Carole Huber Art Blog
Seeing It All and Making It Your Own Many things come together to make a painter's work uniquely his. When I first started going out to paint, I would drive around all day looking for the subject, some one-of-a-kind, memorable vista. Now I know that what makes a painting memorable is not so much the subject but rather looking at it with Emerson's transparent eyeball. I have seen wonderful paintings of chicken coops, shoes, a white shirt, a slab of beef hanging in a packing house, and so forth. So I burn less gas these days, and now when I go out, I find great subjects just by opening up to what is available to me. Every artist has his own way of transcribing what he sees. For me, line is a very important element. There are directional lines that guide a viewer's eyes through the painting. An unfortunate composition can stop the onlooker in his tracks or make him feel he has been wandering through a maze. The horizon line is an inescapable fact in landscape painting. And so too are vanishing points where all lines converge. These naturally occur in Nature and are not hard to observe. What is hard to observe is the "lay of the land," where the foreground ends and what delineates the middle and the distant. I find directional lines useful to establish these relationships among elements of a composition. The kind of line that interests me most are the lines, staccato, long, squiggly, jittery, looping, slicing, that are the artist's chosen calligraphy of the day. These hand movements in relation to a particular subject are what record the movement of the artist's mind in dialogue with his subject. Cy Twombly, a contemporary abstract artist, says of his use of line, "My line is childlike but not childish. It is very difficult to fake ... to get that quality you need to project yourself into the child's line. It has to be felt." To have the purity of a child's line, in my mind, an artist must be wielding line in the same way a child does, unself-consciously, free again of preconceptions about how line is going to function except at the moment he is painting. If I cannot "feel" the line, I cannot paint the movement of clouds or tree limbs. I want such elements in my paintings to look in flux, not frozen. Movement is one of the hardest things to capture whether I am painting a horse, a person, or a windy day. Color is another highly idiosyncratic element. You can recognize a great artist by the colors he consistently uses, or at least recognize colors he prefers in a particular period. One artist will paint exclusively with primary colors, another in subtle hues as removed as possible from what comes out of his paint tubes. I love layering color, hard to do without over-mixing and turning the outcome into mud. The color harmonies I find in Nature are infinitely more interesting than any suggested by terms like monochromatic, triadic, complimentary, and so forth. When artists admire one another's works, it is often for these complexities--arrangements that could never be described by a simple formula. I think to be a "painter's painter," as we say, an artist has to move beyond what is expected to create what has not been seen and could not have been anticipated. I take as the highest compliment, another artist's remark, "You really struggled with this area, didn't you?" And, "You don't get that kind of richness easily."