View Full Version : What your art making process reveals about you

08-23-2003, 09:50 PM
I was having a sleepless night (stuffy nose) and in that almost awake dozing I had an idea for a thread. Alas after taking a little sleep aid I finally fell asleep around 5 and forgot my idea.

I think this was it:
I have been trying for awhile to loosen up my brush stroke and I have tried many times only to continue noodling around on a painting until I have tightened it up again. I then sigh with relief that the painting is finished. And then I see how tight I am again.

I paint very methodically in layers of scumbled glazes. A slow deliberate process. I love the process. It's quiet and meditative.

However, when I'm not painting I'm anything but slow and deliberate. I'm on the busy side of things, quite extrovert, at times brash and belligerent. Why does this aspect of my personality not show up in the work? Why is not all loose and color laden?
Does this reflect a lack of integrity?

Does one's work really reveal one's personality? In my days as an art therapist I studied the meanings of gestures, the line quality as well as the use of color and materials and I was led to believe that one could "read" art work from a psychological view point. Perhaps this is only really possible when looking at work of "non-artists" in a clinical setting.

Do you think think your work reveals who you are? Does it matter?

Stoy Jones
08-24-2003, 01:27 AM
I'm not sure. My mother who is intense decorates her home as a creative output and prefers light relaxing colors such as cream and muted shades. I'm generally relaxed who prefers bold bright color. Perhaps it's looking for balance?

Stoy Jones

08-24-2003, 09:40 AM
I think you're right.

08-24-2003, 07:11 PM
I had to think on this one for awhile before I could respond. What I came up with is with artists often have a lot of loaded issues centering around their work and their process. For example if I look at work I've done and notice it's "tighter" than I would have liked I know that it means I was too tense over the outcome, i.e. "will this be good enough?".

On the other hand, some things that when I finish look too "unfinished" and sloppy rather than loose often means I was struggling with confidence to take it any further LOL. The point being that maybe in some cases our art DOES express something about our personality but more in relation to our creativity?

That'a all I came up with so far, still pondering. Great questions!


08-24-2003, 08:17 PM
Not sure how to answer either,,but here's something for thought.

My color schemes almost always contain a great deal of purples...my paintings tend to be on the cool side....

and yet, my home is decorated in warm golden tones and burnt reds, warmer greens -- no purple! The only time I did introduce purple into one of the bedrooms...I hated it! LOL I love warm surroundings...but cool paintings!

I'm only organized in my closets!! Never when it comes to my studio...but someone did say this week that when I'm out plein air painting that I'm "all business"...LOL. I do take my painting very seriously when I'm in front of the easel.


08-25-2003, 08:37 AM
What a thought provoking topic! I think my work reveals different facets of myself, some conscious and others unconscious.

Stoy Jones
08-25-2003, 11:29 AM
Originally posted by Haven
artists often have a lot of loaded issues centering around their work and their process.

That is certainly true with my work. I love to draw cartoons and illustrate humorous or happy material. I don't like the "edge" that is popular in cartoons, comics, and books only because I was raised in a turbulent home where creativity was stifled and sarcasm with emotional battering was the typical norm. I left home, determined to be "happy" and I suppose that is where my work follows.

The process itself is hard to tell. It looks the same to me only because I work hard at continuity in quality. I would have to ask my wife that one.


Keith Russell
08-25-2003, 03:31 PM
Art is an aspect of my life, the part of me where (I hope) I am at my best. But, there are aspects of me that [i]don't/i] make it into my art, some by choice, others simply due to the nature of art, or to my art in particular.


Rosemary R
08-25-2003, 03:37 PM

That is interesting, But I tend to have quite different responses to "inside" and "outside" as well. I don't like cool greens in my house, but love them outside. You did say that you are a Plein Air painter, perhaps you have some of the same response that I do to the out-of-doors. I also prefer to garden with cooler tones, rarely using the "hot colors" reds, oranges, etc.

I find indoor tasks filled with "obligation" and "outdoors" to me means fun, and freedom, because I'm an outdoor person. I love the cool tones of trees, and icy blues of lakes and rivers, and the sky.

Very thought prevoking.


08-27-2003, 05:27 PM
hmmm, good thread. I am glad you have remembered it after your stuffy nose night :).

This is really something to ponder and it really delves into a deeper part of a person. Understanding is yet another thing.

I love warm and hot colors but I am drawn to greens and water. I don't like painting trees but I am forever painting something that has a tree in it. I really detest this part of me. Trees seem hard for me but I continually have to paint a tree :mad: Maybe it is because I grew up in the country and rode horses in the woods (small forest for those who don't know what woods mean ;) ) so I draw nature. I also love still life fruits and vegetables and grew up selling country grown vegetables to local stores. Maybe this is why I love to draw fruits and vegetables???

I love different shades of yellows in my home with off whites and splashes of rose and peaches. These are my main colors but I paint cool colors.

will ponder more but great subject sandl

08-28-2003, 08:21 AM
Not sure if art reveals a person's total personality; however, I do believe it reveals aspects of thoughts or ideas on a subconscious level that we may or may not be aware of. It would be almost like a dream where there is still a minute part of our traditional way of thinking and acting within the dream, yet it's the thought (or so some say), that is being enacted in a more surreal way, thus, we are not totally ourselves in the dream and may exhibit more freedom regarding actions/words.

It's difficult to project a laid back character in a dog-eat-dog world just as it's difficult to express intimacy with certain individuals, especially on a professional level. Yet, with our children (unless they are teenagers then they just need to die until they are in their 20's), and lovers, the atmosphere alters to accomodate that aspect of our being. Therefore, I do not believe that you exhibit a lack of integrity, but portray an aura of professionalism with an edge of confidence re: extroverted, brash & billigerant. It takes someone pretty confident and sure of themselves to exhibit this type of behaviour. When creating art, that the extroverted aspect isn't required or necessary.

