Art as Play by Deb Bartos

Thinking about how much we have invested in art materials and frames, can lead to careful but un-inspired work.  Painting from reference materials (even your own, hopefully they ARE your own) can also produce nothing but stagnation.

Before I start a new piece, I usually ask myself, “Why am I painting this?” If I have a good reason, it usually achieves much better results than slavishly copying something that inspired me when I saw it on location.

Visiting art galleries, museums, every so often, reminds me of the great diversity that exists in art, and how none of our art “snowflake” creations are ever the same.

The world in general LOVES to categorize things, “impressionist”, “modern”, “figurative”, “representational”, and so on. We as artists get known for our “style”, whatever it may be.

I’ve had others comment, “That’s not really your style,” which I think is interesting, but not fatal. To me, it’s a sign of life, that my work doesn’t always look the same.  Every once in a while, I have to try something totally new.  It’s called growth, or at least a new learning opportunity.

I had a large looming project that I really wanted to do, but didn’t want to overwork. I didn’t know how, yet. Then I went to a local gallery and saw a revealing technique that vastly simplified what I planned to do. The artist featured in the show had consistently and confidently left most of his canvas in the under painting stage. He focused all the attention (and paint) on the parts he really wanted the viewer to see. Wow, great revelation, just what I needed just when I needed it. (Art and life in general seems to work that way for me.) I came home and played with some old paints I had on my palette for about a week on an old canvas that had painted and painted over before. It was fun, pure fun, no pressure, just experimentation.

If we are having fun, it shows in our creations, it always does. It made me remember, the best art always comes from a playful attitude. Not that our previous years of experience don’t come into the mix, but if it’s not fun, it’s not going to be fun or interesting for the viewer either.

I matched the 2 large areas with key color notes, and then scratched it off with various things to create texture and form.  A paper towel, a spoon, etc. No brushes yet, I only was shaping the forms. I’m not sure how it will turn out, but I really like it so far. That’s how the art process seems to work best for me, making it up as I go along, really incorporates everything I’ve learned about seeing so far.  It’s an ongoing process.

The old joke about “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” (Practice, practice, practice) is the same for painting. “Keep on painting, (and have fun!)


Comments (3) -


Right on! Nothing is a better stimulator than to have a subject that you just WANT to portray.  Subject just for the sake of it is dull. Keep it out of the box from time to time and you will have some of the best art experiences EVER!!!

deb bartos

thanks Kristel. I appreciate your comment, you are so encouraging. My reply to box comments are always what box?

barbara barnes

I couldn't agree more about the new and interesting lessons one learns by just having fun,throw some cool music in the mix with your old paint and see what comes out!

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