Is the Process you go through in creating a painting more important to you than the final Result of the work…or vice versa? Why? That is the question I posed to these well known, highly accomplished artists. It’s not a question that ever crossed my mind until I encountered several magazine articles in which the artist being interviewed stated that the process of creating a painting was everything to them and that they had little concern for the end result. That immediately struck me as a little odd, maybe even somewhat self-centered. Admittedly, from my point of view as a professional artist, that needs to sell work, the end result is everything…well, just about.
Process, how a painting is created, only matters to the one creating it. The typical collector of art could care less about the process…how it was done. They are interested in only a few things…Is the subject appealing, can they emotionally relate to it: are the size and colors acceptable and appealing; will it look good over the “sofa”; can they afford it; and possibly, is it a good investment? The only ones interested in process are yourself and other artists. That reads as pretty harsh, but I think it’s true.
The process of creating is extremely important to the artist, for without process there is no result. All the steps involved…the thought process, the learning, experimentation and actual execution are all for our good and growth as artists. But, if that is one’s sole motivation, and not the resulting work, why offer it to the public, keep it for yourself as a record of your adventure.
Art has a purpose, and it’s not all about the artist. Yes, it is satisfying to the creator, but more, it is an offering to humanity, a form of communication that continually speaks to every civilization and culture throughout the centuries. That’s what endures, not the artist’s experience while painting it.
One might ask, What do you mean by process? Dianne Massey Dunbar explains it from her perspective: “For me “process” is the oftentimes labor intensive journey of a painting from concept through painting and revisions. It involves ideas, gathering of resource material, thumbnails, value studies, photography, consideration of composition, value, color harmony, gradation, and the like.”
I realize, my opinion is but one among millions, that’s why I sought the opinion and insight of other artists whom I greatly admire and respect. Their points of view round out the debate and add a well reasoned perspective as well. A sincere thanks to each one of them for their contribution. (Click images to enlarge)
Dianne Massey Dunbar: For me, I am in both camps. One cannot have a successful work without a process, and all processes eventually end. If painting is just about the success of the resulting work, who is going to determine whether that painting is a success? The artist? A gallery? A sale? For me, it can’t only be about the process, nor can it only be about the result. They are intertwined. The process is what teaches us to be better artists. If I am painting only with the result in mind, I eliminate creativity, and I invite stress and fear and ongoing judgment and criticism of the painting while in progress. However, one cannot diminish the importance of a successful and marketable result, because otherwise our homes would simply fill up with paintings that no one but ourselves see or enjoy.
Michelle Dunaway: I don’t think the process is more important than the finish , but I do think it is equally important and often not given enough consideration. An artist must be fully attentive to each part of the process to create their best work. There is a tendency I felt when I was younger to rush through the process to achieve the desired goal , but I’ve learned over the years to fall in love with each step of the process and approach each aspect from initial conception of an idea , to the beginning a work , to the middle game and finally to the finish with equal attentive focus. This allows your full faculties of knowledge coupled with creative curiosity and problem solving to work together and produce the strongest outcome that captures your vision for your artwork .
Joe Gyurcsak: Over the years I have matured as an artist in the ways of seeing and applying my own personal vision to the creation of a painting. Visually, I see the big picture, or the abstraction patterns a subject might present. Then I begin working from complete abstraction to a level of finish that has some representational qualities in it. My subject matter may inspire me, but my exploration of the various visual fundamentals plays a huge role in bending the colors, manipulating the values, making transitions, and abbreviating the subject down to dots, dashes, and strokes into some sort of edited version of my visual story. So, I would lean more towards free form process in telling the story of my visual experience at this stage of my artistic journey.
Matt Smith: “For me, the process and challenge of painting is one of the most enjoyable pursuits I partake in. There is no end game, just a continuous journey of learning and discovery. If it’s a day working in the field it gets even better. Just the same, the end result is what I’m ultimately after. The painting is what I leave behind….the process is for me and the painting is for whomever would like to enjoy it.”
Deborah Tilby: With any painting I do, the final result will determine whether I let it out into the world or stuff it in my ‘reject’ cupboard. However, no matter how great the idea or how good the composition, if I don’t also like my paint application then it is a failed painting. Of course, it is also true that without a good idea and design, no amount of clever mark making will save the painting; this makes it tempting to say that the final result and the process are equally important. But… I can’t call it a successful final result without a good process, therefore I have to decide in favor of process!
Colley Whisson: I find the preparation for my painting day to be a deeply enjoyable process, a mixture of excitement and anticipation. I’m almost in a meditative frame of mind. I’m considering all the little details, the pros and cons of my chosen subject. When I was a younger painter, I would put a huge effort into the block-in stage. Flash forward just over 37 years and my control and knowledge of the importance of tonal values has grown. I now realize that shapes are far easier to adjust, than tonal values. I then save my energy and expectations for a big finale. Even though I’m living in the moment, I can’t help but think, maybe my next painting will be my Masterpiece. All that being said, even though the before and during process is very enjoyable. I definitely feel the end result of a completed painting to be the most important outcome.
A special thanks to each of these artists for sharing their unique insights to this topic. THANK YOU. To view more of the work of these wonderful artists, click on the names below.
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