Master teacher Jerome Grimmer recently taught a 6-week class on art basics. His process was to focus each class on one basic, show examples of it and then display our work and discuss how we incorporated that principle ... or not. Most of us were at least somewhat familiar with the principles, however the repetitive process of looking at examples and then trying to use the principle in my own work took my understanding to a new level. Suddenly I began to see things differently ... which, I'm sure, is exactly what Grimmer wanted ... and began to take the principles back to my work.
Here's an example:
Blue Bling is a piece I did a couple of years ago ... inspired by a small toy. During my years with InnovationNetwork, we had a "gifting" custom at our conferences and attendees brought small gifts that they shared with each other. It was a fun way to deepen connections, start conversations and just have fun. Toys were a common gift item and one of them stayed with me and inspired this piece. In two corners, there is a tiny photo of the original toy and the border comes from a painted column of a house in Mexico.
Grimmer's first principle is "value contrast." As a matter of fact, there were a lot of people in this class who had taken classes from him frequently and just before the first class, they joked, "If he asks you a question, just answer 'value contrast.'" They were right, it seemed to be the answer to a lot of questions and a powerful way to look at art ... mine and others.
There is a great deal of science in art and how the eye is drawn into an image is part of that science. Places where lights and darks come together (high value contrast) immediately attract the eye and become the focal point of the image. When that high value contrast serves the message the artist is trying to convey, that's good; when it doesn't, it just distracts the eye away from the story.
Grimmer helped me see that my "story" was the energy of that swirling mass in the center but that the high value contrast of the blue line around it and the activity of the border was taking away from the story. The border was becoming so active, it distracted the eye from the center. So back to the drawing board.
When I began to rework "Blue Bling," with the value contrast principle in mind, I removed the border and could physically feel the shift. Suddenly I knew what the piece was all about ... energy. It might have been inspired by that small story but energy was the story. While the border was pretty, it was distracting and actually constrained the energy. The whole piece moved into a new realm and demanded a new title: Energy Unleashed.
Grimmer's class affected me the same way removing that border affected the image ... suddenly as the principles became clearer, I felt my creative energy surging and a new confidence and certainty about my work. It strikes me that there is a universal here ... when we understand the underlying principles of whatever it is that we're doing, it unleashes our energy and guides our journey. Principles are like beacons along the path allowing us to see more clearly where we're going, even when we're blazing a new trail or trying to pull a fuzzy image out of our imaginations.
The key seems to be finding a master teacher to help us identify the principles, so my wish for you on this first day of a new month is that you find your own master teacher who can help you find the beacons on your own path.