Can we learn from others?

My response is YES as long as we translate their process to adapt to our own strengths, natural motivation and preferences.

I wrote a previous blog post in response to an email question I received but my answer wasn’t what Sandra was asking. Below is my second response. My painting process has developed through some self-observation, through trying to work with my Enneagram Six tendency for self-doubt and it may be a portrait of an ENFP in action. I trust that Sandra, who asks the question below will find one piece in this ramble to “translate” into how she can paint “Ideas” her way.

After reading your blog post, I understand what you were talking about although that wasn’t what I was asking. I understand you are saying you could use an idea rather than an object as subject matter. But I was asking specifically about your process of getting that idea onto canvas. For example, if you were going to paint “hatred” would you sketch it out, work it out first, think about it or would you just stand in front of a blank canvas and “feel” or intuit your way through it? In other words, how do you translate concept into visual.

I have more than one way in. I suppose I do all of what you suggested but I vary the order depending on the circumstance. I go by what feels right in the moment. This can be influenced by the weather, the amount of sleep I’ve had the people who are around, the materials I have on hand etc. Forcing things doesn’t work for me.

Often something I read or write or learn about sparks an idea. The shapes and colours may come full blown or I may work them out ahead of time. The times I try to work them out on canvas are either a roaring success or a big flop. It might work to go straight to canvas at the end of a long day of painting when I am open and warmed up.

* For Inner Landscapes 1 I had a clear outcome in mind – which was to capture the essence of each of the 16 Reiss desires so that people could add the image to the description of the desire and enhance their understanding. I wanted them to look and be able to say “YES That’s me.” or “NO way.”
* For my Inner Landscapes 2 show I also wanted people to engage with the MBTI in order to deepen their understanding and anchor it in their memory. I had coaching clients come to the gallery and sketch their interpretation of a concept such as Introversion and I used those sketches as a jumping off spot for about 1/3 of the 33 paintings – then I filled in the other components with my interpretation which evolved from what the clients started.





* For some things like Introversion- I then ask myself what would the opposite of something I have done -feel like, look like. How would I paint Extroversion to have the opposite energy? This is something that I do quite often – eg 2 paintings-1 of the word MORE called “too Much is Not Enough” and One of the word LESS called “Less is More” – humour is big for me and it is often there but not explicit. I change colour, texture etc. to show the difference
* I often ask a question something like ” I know I want to paint about X so what do I want to say?” and then let things percolate for a few days until something comes to me –
* Then I might try some ideas out in a series of one minute sketches – I like to go from sketch to painting pretty quickly while the feeling state is alive for me. Everything I do is part of a coherent whole eg standing, using a big brush and big gestures for a painting about a concept like freedom that calls for that way of painting. Painting intimacy might be suited to a different size brush, different palette and a different physical posture – perhaps sitting and doing more considered and careful brushwork

* I often have a big back story going on for me while I paint. This video above shows an example of 2 paintings that I did for a show to be curated by Moses Znaimer on the Last Taboo (which is aging acc to Moses). You can see that I was in the country and that being in nature influenced my thinking and my images. What I wanted to paint didn’t get fully expressed so I just found myself exploring Twitter to see what people in general thought about aging. One thing led to another and I ended up doing a twitter background created from 2 other paintings. The canvas panel from the printed jpegs of the Twitter search is blanket stitched on because to me that was a funny juxtaposition of some hand craft I learned as a kid which could be considered something old fashioned and the new element of Social media. There are a hundred little thoughts and connections and reasons why things are the way they are in these paintings that I can’t express – I tried in a blog post and got 1/4 of what I was thinking – having to explain it takes some of the fun and magic out of the process for me – I love the PROCESS – the end result needs to be OKAY in other words I want to be somewhat proud of the art but it isn’t the exciting thing for me – the process of expressing something is where the charge is. If people have a reaction that is a bonus – I am even more pumped if they have a completely different story going on for them than the one I made up. It’s all about engagement for me.

Sixteen MBTI types

Sixteen MBTI types

* For the 16 MBTI type paintings I had certain things that I wanted to express – In one of the 16 type paintings I used a series of blocks expressing order and the colour of those arranged in a pyramid shape to represent hierarchy for the ESTJ. I used the red colour for the SP types because they are so physical and because different temperament tools use red or orange for those types

* I have thoughts, ideas, theories and then once I start to paint I surrender to the process of making marks and putting paint on paper or canvas. The physicality of the process is so pleasurable – put paint on take paint off, go with the happy accidents and try to be bold and open to what wants to happen at the same time. There is a real paradox in the painting process.
* Sometimes the initial gesture is about my idea and then the painting takes on a life of its own. I surrender to the textures and shapes as they emerge on the canvas so that the end result is a surprise. At this point in my development as an artist, I trust that I know when to bail or when to keep on until I have a semblance of something worthwhile.

Category: creativity / Personal / Video
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2 Responses to “Adapt Processes to Align with Your Strengths”

Joana November 6, 2009

It is interesting to me that me that you use such color for extraversion and grays and more subdued colors for the introvert. Except for being an introvert, I’m just like you – an INFP – and I do a lot of art in various types. One thing I think many extroverts miss out on/don’t reallize with introverts that our world is just as full of colors as yours, and maybe more intensely so. The fact that you can’t always SEE our inner world doesn’t mean it’s not richly colored and full of energy – it’s just that we have to hoard our energy or save it for those we trust. If I were doing your image of introversion above, I would probably use 2 figures to represent a person, but the one in the foregroud (what we extravert), slightly overlapping the other, would be a colorful but less complex pattern/design, while the one (the real self of the introvert) would be in vivid rich colors with complicated patterns, maybe several that didn’t quite fit harmoniously.

If I had to write a “how to get along with me” for INFP, I would probably write: Tell me what you want, when you want it – then leave me alone to do it my own way. Don’t micromanage me!”

Sandy McMullen November 7, 2009

Joana – Thank you for your comments on Introversion and for painting a picture of the rich interior world. The original art show that I had on the MBTI was designed to engage people in a conversation. While I was planning the show I had folks who knew their type come into the gallery for an afternoon and sketch what aspects of type were like for them and then I painted from those sketches. The painting you refer to was from a sketch by an INFJ and was bought by an INFP… neither of whom have any “grey” about them in real life but who recognized something in “shaes of grey” as true for them. During the show I also had materials for sketching and painting available during so people coming to the gallery could do their own interpretation. It was fun to see the various images. Every idea added. I love your concept for a painting of Introversion – if you ever do it I would love to post it on this blog.