Always looking to get inspired…
“If we proceed to create an image it might be clumsy, or it may be impressive, but in the final analysis, is it art?” - Bob Kuhn
I wanted to introduce our readers to the work and thoughts of a very inspirational painter by the name of Bob Kuhn. He has been called a “peerless wildlife artist”. I recently found his work in the February 2008 issue of “Sporting Classics” magazine that Bruce could not resist bringing home from the bookstore. The article entitled “Simply the Best” shows some of his breathtakingly beautiful paintings and pays him homage since his passing away last year. I think his paintings are truly stunning and I thought a review of his thoughts on what makes “artful” work might prove insightful to us all.
The question is: What makes a work of art? This is a question I repeatedly find myself pondering… I know, I know, I have gone here before. (But I will always ask myself this question.)
Anyway, here is Bob’s answer:
“ I think you can wield a paintbrush for a lifetime without producing an artful thing. On the other hand you can build a wall or sing a song or decorate a room or take a photograph - do any of these things and more, and, if you function in a highly personal way that strikes a chord in others and reveals truth in a new way, you will be producing art.” –Bob Kuhn.
So, let’s look at what Bob is saying. It’s not the “means” for the expression… the artfulness comes from the “a connection” - “revealing a truth in a new way”…or… by striking a pose… no, no I mean striking a chord!
Wow… that is a pretty tall order! Striking a chord, I mean of course. How does one do that? I not totally sure. It sounds to me like it has to do with communication… a connection that reaches to the center of another person’s soul… and moves them to stop and say that “wowwwww” run-on..
OK. Here I sit, ready to jump into a new image making endeavor. I am usually quite excited (no make that THRILLED) about having some time to devote to exploring a new image. So, what happens next? I get an idea about a subject I want to explore….and then what? I start to make choices… indeed, I find I have many choices to make in order to proceed.
For my photo/painting projects there’s the choice of subject, a choice of camera lens. There’s the choice of composition and canvas format. There’s a choice of light direction, quantity, and quality. And then there’s a choice of the paintbrushes and how my brush stroke will apply the color….then there’s choosing things like color, hue, saturation and opacity and so on.
The above examples might illustrate a bit of what the “artful” process requires, whether the artist is aware of the choices they are making or not. And, as I review them, they do sound a bit overwhelming. But I must tell you, I truly enjoy and greatly value this part of the creative process. It really is the artist’s interpretation of all those “what if’s” that carries with it the potential to produce a result that may “reveal truth in a new way.”
If an artist were to breakdown how they go about creating an image, I think they may find that the most important steps are indeed a result from choices they made along the way. Making choices is how one edits the elements that go into the image making experience. Your choices do all add up to say something. And I know that the successful combination of one’s conscious choices is what ultimately elevates one’s work into the “artful” realm.
Yet, as I am sure you all know, equally important are the intuitive choices an artist makes as they work. After all it is the “artful” that I am ultimately seeking. And so, whether it is commissioned portrait or a landscape project, I am always interested in finding a way to integrate feeling and intuition into my creative process.
Spend time practicing with your tools … make your use of them intuitive. Love them and you will build an intuitive relationship with them. I do this because I recognize that the play of intuition in creating imagery is a very powerful and important factor which benefits from and “intuitive hand” so to speak.
There will be times when an artist needs to learn something new, change and grow… And then fresh insights will come from new choices.
I find the choices we make and why we make them, is a very interesting part of creative development indeed. I know that I must constantly remind myself not only to explore different answers, but also to ask different questions sometimes.
Choices are tools in hands of an artist. Seize the opportunity to bring your unique perspective to the process not by default but by participation. And as Bob Kuhn said, strive to ”strike a chord in others by functioning in a highly personal way”.
Check out Bob Kuhn’s beautiful paintings here: http://www.kuhnsnhuk.com/home.html
Thank you Bob. -Maura and Bruce