Tuesday, June 9, 2009

One Mo' Again

Repetition. Some would say it's a dirty word in our fast paced, goal oriented society. After all, if you've already done it, you're wasting time that could be spent on your next goal, right?

Wrong. If I believed it was possible to actually duplicate anything (and I know scientist types who would argue with me on this - I don't care) [we need an emoticon for sticking one's tongue out], then I would concede that it could be true on occasion. But while the river might look the same, the water in it never can be - the subject matter of our art might be the same, but the brushstrokes (stitches, carvings, whatever your technique) never can be. And because the individual motions that make up the artworks aren't identical, neither can the artworks be identical.

So what? Well, I recently read several blog posts that talk about the concept of revisiting things because each new experience is an opportunity to learn something you may have passed over the first time. Steve Doherty's blog on the American Artist website has this to say:

"Paint the same subject again. One of the best exercises presented in a Workshop magazine article was painting the same subject a second time. The instructor said that once the participants had resolved the procedural aspects of painting a figure or landscape—the drawing, compositional arrangement, color mixtures, etc.—they didn’t have to think as much about those issues and could immerse themselves in the act of painting. It was fascinating to compare the two efforts, and all the artists in the workshop knew their second painting better expressed their feelings for the subject."

It makes perfect sense. Not only will you have learned the "hows", but you will better understand the "whys" of the subject matter. And reinforcement of a technique can only be a good thing.

Alyson Stanfield made another point about repetition that is worth a mention. When we hear something (or read it, or see it in a video) we are often inclined to think "oh, I already know about that (or have seen it)" and turn our attention away. In Listen, read, act, repeat she reminds us that even if it's the identical article we read last week, or the exact same video we viewed yesterday, there is likely something in there that we missed. If it's not the exact same one, but simply on the same topic, it's probable that there is information in it that wasn't in our first experience with it.

So here's what made me start thinking about all this to begin with:

I'm an avid fan of all things Pre-Raphaelite, and Rosetti's works are some of the most evocative. And something I had never noticed (?!?!?), even though I have viewed these images countless times, is the repetition of pieces of jewelry in the paintings. It was first brought to my attention by Grace at The Beautiful Necessity, and again recently by the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood. And lest you think that the hair clip is an anomaly, take a look at this post also.

Was the repetition an intentional device? Was it just because that was what he had to hand? Was it because using the same models and same jewelry over and over help him learn more than he could have otherwise? Who knows? But I definitely think it's time for me to revisit some things that I thought I had left behind.

By the way - first person to leave a comment here correctly identifying the Christmas song that I stole the title of this post from wins a piece of original art. (Greg, you are disqualified, so don't spoil it for anyone else :)

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  1. Great article, Lee Ann! I agree with you that there is no reason for us NOT to revisit and repeat subject matter we have done before. When my son went to art school, he told me of one artist-teacher who did apples for an entire year... nothing but apples. He said he learned more about painting in that year than at any other time in his life. He was able to apply his learning to any subject matter after that year, and his work is truly astonishing.

    Okay - I am going to take a stab at the Christmas Carol. Would it be Joy to the World as it has the refrain "REPEAT the sounding joy, REPEAT the sounding joy, REPEAT, REPEAT the sounding joy."? (Hope I win, hope I win, hope I.... repeat, repeat)

  2. That's funny about the apples - my husband did a series of 4 apple paintings several years ago http://picasaweb.google.com/mosaicartbyLA/GregSArt#5248157096253732754 and I remember thinking something along the lines of "how boring to create" although his sense of humour totally makes it great art to hang in the house! But I certainly see the value now in revisiting a subject.

    And unfortunately, you're thinking too traditional on the song. I'll give you a hint and a second chance! It's not a "carol", and was written (I think) around 1993. And I realize now I made it too hard. I'll have to plan better next time I do that!

  3. Couldn't agree more - in fact, a commission I was hesitant to take at first was making 40 of the same design on a trivet. I ended up doing it and by the time I finished the last one, I had completely perfected it! Not that I want to ever do that again, but I see the value in it for sure. And I have NO clue what song you're talking about! (But you got me very curious now...)

  4. Holy cow, Christine! 40?!? I am REALLY impressed! I'm working on the mail art project this month which is actually requiring two very similar artworks (ooh I've said too much!) and I'm ready to shoot myself. I'll post the answer to the quiz on Monday if no one gets it by then. I forget that not everyone is a total freak about Christmas music like I am




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