Back to Basics: A Behind the Scenes View of the Process of Creation

Throughout August, Brush Strokes Gallery will feature an all-members “Back to Basics” exhibit that offers a behind-the-scenes view of the process of creation.

Like a stellar ballet performance, an artwork that enchants and engages its viewers may seem to come effortlessly from its creator, and the impact of the line, color, lights and shadows that convey its subject are experienced immediately as a whole.

In truth, years—and sometimes lifetimes—of practice have been invested in honing the skills of photographers, sculptors, and artists whose talents are manifest in their work. And careful planning has gone into choosing a subject, designing the composition, and capturing the values, hues, and lines of the work of art.

The Back to Basics exhibit conveys the effort that is involved in the preliminary stages of creation by displaying works in both their initial and completed stages side-by-side.

Many painters will begin with a pencil sketch of their subject or scene that they will use as a guide in considering scale, content, composition, and contrast. This initial drawing is not a hard-and-fast “map” that will be duplicated in the finished work, and, in fact, may reveal to the artists elements that should be eliminated, accentuated, or added to accomplish their vision.

As Nancy Williams’ “Touch of Winter” watercolor painting shows, while the resemblance between a sketch and a complete painting

may be clear, the final creation may take the concept to a different level.

In contrast with water-colorists whose medium is transparent, artists who use oil paints enjoy the liberty to develop creations through layers of opaque media and can change the presentation of a subject on canvas as they work.

For many, the process of creation begins with a sketch of a subject or scene on canvas, followed by capturing the relationship of basic forms by blocking them out in arbitrary colors—which may include such anomalies as an orange body of water or dark blue figures.

Within those basic color forms, the artists use their brushes to create a sense of three dimensions, adding darks, highlights, realistic colors and details.

For photographers, a picture may serve as a flexible image that can be finessed through various developing techniques. A case in point is the “World in Monochrome” collection of photographs by Norma Woodward.

In contrast with artists who begin with a black and white ink or pencil drawing, Norma seemingly reversed that process. She began with her finished color photos and reproduced the images in black and white to accentuate differences in value and the unique character of her subjects, and to give the photographs the allure of timelessness.

Carol Haynes is an artist who uses a minimalist black-and-white pallet in her charcoal drawings to convey the essence and unique personalities of the figures she chooses—the most beloved of which are winsome and emotive canine and equine subjects.

Viewers might marvel at Carol’s ability to convey power, movement, and personality through simple lines on paper, but the key to her transforming power of creation lies both in years of dedicated practice and her painstaking process of preparation for each work—which may include taking multiple photos of a subject from a variety of angles and investing hours and days in finessing the figures to convey the structure, texture, and essence of her subjects.

“The eyes become especially important in connecting with the soul of the subject--which is probably why I focus on the face predominantly when it comes to choosing where to focus the viewers’ attention,” she said. “My goal is to capture the uniqueness that each one brings into this world.

Carol, who first conceived of the idea for the Back-to-Basics theme for the August exhibit explains the importance of the preliminary effort in the act of creation.

“The initial stages of any piece of art are probably the most crucial. For any artist, the basic question of ‘where to even begin’ will be

ultimately dictated to by what it is the artist is trying to accomplish. For example, as a portrait artist, I find that the entire body plays a role in defining the subject--not just the head and facial aspects. Anatomical correctness is paramount whether one is drawing a person or an animal. The process of ‘working out that correctness’ can be seen as the artists build on their initial sketch, and it becomes what they had envisioned.”

Brush Strokes Gallery's "Back to Basics" exhibit will be displayed from July 29 through September 1, and visitors will have an opportunity to meet and chat with the gallery artists at the exhibit’s opening reception on “First Friday,” August 2, from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm.