Sunday, November 22, 2009

To Plan or Not to Plan

Acrylic and collage, 2008
I approach my painting and collage in a very planned and thought-out way. I paint in a series, choosing subject matter and content that is personal to me. I plan out my elements, and placement of textures and subdued colors. I choose papers and move them around until they "feel" right.


Photograph by Werner Bischof, 1951-52.
Stones, large and small, are a major component of most Japanese gardens, from the very beginning. Much thought is given to the setting of stones, the selection and placement, giving the stones a reverence and spiritual component.



The spirit of the sabi natural stones: Stones used indoors and outdoors in Japan are selected for their size, shape, color, character and the "feelings" that they radiate. The stones thus form an additional link between humans, the earth, and nature. They have a calming effect on the spirit.



The Zen garden, Daisen-in, is an elegant example of karesansui or dry landscape rock garden. It was constructed in 1509 on the grounds of the Zen temple, Daitokuji. The karesansui dry 'stream' flows from a rock that represents a Mount Horai mountain, down a dry waterfall and under a stone bridge. All the rocks are placed to represent the "river of life". It plunges through the rapids of youth, into adulthood.


One enters the wall of doubt to the "treasure boat" when one reaches maturity. Next to the boat is the turtle rock (trials of life) and the crane rock (long life and happiness).
I plan out my paintings/assemblages before I even begin. But I know other artists that "go for it" right away, and then go with what comes. They see and work with what emerges. I think both ways of working are perfectly valid. It is the end result that matters. Where do you fit in?

36 comments:

Lisa said...

donna... we share similar creative processes. i am also methodical and deliberate when assembling pieces...

nancy neva gagliano said...

taking the walk on the river with the spirit of stones, the feelings from them that you tell us about. so calming, so like the work you do, the way you write.
and yes!! pablo neruda will work so well in your postings to come, and i have another piece from him i will post later as well.
looking forward to my first box of rocks ever mailed to me!! love that!!

Kathy said...

Like you, I plan. However, as the work "emerges" on paper or canvas, I frequently make minor adjustments. Are those adjustments based on intuition? I've often thought about that. It seems to me that they're based on informed decision making. All that I've learned in the past is stored somewhere in my brain, and - if I'm very lucky - a little of it rises to consciousness as I paint. I'm not so certain that "intuition" works independently from what we know. In fact, I doubt it. Nice discussion, Donna, and wonderful images!

La Dolce Vita said...

nice juxtaposition Donna, and thanks for the insight into your work.

Margaret Ryall said...

I would have to say I have a foot in each camp. I plan up to a point and then go for it. As Kathy indicated, a lot of adjustments occur in the process. I find these decisions are responses to things, sometimes very exciting things, that you never have planned ahead of time. I see my knowledge base when it comes to the various aspects of design, as a menu that I can choose from when needed. I could never be accused of having everything planned out to the nth degree.

Leslie Avon Miller said...

This post presents a beautiful connection Donna, between the planning of work and the planning of gardens and their rocks, each telling a story. I know my message (I don’t have real concrete subject matter in a traditional sense) which is often something ethereal or mysterious. I know the series I am working in, and many elements such as color, texture, and depth along with harmony. And in my current series I know I will use line in a dominate fashion. But I feel I must be aware and respond to what is happening on the surface before me. That is, for me, the dance, the poetry, the fun and exploration of it. I think our approaches are rooted in our basic personalities. And I agree with you – each approach is valid, of course.

Four Seasons in a Life said...

I guess it is time for a little confession here. Though I plan everything out and stay with it, I also leave myself open for the unknown. However as I am self-taught, it is my lack of knowledge that derails my art and causing things to take much longer as I try to solve technical and design issues.

What college has done is open me up to new ideas but it has not solved my need for technical knowledge and understanding it.

The photographs from your trip are a joy to look at.

Thank you for sharing and have a wonderful week,
Egmont

Seth said...

Beautiful photographs and a wonderful collage. I work in a combination of ways. Most of my pieces start with an idea -- either a theme or a feeling. But as I work, the piece evolves quite without plan and often takes me in directions I had not originally intended.

Liza said...

