Ask the Painting!!

How  do you know what to do next when you are painting?

How can you tell if something is good or or bad, effective or not,  in a painting.

A critique is in order!

In other words, ask the painting what it wants you to do next!

After all, the painting has a being, that which you created.  It knows what it wants to be.
Even if you don't.

The questions that you can ask the painting are called "The Principles of Design".

They are a universal set of ideas about the design of visual art.

My list of them to ask the painting are as follows:

Contrast, "Do you have contrast?
Is there a difference between, light and dark, rough and smooth, dull and bright?

Do you have a "Focus Point"?   A"Center of Interest"? Or are there many competing, confusing areas? 

Do you have a "Dominance"?  A color dominance?   A pattern dominance?  A dominant style of brush stroke?

Do you have "Repetition and Rhythm"?  Do shapes, lines, colors repeat?  Is there a feeling of a beat or of a rhythm?

Do you have "Movement"?  Can my eye travel easily around the painting?  Is it blocked or stuck in one place with no where to go?  

Is there "Unity" in the composition?  Does all work together as a whole?  Does something "stick out" or seen as if it does not belong there?  

More questions can arise and the painting will be able to reply to them all.

Perhaps at times it will reply, "Let me think about this for a while!"

Bonnie Lou Prouty  

Our Personal Visual Language

Our Personal Visual Language

We store up everything we see and do in our brains as images.  As artists this becomes our visual language.

We develop this visual language through the concious observation of what we encounter in daily living. And the "seeing" we learn to do when we draw, paint and photograph.

Each of these activities require us to select, observe with intent and connect emotionally
with the situation in which we are involved.
We collect these images in our brains and arrange and rearrange them in a very personal manner.

It is our task as creative persons to continually expand and develop our visual language.

Writers and poets use words, musicians use sounds, dancers their movements, actors and actresess use their voices, but painters communicate with their marks.

Expanding these is our "job"!

Seeing with intentional observation. Looking for shapes, shadows, lines, edges, and colors in every thing!

The colors in a fall field, the effect of the purple asters against the yellow goldenrod, and that against a muted grey sky.

The pattern of a fence repeating itself in shadows on the grass and the grass creating yet another pattern.

A group of shoppers together making a shape, persons on a bench with a light effect behind them.

A fleeting thought of how light brings out a certian color and looks brighter than when there is no light.

Textures in old wood, the ripped sign on a wall, the brick in an old building with it's cracks and repairs.

A pile of old stumps with fungi growing out of it and a mosic of leaves surounding the edges.

Beginning to see everything as pattern and design.  Making note of this seeing.  A small sketch book to
make notes or scribbles or drawings of your observing.

Writing ideas as well, with the realization that ideas are fleeting!   The abstract painter is wittness to all of this with the result of meaning in the design of shapes and color.

When confronted by a blank canvas or paper, these stored images begin to come forth almost as bats at sundown flying from their caves.

At other times the door seems stuck and cannot be opened, you think!

But there they are, all of them, ready to emerge as our very own. Personal as a fingerprint.  Images unlike anyone in this whole world that has ever lived.

Our personal visual language!



When in doubt, "Scribble".

When you can't think, "Scribble".

When no subject, idea, composition comes to mind, "Scribble".

Take a piece of white computer paper and a box of crayons and "Scribble".

Make marks, make shapes, make lots of lines, round and round, up and down, crossways
and back.

 Make dark marks, light marks, medium marks, fill in some shapes, make other shapes on top of those.

Get another piece of paper, do another scribble, find some shapes in the scribble, find some image in the lines.

Make another one and then one more.  Do one more then you want to do.  Maybe you've been at this thirty minutes??

Hey, did I get a idea of some sort as I did this?

Did something pass thru my brain like a flutter of a dream?

Does my mind seem clearer now?

Are some images emerging as I fan the fires of creativity which are stimulated by the mere action of the crayons on the paper?

I belive that Scribbling helps release images inbeded in the subconscious brain.

