Is creating art a process of discovery? / by Jeannine Cook

It is often said that curiosity lies at the heart of all good art. Frequently, one has an idea about a subject to paint or draw, and the next thought is: why not try it in such and such a way technically, what if one includes x or y subject matter, or what if one approaches the subject altogether differently? In other words, how best to convey the inspiration? Since most artists are innately curious and observant, each drawing or painting turns into a voyage of discovery. Every piece of art has its own "voice" as well. So the artwork will, in essence, tell the artist how to draw or paint it. It is a question of being open, intuitive and attuned to what is happening on the canvas or paper.

Whatever the art being created, the artist will learn from the process of painting or drawing. I find that when I am doing a silverpoint drawing, I observe closely the subject I am depicting, partly because I want to understand it better but also because I am mindful that silverpoint is a severe taskmaster. You cannot erase the lines you make with the silver stylus on the prepared paper, so you live with what you put down. It is a good discipline because you try to understand the subject matter in order then to draw spontaneously. That spontaneity leads in turn to a stronger evocation of the subject.  Just as in other media, the silverpoint drawing technique should be the "silent partner" in the art making duo, playing the important but supporting role to the artist's curiosity and passion which engendered the art in the first place.

Think of Vincent Van Gogh's passionate curiosity. He embarked on extraordinary voyages of discovery every time he started a new painting, whether it was landscapes and scenes in and around Paris, Sunflowers, Dr. Gachet, the Yellow House or Cypresses. Each painting taught him something new and led him on to the next one in his headlong fevered creativity. 

The Yellow House, 1888, oil, Vincent van Gogh, (Image courtesy of the Van Gogh Museum, Amerstdam)

The Yellow House, 1888, oil, Vincent van Gogh, (Image courtesy of the Van Gogh Museum, Amerstdam)

Each of us, as artists, aspires to retain that freshness and energy needed to exercise curiosity, to go on voyages of discovery. Those voyages can lead to the creation of good art.