prompts all of the planning, preparation and painting for a piece. As he assembles materials, ideas that will determine the look and feel of the piece begin to take shape. He considers his selection of materials; questions of size and dimensions of specific materials, choice of colors and brushes and gathering of source images or models provide a basis for the realization of his ideas.
Mark Skullerud enjoys devising self-imposed “rules” for each painting, creating visual challenges in design and execution that he then solves during the painting’s fabrication. He’s meticulous in his selection of the color palette for his paintings, which he works out, in advance, through scale drawings, studies and paintings. “Imposing design restrictions is fun and keeps it interesting and challenging. When I finally get to the big canvas, most of the important problems have been solved,” Skullerud said. Within each piece, he must address questions of technique and application of style and must determine compositional scope and degree of finish. (When a piece is “finished” is a topic for another day.) The piece evolves to meet his original concept as he resolves each inquiry and makes each decision.
Or, as can happen, the piece takes on a life of its own and begins to dictate subsequent steps, often changing the original premise. Flexibility and fluidity of thought are necessary; every answer suggests further questions. Though portions of the construction are familiar and work moves forward, an artist wrestles with all aspects of production.
South Whidbey artist Buffy Cribbs begins a painting with a notion of where it will end, but she’s open to the unexpected. “As the painting proceeds, new ideas emerge from the work that can take it in unintended directions,” she said. “I don’t believe in accidents, but in continuing the dialog between myself and the work that allows the painting to evolve.”
An artist’s mind also dwells on the eventual outcome of a piece: when and where to exhibit, how it might be shown, how to transport it to its eventual destination and how to determine the price point.
North Whidbey watercolorist Margaret Livermore produces work for galleries and art shows. Although she has been an active participant in the Whidbey arts community for over 30 years, she actively continues to seek solutions to numerous large and small challenges within, and beyond, the piece at hand. Often, those musings occur away from the work. Solutions to nagging problems, she said, can appear when least expected—while driving, dining or in conversation on another subject. Even at rest, artists’ minds are working on solutions.
An artist’s many hours of consideration, sensibility to feel and meaning, and application of skills eventually result in a piece of art that is released into the world. Observers, naturally, freely interpret what they see unless the artist includes a statement that defines the meaning of the work. And unless viewers are familiar with the specific processes that were involved in its creation, they will respond to the piece before them by simply assessing and appreciating how it looks and makes them feel.
For the artist, however, there is always much more than what meets the eye.
For a further look at artists in their studios, visit www.wodjenskicreative.com and click on Artists of Whidbey Island.
Don Wodjenski, a Whidbey resident since 1979, is an artist, photographer, teacher and musician living in Coupeville. He recently retired after decades of teaching, including 20 years with South Whidbey Schools. He is the current President of the Whidbey Island Art Council. Although never without an opinion on art and culture, he is new to blogging.
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