Scribbling creates a break between the "have to" world of lists and media deluge.

Scribbling stimulates the creative sector of the mind.

A mere thirty minutes of Scribbling can wake up your dormant creative brain like warm-up exercises before a workout.

So Scribble for your creative health!!


Becoming One With the Painting

As you struggle with your painting, you eventually become one with it.

That is, you get so involved in it that you become a part of it.

This is a painting, (the subject can be realistic, or abstract) with which you have some identity.

It is not just a casual one hour study. The subject means something to you!

You have done sketches, color and value drawings, perhaps you photographed the subject originally.

Now you are painting and nothing is going right!  What went wrong with your preparation?

Whatever you do, it seems to get worse.  The colors are wrong. The values are in the wrong place.

You fix one thing, you think, and then another area glares at you like a spotlight!

How can this be when I prepared so carefully?

Perhaps I am too close to my creation.

Give it a rest, come back tomorrow.

Come back tomorrow when we are both rested.

Then I will ask it to tell me what it needs.

And the painting will answer!


"Ask the Painting What It Wants You to Do"

How do you know what to do next, when you are painting?

How can  you tell if something is good or bad, effective or not, when you are painting?

Ask the Painting what it wants you to do!

After all, the Painting is a being which you created.  It knows what it wants to become, even if  you
do not!  So just ask it!

The common name for this process is "A Critique".

The content of the questions is essentially the "Principles of Design".

These are a universal set of elements that all visual art has. My list of them is as follows:

CONTRAST  Do you have "Contrast", a difference between light and dark,  dull and bright,  rough and smooth?

FOCUS  Do you have a "Focus Point", a "Center of Interest", or are there many, competing, confusing areas?

DOMINANCE  Do you have a"Dominance", a color dominance, a pattern dominance, a dominate style of brushwork?

REPETITION and RHYTHM  Do you have "Repetition and Rhythm", do shapes, lines, colors repeat?        
Is there a feeling of a beat, or of an enjoyable rhythm?

MOVEMENT  Do you have "Movement", can my eye travel easily around the painting, or is it "blocked or "stuck"with no place to go?  Could I use colors, lines, or shapes to facilitate this movement?

UNITY  Is there "Unity" in the composition? Does all work together as a whole? Or does something "stick out" or seem as if does not belong there?

More questions arise and the painting will be able respond to them all, or perhaps at times it will reply,
" Just let me think about this for a while.  Put me in the corner and ask me again tomorrow".

Bonnie Lou Prouty  



Begining Again

I'm in my studio again after a fantastic trip to my heritage country of Norway.

Incredible scenery,  mountians, fjoirds, waterfalls, and tiny farms, perched on the sides of the mountians.
It was not anything like I imagined it to be.  Not at all!  I have a miriad of images in my brain!

I have been overwhelmed in the past weeks by new ideas, new sounds, new and unfamiliar languages and sights.
Twenty four hours of bright sunshine, above the artic circle for four days!

Now I want to paint, I am hungry to paint, my brain wants the meditaive relief of painting!

So I sit at my table and doodle, which is how I begin.  Blank! Blank! Blank!

I make marks like a child beginning to draw.  No images come, only the old stuff.  Boring.

Maybe tomorrow.



Bonnie Prouty was born an educated...

photo credit Pamela Fulcher
Bonnie Prouty was born and educated in Michigan and studied at Siena Heights College, Layton School of Art, Michigan State University with a BA and Eastern Michigan University with a MA degree.

She has made a career in art, working as a teacher in the public schools, community colleges and as a graphic designer for various agencies in Corpus Christi, Texas. She also owned and operated her own stationary company "P.S. I Love You, Inc." and was interim art director of the Rockport Center for the Arts.

Bonnie has exhibited in Michigan and Texas and many regional and national exhibitions. She paints with all varieties of water media. She is currently represented by galleries in Petoskey, Michigan and Rockport, Texas.

She winters in Texas, and summers in her beloved Michigan.