Painting from Photos – Consciousness and Purpose of Art (7)

September 23, 2007

In one of the comments Alan said:

“Art is a human activity and hence it must have a clear purpose and aim, discernible by the aid of reason and conscience.”

This is only half of the truth because it does not cover the process of creating itself.

My process of creating may be driven by a defined purpose – thus I am using my reason and conscience to decide that I want to create. This is the pattern I often start my painting process: an inspiration, an image in my head, scribbling on paper, detailed drawing, transferring the image to the canvas or other medium, underpainting, painting etc. The result may reflect exactly the image I had in my head. So everything was driven by reason and conscience. Even the purpose I started the painting for may be driven by a clearly defined task such as to create a painting for a certain theme for a special exhibition. End of story.

But sometimes I start the process quite differently: I have a feeling, no clear inspiration, I only see certain colours or a pattern (this might be clouds in the sky!) – then I start painting from intuition, from my subconscience not from reason – just in order to see where I would end up. I am not going to say that I am in trance but I watch my hand doing something that was not intention, not planned. The theme starts to live during the process. Somtimes the result is a piece of art, sometimes crap and ends in the bin (or beneath another painting).


This is why I love to paint on silk for example or on rayon where I can use all the silk painting techniques as underpainting. An example for this kind of process was “Frozen”,
a painting that was entirely painted without a plan.

The characteristic of painting on silk is that the paint flows where it wants to flow if you don’t use certain techniques to stop that. Therefore silk painting is one of the best tools to learn inspirational or spontaneous painting.

I started this painting applying very thin silk paints and just let it flow. Varying colours slighty and amount of paint led to a dramatic sky and between the drying phases I suddenly knew where this would lead to – a calm and cold winterday.

So here was no purpose before, there was no plan and no intent for this painting – only the dead trees I applied at the bottom in the end were done by purpose, forming that winter landscape but only as a result of the major painting.

I think this is exactly that kind of process that leads to abstract painting in general – fed only by emotion and feeling, especially when you are using organic and soft shapes only. It might be totally different with hard, geometrical shapes, abstract patterns which often live from their exactness and not loseness.


Another painting was quite the opposite – it had to be totally planned and meticulously constructed and drawn before because it is a triptych and the 3 panels live from the perspective of the scene in order to evoke distance and depth but I wanted them to be unified as one painting: “Ayutthaya”




There is another aspect where I am not sure whether we could handle this under the same premises of conscience and purpose:

what about humans who are mentally ill or have a defect such as autism – people who cannot express their intent nor thoughts and we (as the “normal”) have no access to their consciousness but they themselves might have a completely different connection to their inner self – we only cannot understand it because we are talking a different language. Art in these cases might be the only exit.

What about Alzheimer’s disease? We still know so little about the functions of our brains that we cannot determine what is perceived and felt by those who suffer from it.

And going back to the theme of conceptual art – this is a whole subject by itself that depends highly on the viewer to accept it as art or not – please see Jon Bardin and his blog “The Third Culture” about Neuroesthetic and the theories of the perception of art. This is a whole new field of neuroscience we just begin to discover.


5 Responses to “Painting from Photos – Consciousness and Purpose of Art (7)”

  1. I Says:

    Proves the point.

    Both paintings to me are Art.

    In fact, the first unplanned silk painting more than the second if I were to be asked.

  2. I Says:

    I mean, not degrees of art as the first being more ‘arty’ than the second, no such things.

    I prefer the first to the second by a little and both are beautiful works (:

  3. m6fan Says:

    I love your painting “Frozen”, a beautiful, stark landscape……I see Isolation, despair and lonliness but with a sense of hope (probably due to your lighting), beautiful.

    A question for you as I’ve always wondered the difference between painting and photography.
    As you’ve explained in this post, sometimes you just start a painting with a feeling, and let the image flow…..and see where it will go. I like that. That speaks of true creativity.

    In photography, I mostly make a photograph with a somewhat preconceived vision in my mind (of course not always, and I flow with the moment) and of course you can only “take” what is in front of you. However, through the magic of photography, one can create and express a certain style and range of emotions via composition, DOF, lighting, tone, etc,etc, but still one is still captive by reality of the world around the artist.
    In painting, I see no limitations by reality. One can paint in an unlimited sense.

    That must be true freedom………..

    Any thoughts?

  4. vyala Says:

    Jane – I know exactly what you mean – sometimes it’s just those “easy” ones which come directly from your inner soul and which work just by themselves and somtimes you invest an awful lot of time and somehow there is still something missing – although the second looks much better and really moody in reality because the contrast is not as high as in this pic.

  5. vyala Says:

    Thank you very much Alan, this was exactly how I felt with this painting.
    Photography for me is often “only” the trigger for a painting. Sometimes it even sparks a completely different painting. I think I am going the other way round than you – I see something that holds my attention and I take the camera simply as a freezing tool, just in the same way I sometimes see images in my head or somewhere else.

    By far I don’t consider myself as a professional photographer and although I have participated in a few competitions I don’t see photography currently as my creative medium but rather as an additional tool to create my paintings – for inspiration not for direct painting from photos as yet.

    I always take the camera with me when I am outdoors on the bike. So sometimes I see interesting patterns or structures, sometimes it is a certain light that takes me in, sometimes reflections on the water – I love water so much – sometimes it is a funny incident with animals – such as the mouse photos on my photoblog – there is no plan, no special idea, no vision as for you. Sometimes I come home without a single shot. Sometimes I collect photos which seem to be uninteresting and boring but I keep them for digital re-working because that is something I love to do also – just playing around with photoshop and see whether I can achieve something. And sometimes there might be a tiny element in a photo I am using for a painting in a completely different context. So photography is mainly a resource for me for my “creative” work.

    I think you are right when you say painting has more freedom than photography but only as long as you refrain yourself on the reality outside. But I think there are much more possibilities with photography than just “duplicating” an image from the outside world. If you utilize all the technical tools of photography you have an endless pool of creative possibilities. Starting alone with the different cameras, such as selfmade pinhole cameras with which you can achieve amazing results there are also lots and lots of possibilities you could hardly imitate with painting.

    So in fact I think it is more a philosophical question where you can realize more freedom – in painting or in photography.

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