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We Are Operating in Abstractions - Always

We are operating in abstraction as artists. This is a grood thing because it brings us protection and responsibility. Both are good things.

Transmutation of a three dimensional image to a two dimensional canvas is an abstraction -- or a series of abstractions.

Among the varied definitions of abstraction, we can find that "Conceptual abstractions" may be formed by filtering the information content of a concept or an observable phenomenon, selecting only those aspects which are relevant for a particular purpose.

Drawing a straight line or a compound curve -- both are abstractions. Carving a figure from a fallen tree is an abstraction too.

No matter the approach we take or the medium we work in as artists we are always working in the art of abstraction. From hyper-realism, to impressionist style paintings, to post-modern abstract art and everything in between.

This is what painting is all about -- even in the most direct and representational approaches.

One of my favorite explanations of what painting is all about describes the process of painting as a way of observing a scene as a series of shapes with light falling upon them. Unfortunately despite my best efforts I cannot find who originally conceived of this explanation but I think it distills the essence of representational painting. Even so, this approach in essence is a series of abstractions.

"Practically all painters occasionally have to set aside their abstract procedures and consult the truth and facts or principles presented by nature, science, tradition and precedent. Their mental concept is then aided and their power of intuition fortified so they can return to abstract procedures more qualified to solve problems."

Artful abstraction requires the artist engage in constant learning as they must take on a wide array of knowledge when solving problems encountered during the process of completing their work.

This fact creates a circumstance whereby the artist is offered protection from becoming obsolete and a responsibility to expand his/her own consciousness and knowledge.

Interestingly we can do so with mindful intention such that we get closer to producing the art we aspire to create. Simultaneously, we can always allow ourselves the freedom to explore without constraints -- there's no right answer here. The important thing is that we commit to learning.

"It has been said that the better way to study art is through the study of science, history and philosophy. These all have a distinct influence on it. But outside of this, even apparently irrelevant items may aid in some way."

The effects of indirect learning can enrich paintings and the quality of the life of the artist who makes them. Sometimes the nature of the impact may come in the form of energy given channeled through enthusiasm for newly discovered ideas.

Other times the impact may come in the form of "happy little accidents" as our broader learning may inspire us to test the boundaries of our skill sets. This too breaths life into our work.

Conversely narrower focus exclusively upon the process of painting can produce more lifeless works -- perhaps akin to the type of work created by artificial intelligence.

Rick Rubin may describe it best when he says "The self is a prism because you have different moods at different times and different feelings. At different times what you can do is try to make different decisions at those different times to get different results."

Our state of being influences the manner in which our prism works. Our learning, our health, habits, environment the passage of time and even passing moods can influence how we operate as artists.

Therein lies the way we are profoundly protected. As unique prisms in a state of perpetual change, we offer the world a rare one-time glimpse at unique abstraction with every attempt we make to create art.

Thanks for hearing me out.


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Deep thoughts! Thanks for the smile at the end. She’s a cutie.

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