Skip to main content

The Intrinsic Motivation 
Principle of Creativity*

(the propensity for creativity to flourish when 
motivated by a personal enjoyment of the work itself)

When friends sent me this photo--taken in Tuscany during their sabbatical last year--I was pleased to have the opportunity to paint it. There are few things I enjoy more than painting (drawing, maybe?).

I could obsessively reproduce the image, but I don't think I will. They could order an enlargement and hang it on the wall. Jennie has an artist-mother and a craftsman-father. Bradley is a classically trained architect. They'll expect me to paint my own interpretation. And an interpretation it must be as I am not at the location to experience it myself. I must imagine it and try to capture it as best I can.

Not everything in the photo will stay. The roses in the foreground stumped me for awhile. They are stunning, but so large compared to the other elements in the landscape, I decide not include them. Also, the space that occupies the lower right quadrant gives me pause. It is lovely negative space; however, what makes my heart sing as a graphic designer taxes me sorely as a painter. Ironically, I tend to overwork negative spaces. I decide to focus on the top portion of the image.

Here are a few photos taken to show the painting's progression:

Blocking in areas 
Building light and dark with color

Deepening the shadows and adding details
I can imagine the shadows shifting and the sunlight catching on the new spring leaves. The climbing roses are rocking in the breeze over the the garden gate. I wish I could walk down that hill and get an unbroken view of the mountain. Maybe someday. Well, that just about does it. All that is left is to sign it and seal it. The frame is ordered. It will soon be on its way to Oregon to hang on the wall of a new home.

*The description, Intrinsic Motivation Principle of Creativity, as used by psychologist Teresa Amabile

Popular posts from this blog

Commissions are interesting endeavors. A bespoke painting often means an artist is asked to create something quite different from their regular body of work. It pushes us a bit outside ourselves. Without fail I find it refreshing and deeply rewarding. Some artists specialize in pet portraits. I enjoy doing figure studies and portraits of people but until now I had not painted anyone's pet. "Gizmo" is the Maltese-Yorkie companion of Katie Ruth Williams. And like many diminutive creatures, his personality can barely be contained. This bite-sized Napoleon strives to rule the household. I can't say how successful he is at that but I do know Gizmo is loved. Such a subject deserves a portrait. I wanted Gizmo's likeness to be larger than life—more than double his size—and grand as an Elvis on velvet. Thanks to snapshots by his adoring family, I had plenty of references from which to work. This piece was pure joy. I look forward to many others. "Gizmo&
"Practice makes better" is what we tell the five-year-old. When the child is older, I will explain (and repeat) the 10,000-hours-towards-mastery concept. I don't believe in Perfection. Mastery allows for experimentation to continue and recognizes two important things: the time one must invest in order to improve and that failure is a necessary part of achieving success. Portrait painting has been the most difficult thing I've attempted. It's positively baffling to me. I can't work from one photo. Working from life is ideal, but my current subject (my grandmother) is no longer living. A wall of photos of a person from different angles, different decades (like I'm some sort of stalker) is better for me simply because a single photo rarely captures a personality.* I believe a painting of someone can express who a person truly is by combining impressions from many, many moments. *Of course there are master photographers who CAN capture the essence of
Serendipity: Peony 4x5, acrylic Jim put in a request for a pair of abstract paintings for the living room. So far, I have spent two days working on them. It's physical work, whether I'm standing before them or hovering over them. And it makes a considerable mess. A heavy vinyl drop cloth covers the whole room. On top of that is an absorbent fabric drop cloth. Depending on my "activity," some drop cloths are strategically hung on the walls. I wear two aprons to cut down on the possibility of transporting wet paint to the rest of the house. My uniform includes socks that have to come off before I head for the stairs. (I once transported paint footprints into the kitchen.) It's a completely different environment and mindset from when I'm painting a room. I don't even tape things off when painting interiors because my hand is so steady and my edges are so straight, but put a blank canvas in front of me and I'm like a child on sugar. I was pl