Hokusai says...I LOVE that quote Donna. It is beautiful as is your collage. I love the hits of red in the center (like a heart). The mix of colours and their tones are FANTASTIC.
I get an idea, and I usually fly by the seat of my pants which has led to disaster, and delight. I don't think I'd change that. Wonderful post.
Thank you for sharing.

Bob Cornelis said...

I am definitely in the camp of starting and following the guide of what emerges, at least with mediums which allow that. I am far too impatient to do much planning. I also enjoy the surprises that occur when winging it.

I was struck by the garden you showed pictures of - it's hard to conceive that it was constructed in 1509! I guess if you are making artwork that you expect to last for centuries, planning might be a good thing!

Tilzhaven said...

Hi Donna,

I finally selected the right link (I had been trying to post on the "Subscribe to: Post Comments" further down the page--unsuccessfully)

Now I'm a planner in everything... at least for me, planning prevents chaos.... Not that one can't find redeemable things in chaos....but it takes longer to get to the final product, while having to overcome the unfortunate aspects of chaos.

If I look at life as art, if I didn't plan it out, I'd have flown to England and probably be starving in a few years instead of being safely diverted to PA. I guess my planning means I'm not willing to take as many risks any more.

I love these pictures and can think of you talking about your experiences over our tea.

Printed Material said...

Donna,

I would love to have the discipline to plan but I flit from idea to idea without ever really achieving things. I love your collages and the words of Hokusai. Reading your words has a calming effect and also an invigorating one on me. They make me want to create - perhaps I might try a bit of advance planning too and see what effect it as on my feelings about what I end up with. Often I am dissatisfied. Perhaps if I thought it through a bit more I'd like the final outcome. Thank you.

Ian Foster said...

A great collage as usual and enthralling photographs of the Japanese garden. As for my method of working I usually start with an idea but thereafter I tend to just hang on for the ride.

Annie said...

Whatever medium I'm working in, I always start free and see what emerges that I want to take further - it might be a line, a phrase, a combination of shapes or rhythms. Having said that, sometimes I am so carried away in the flow of it all that its apparent that I've already begun!

Marie-Aimée said...

wow !! fantastic
sorry I can't say all I want, my english is really bad but your art work is really beautiful

Coffee Messiah said...

It's interesting to read what others do.

Although I start with a small thought, it always ends up being something else.

I've found that planning anything for me, never works.

Cheers!

Kim Hambric said...

I agree that planning ahead allows for work to flow smoothly. More is definitely accomplished that way. A series is more cohesive.

But, accidents frequently happen no matter how carefully we plan. More often than not, those accidents are improvements on the original plan.

I find myself often hoping (or actually planning) for accidents to happen.

Ruth Armitage said...

Hi Donna,
Neat post... and an interesting question for me. I've been doing more planning in my paintings lateley and I think my compositions have improved with it. But there is also quite a bit of intuition and spontenaity. I think, even in the planning stages.

Regina Dwarkasing said...

Hi Donna,

Thank you for your frequent comments on my blog, I am so happy with these! And what different artists we seem to be, you planning everything into detail, and then me, just doing most things instantly. But as one of the former commenters stated: also in acting intuitively and spontaneously there is probably some planning involved, albeit in the preparing phase. And I am a firm believer each method has pros and cons. Very interesting topic, as usual, and lovely collage!

Lorraine @ creativedaily said...

Interestingly, in life I am a planner and for years I needed to plan out my art pieces also. Over the last couple of years I have tried to focus on less planning as much and have seen more growth in my work. My collage projects generally start with an image which dictates the "feel" of the piece. I lay out materials that I feel compliment then constantly re-arrange and add/subtract as the work progresses.
Your photos and description of the Japanese gardens are quite fascinating. Will look forward to reading more...
Am pleased you received the bundle and hope that you can use these in a future project. Thank you for the link!

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

Living with or visiting these gardens with the perfectly placed stones must feel so RIGHT and PEACEFUL and CENTERED. I can just imagine all the inner anguish melt away! Thank you.
Your collage is beautiful and thoughtful...I appreciate reading about your process...we are all the same and all different in our approaches.

Mick said...

I like the new piece very much. The intuitive selections employed by artists have always been the stickiest question, I think ... rarely capable of description, therefor, most often going unanswered beyond a shrug of the shoulders.

