Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How do you know when to stop?

Sam Hipkins asked a good question regarding yesterday's blog post. http://carolleigh.blogspot.com/2012/04/most-recent-work-across.html He wrote, "It is said that an artist knows when to stop. So Carol how do you know when to stop, when the picture is done? Is it training, is it intuition, is it some internal messaging, is it a visceral reaction to the work? Or is it a combination of all those things? I ask this question often of people whose work I admire."

It's a good question and it's not easily answered, is it? The beauty of creating photomontages, unlike painting, is that if you don't like the last step(s) you've taken, you can CTL-Z undo them. Or you can try something, keep it on its own layer, and then, 15 layers later, you can decide that nope, that didn't work, that this works better, and you can delete the not-so-right layer and continue on. Happens all the time.

What about traditional photography? If you work in the darkroom, you can experiment with various techniques such as dodging, burning, making paper negatives, etc. In this case, training and continued experimentation come into play. To me, this is a more technical process that requires training as well as intuition. It's not easily self-taught, although today, with so much information available online, perhaps it is. But I remember taking classes to learn about the enlarger, the various tools, the chemicals, etc. That was training.

Training hasn't been a part of my digital experience. I'm (woefully) self-taught, so I spend my time experimenting. And I also spend my time looking at other art, not so much photographic art, but rather paintings, sculpture, book art, collage, ceramics, assemblage, weaving, etc. I notice how a piece is composed, how it moves my eye around, what direction the artist encourages me to take during my visit.

Every artist chooses his or her own way. Some are quite specific about what they're doing in that they may begin with a concept ("I wish to depict world peace") and then they decide precisely how to go about creating their work. Others simply begin and let the piece dictate what it wants to say, what the message is. I'm not that deep. I love the design, the colors, the movement. I have nothing pithy to convey, just my joy in moving elements around, the lines, the design, the serendipitous things that pop up, the things that work, the things that don't.

When working with a physical collage, I like the look and feel of the paper, the organizing and arranging of elements on the substrate. It's more difficult for me because I've not been creating collages very long, but it's a similar process to creating my photomontages. (I'm taking a collage workshop with Jonathan Talbot at the end of this month, my first experience with artistic "training" of any sort. I'm confident about my eye, but less so about the technique.)

But when is a piece "done?" For me it's a visceral feeling. An intuition. I look at it for awhile (maybe 10 minutes, maybe 10 months, maybe two years), and if this solid little confident "yes" settles into my mind, I'm done. You know me, Sam. I'm not a methodical, left-brained sort. So for me, it has to be intuition combined with a lot of experimentation.

And when is this response to your question "done?" Now would be a good time. Thanks!

©Carol Leigh, untrained but tenacious