Important Principles of Art
Harley Brown’s fascinating things no one else will tell you
Is there a real downside to art? Not that I can think of. In my art life, I’ve learned through difficult moments; they’re part of the creative world. My obsessions got more intense with each year. I didn’t mind that the days and weeks seemed to get shorter when I got wildly into my pastels and pencils. And now, well, the past two decades have flown by like Captain Marvel on steroids. Believe me, when you find your way, it will be like no one else’s. You’re making your personal path through the tangled forest of existence. Bravo! By good fortune, I never tried to be “better” than other artists. I’ve simply wanted to be better than I was last year. Rating myself with myself. I’ve never tried for perfection in art; that’s not in my thoughts. In art, I don’t understand “perfect.” Who does?
You bring in the observers’ eyes with your artwork’s design. That’s when they come closer for your personal strokes and colour. In the same way, a simple, intriguing plot leads to something quite compelling. Going against the grain for its own sake is surface sanding. Don’t let even a fragment of jealously creep into your thoughts. It can dullen your hard-earned strengths. Unless you’re a camera, it’s quite impossible to actually duplicate. That’s one of the joys of being human. Remember that. If my art makes others happy, that’s well and good. I do my art to give myself joy and it surely does. When I’m painting, I have a bond between me and my subject that can be found nowhere else. “Trying” to be creative can steal its purpose. Your creativity will grab and then help lead you. You may even begin to appreciate its arrogant nature. In my 60 years of personal interaction with art, I have witnessed many individuals actually turn their lives around for the better. I’ve seen it in my workshops, seminars and close gatherings of people who have the greatest desire working as artists. It’s been my personal joy showing individuals some basics of drawing even within a day. Shapes and shadows and a few color principles. In every case, they were thrilled at what they thought was impossible. Many of these people didn’t have any desire to do art until that eureka moment. Once a few fundamentals were learned, they were off into that fantasy world we artists inhabit. They may not be making masterpieces but they are individuals making personal images. I would like here and now to see a wave of people encouraging others to draw, sketch and doodle. Remember, anything a pencil lays upon paper is an actual creation. Creating is one of the most fulfilling and lifting moments of the human mind and overrides so many of life’s difficulties. Let’s start a revolution in visual art. And the lasting spirit of a mind at peace with itself. Start it and watch it spread. Let me first explain who I consider artists. There was a time, in my pious period that I felt someone had to be in the profession, make a living as an artist or work as an instructor. Only then could someone say, “Yes, I’m an artist.” (For the record, when I was 10 and drawing every day, I said to myself and anyone who’d listen, “Hey, I’m an artist!”) Lately, I’ve simplified my attitudes. I’ll say here and now: anyone on this planet is fully allowed to call themselves whatever they want and I’ll include “artist.” One reason being this: when is that moment a person actually becomes an artist? Is it a sudden declaration? Does a diploma certify it? How about that fellow who works in a department store and can’t wait to get
home and at least do a drawing or two? Wouldn’t we say sure, he’s an artist.
Taking this Further
If you are an artist—amateur, part time, full time—and art is in your heart, a fascinating scenario could be written about you. Why? Because of your pure and devoted attachment to art. That alone makes you interesting. Especially because of your unexpected learning and turning points, obstructions, improvements, art friends, doubts then moments of pure confidence, mentors, life changes. All these things and so much more are happening with you.
You may take yourself for granted, but your inner thoughts mixed with your history could be molded into a dramatic and spirited adventure in chapter and film. There is truth in every word I write here. The arts are within an uncommon, legendary world, quite apart from all else. And you are one of the principle characters. Think no less. With your artwork, remember: in time you’ll know when to “quit” a piece…whether or not it’s finished.
After half a century, I still don’t understand Picasso’s paintings (nor many others in the contemporary art world). I look at art for its immediate visuals and not its noted deeper meetings with Fauvism, cubism…(oh yet, nose on side of head). If you know me, you’ll understand I am not making judgements of other people’s diverse opinions. I’m not saying I’m right any more than I’m right in liking garlic and Curly Howard movies. That’s just me. One bottom line: I’ve seen portrayals that show incompetence and nothing more. Many art critics love to wax on about how those particular artists went deep within the subject’s soul. That’s an excuse and not an explanation. I want to look for and know the artist’s center, not the subject’s. Take time to think about this and you’ll understand. Personal skills brought forth with passion reach my judgment button.
Where I am Now
I’m now in Vancouver; actually the South Surrey area. As I look out the
window there’s a blue sky, a few clouds. Snowcapped mountains straight ahead. On the other side, cool clear Pacific Ocean water going far past the horizon. How does my mind accept this total difference; especially after decades in the desert, cactus area of Arizona? I thoroughly relished each of those years in Tucson, and now have a great affection for this iconic part of British Columbia, Canada. One of the first things that hit me: what will I be drawing and painting now that I’m here? What will inspire me? Well, the answer has always been quite simple. Wherever I am, I automatically feel immersed with my surroundings. Immediately I feel “quite at home.” And here, “home” is the wondrous effect of everyone and everything I see. And as much as this delights my senses, an extra lift is in passing these interpretations on to you.
Let’s Look at It This Way
For this moment, think of a day in the outside world as similar to a day in the studio. Here’s what I mean. Let’s say we have a big plan for that day; a project we really want to do and getting it done will be quite exciting. But as you know, while working at it, we have a few twists and turns and even a couple of road blocks. Still, with our experiences in life, we pretty well know how to handle them. Finally this crucial project gets completed. Those twists and roadblocks took us where we might not have gone and they worked wonders; they made the project even better than expected. Thank goodness we’re not robots but imaginative, resourceful human beings. Let’s now go the same way but with our next painting. We generally know what we want on canvas; even did a couple of preliminary sketches. We start, filled with joy and enthusiasm. Ah, before we know it, there’s a color not working over on the left side. Then right away that odd hue we hastily threw on top of it is perfect; better than what we planned. We also are going to change the design a bit to include the dark area on the right side of the subject. And that facial expression is blah, even the tilt of the head! Hey, these new changes are working! Moving that part, enhancing this area are bringing this piece together! Way better than anticipated. We painted our subject by pushing our creative knowledge and skills. What’s happening here are experiences, talents, an adventurous spirit. Not being afraid to make changes that can bring more life and true individuality to a major project or a painting on the easel. Nothing we ever do goes just as planned and that’s one of the purest inspirations of life.