Tonya Vollertsen said...

Hi Donna, I like your new collage, very grounded, rich colors and solid composition.
My approach would probably be the same given the materials you are using and creating a collage. I also tend to plan very carefully when I am creating representational works. The painted abstracts that I am doing now though, are done by putting down acrylic and charcoal or watercolor, pencil, crayon etc. and then reacting to what i've put down until I like all the parts. So completely unplanned with no preconception.

Anonymous said...

i start with a general plan and then it flips over into just "shoot from the hip". So I guess I do both at the same time. To mixed results but I don't seem to be able to stay on track one way or the other.
Fully Flummoxed Don from Austin, but not at the moment

ZenDotStudio said...

Love the new piece and your description of the symbolism in these dry gardens. Always there is a deeper meaning. And this points us in the direction of planning doesn't it?

I am not much of a planner. I generally work from some internal compass that I don't really understand. I have a general theme in most of my work (the Buddha figures in there) And a series might look like: well, I want to explore texture for a few paintings or squares of paper. I have a secret envy of planners!

Fun to read how other people work. Thanks for providing this opportunity to hear about the process!

BLACK AND WHITE said...

Donna, I love those photographs and this wonderful collage. Stunning!

John M. Mora said...

Great work and thoughts on process - I enjoy how the gardens flow (envy) and also how their beauty and peace relate to your illustrated work and prose.

My process is a mixture dependant on mood and tool- some work is thought out and I prize that since there are no accidents. And other work is wilder and random and then I say to myself, "that is the way" - until I go back to being more organized, methodical...flip flop like a coy cod.

You blend your work and artistic ideas so well. Socratic art.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Studio Sylvia said...

I usually go with the flow. I don't like being boxed in and regimented and most times, my creations evolve. However there are other times when an idea I have been pondering just has to be expressed.
I love the stillness and solitude of the Zen garden.

jgy said...

Planning has never worked for me,
in both life and art. WHenever I determine to plan something, another 'something' takes over and in that moment I sense there is no choice but to go with it.
I used to fight it (in both life and art) but recently I surrender!!!
In the surrender I am sensing that maybe the 'planning' is for me a way to force something and to work with an image of what I want to make; and yet the fact that it becomes something else leads me to believe that the 'something else'is what I must discover. As I write this I wonder that perhaps in the surrender a new "plan" will reveal itself as well as the clarity of where the pieces shall be placed.

I love the way your posts became mini lessons in life and art.
Your collage is very elegant and I like the 'architecture' it has, as well as the space that is like the space behind a torii, in some way...
best,

jgy said...

A torii between earth and sky!
(when I look at your collage again, if i look from the middle towards 'bottom', it's like a torii in relation to earth, and if you look from the middle to the top, it flips the orientation, and is like a toriiin relataion to the sky---)
Maybe 'planning' has a rlshp to the ground, and 'not planning' to the sky?! Both essential and two ways of being...
:)

oneartistjournal said...

Breathtaking header Donna.
I start with an idea..then I shoo it away and let my canvas take me where it wants to take me...I give my mind a reat and let the rest come to play.
Today I'm giving thanks to inspiring people in my life just as yourself.
Orly

herhimnbryn said...

Thankyou for posting about Zen gardens and the importance of 'placement'. Like you I spend time wondering and palnning where the next piece of mosaic will go. What texture is right, what colour. The whole process centres me, does that make sense?

Amelia said...

Lovely, creative, inspiring work and processes!

Amelia.x

solange said...

Your work is stunning...
Love and light
solange

Lucky Dip Lisa said...

I find it interesting that your style of working reflects your heritage. When I see your work I always feel that your pieces must have been created in a peaceful state of mind and somewhere without any clutter to distract from the creating of the piece. They convey that to me when I see them anyway!

I am the opposite, I can usually see atleast one part of the finished collage but then I pretty much 'freestyle' it from there! I can start on a piece without knowing how most of it will look in advance so long as I know one place to start with!

kenflett said...

Your blog is lovely Donna.

As for planning, well...i find too much thinking can impede any emotions, "care but don't care". It's the grand collision of head, heart and hands.