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ART INSIGHTS: To an artist, a blank canvas can be intimidating

by DIANE BARRON/Contributing Writer
| February 16, 2024 1:00 AM

All that glaring white staring at me!

The dilemma of the inspiration/idea is behind me. Avoidance has gone on long enough. Cat nose smudges have been wiped off windows, undies are in the dryer and there are leftovers for dinner. I have been stalking the canvas for a couple of days.

Now the brushes must strike! It’s like taking a plunge into cool water. Now I must get moving. Like tearing into a remodeling project, it’s ugly and messy for a while.

I slowly progress working top down and background forward. Naked canvas waits, rather impatiently, as if demanding me to accelerate. After countless solitary hours, I sign my name. It’s so rewarding. It’s like getting all of that yard work done on a hot day and popping a beer. 

I have asked a few other Coeur d’Alene Art Association members how they jump in.

“I pray," said Brooke Baggett, Artist of the Year 2022. "In preparation of creating something from nothing, I go to the top Creator. I pray that I can bring something beautiful and honest; something that inspires and moves the hearts of others.”

Her large abstracts are stunning.

I interviewed Frank Gray, whose deft hands quickly produce beautiful oil paintings. His slogan is, “When in doubt, fog it out; when in doubt, wipe it out.” He gets rid of all of that white intimidation immediately. He loosely applies pigment, usually burnt umber, over the entire canvas. This becomes the darkest part of his composition. He then does a rag wipe, using a cloth soaked with paint thinner. This lightens areas. Shapes begin to appear, much as images appear in clouds. These guide his layout. His scenes come out of his head, where he says he has a library of places where he has been. He often demonstrates this process.  

Member Robert Brekke of Brekke Art Classes creates skillful drawings and watercolors.

"'Creative block' is usually the result of fear, lack of inspiration other pressing issues or burnout," Brekke shared. "Most painters, writers and musicians know the remedy for the first three. Burnout is the most difficult to overcome. Let’s look at the 'lack of inspiration' rut. The way I work is to have several paintings, in various stages, going at once. It feels like they inspire each other. While working on one I may glance at another, feeling it pull at me as if to say, 'You just solved part of my problem. Try that one on me.'”

New problem solutions are found! Getting out books of my favorite artists’ works helps to inspire me. I often draw in my sketch book to help release creative energy before starting a painting.

Never forget to trust the “process.” We were created to create.         

Info: coeurdaleneartassoc.org

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Diane Barron is the secretary for the Coeur d'Alene Art Association and the 2023 artist of the year.

  
    Frank Gray triumphed over a blank canvas to create this oil painting, "High Mountain Monarch."
    Barron