I'm not sure if my work reveals who I am totally, but I would agree it reveals aspects of me within certain thoughts and ideas. I think for many, myself included, it reveals a beauty that comes from within us. In seeing this beauty, we are enabled to see the beauty in ourselves where we might not otherwise be aware of its existence. Maybe we smile at ourselves for the first time. Maybe we see how beautiful we really are. Maybe this allows us to forgive ourselves for something haunting and feel loveable in a world that's taught us beauty is to be admired and loved, and ugliness (not necessarily visual, but an action, word, etc.), resides within certain perameters and is to be shunned.

I think it's a process that's ever changing and evolving, and it initiates within ourself.

Does this matter? I would say yes.

08-28-2003, 08:34 AM
Have you seen my art? That's your answer.

08-28-2003, 10:41 AM

08-28-2003, 11:26 AM
I think the most telling thing is that watching me work, or seeing what I make in a day, PROVES that I have ADD! :D

I tend to be very concentrated once I've decided what to make (mostly glass beads). Item to item my focus is intense. But I can take quite a while deciding what to do next and my best intentions, in terms of laying out intended colors, often get totally ignored minutes later. My storage space is very organized, so I can find what I need, but my work space is cluttered and confused. But I know what's where.

I flit from color to color, style to style. One moment I'm using rich organic colors, the next I'm playing with oranges and yellows. It's nice to be able to indulge in such "controlled restlessness."

08-28-2003, 03:52 PM
Originally posted by blkros
Have you seen my art? That's your answer.

What was the question?:confused:

08-28-2003, 08:34 PM
I find that I get really excited and absorbed when I lay out a pallette, and get into painting; so much so that I am exhausted and only want to see soft, calming colors and tones in my home.

I prefer ecru and soft whites, yellows and tone on tone; soft textures. (Of course, if it's really hard to keep clean, that's what I want....)I am the proverbial bull in the china shop. If paint can jump off of anyone, it sure jumps off of me.

Sandl : maybe it's yin/yang. Maybe it's what makes painting so calming and wonderful for you. Your place of focus.:D

08-29-2003, 02:25 AM
Interesting question. :)

At one time, I thought that I was more of an introvert in the general sense of the word. I enjoy my solitude, love reading, & prefer to work alone. However, I recently learned what true extroversion means... it's not necessarily a social thing, (although it can be) but has more to do with whether you require external stimulus, or tend to be more comfortable with your inner imaginings.

Well, I realize now that I definitely have extroverted tendencies when it comes to my art. I seek out what to paint from the external world... that's what fuels me to express how I feel about it. My subject matter is all-important to me.

I've also discovered in about the last decade that I've been using my subject matter to frame what is going on in my life psychologically at the time. Still painting from reality, but in the same vein as what Tam is talking about, I see in hindsight, a definite reason why I have chosen the particular subject matter, subconsciously, to paint at that particular moment in time. Metaphorically, it is expressing what is going on in my life, just as dreams do.

08-29-2003, 02:44 AM
I was going to post this in your other thread, Sandy... but maybe it can work to demonstrate what I mean here.

This is Power Point... (the colours aren't as true to the painting as I would like). I now call it my mid-life crisis painting. ;) I use horses a lot, mostly because I'm a horse nut, but they're also an ideal animal for symbolizing females in a male world. (Anna Sewell did this with her classic book, Black Beauty)


And the poem that goes with it:

Power Point

Like the horse
Upon the hill
Against a sea of peaceful blue
My power stands
In time and space --
Potent fields;
Life embraced
By two
Dimensions --
Half full,
Yet half gone
My feet firm
On fertile soil...
Wise enough to grasp, still
Eternal dreams
Of freedom.

August, 2000

I left my husband about a year and a half after this. ;)

08-29-2003, 03:22 AM
Just to clarify... the painting came first. Then the poem, then the insight. :)

08-29-2003, 08:33 AM
dodge - (a small tangent) - I don't usually comment on content/meaning......but this morning, seeing this image and your comments re this thread, it hit me like a ton of bricks -
The horse has on a bridle (or whatever you call it).

Talk about layers of meaning......
Whether the artist's (your) intention or not.....
I'll not easily forget the echos of seeing/feeling this art.

Okay. That's all. Back to your regularly scheduled programming:D

08-29-2003, 08:49 AM
This work is an existential experience for me. And the proper commentary could only emerge over a glass of wine.

I sure would like to know you better.

08-29-2003, 01:44 PM
Thank you, Molly, Sandy. :D

I think you two are probably on the same wavelength as I am. :)

And it's not impossible for us to maybe have that wine together someday. The world is so full of possibilities.

08-31-2003, 03:18 PM
Yes, I liked Black Beauty. I also like that the halter is blue. You have such a way with moon and sky. Always inspiring.

Good expression of thoughts in the poem there. Glad you found your freedom too. :)

09-04-2003, 11:03 PM
Maybe your art shows the you that you really are, not the you that you thought you are, the you that you described as you.
Maybe that's not really you, but just your you.
Perhaps to the rest of us, you're just you, and your art is just yours.

09-05-2003, 08:23 AM
It's all pretty interesting and is strongly suggestive that we must never make assumptions about anyone. I asked my students yesterday what they imagined Edgar Degas to be like after they looked at some of his ballerinas. Light-hearted, cheerful, pleasant is what they said. History books suggest he was known to be rather grumpy.

09-05-2003, 11:13 AM
I agree, San... one of my favourite artists is Alex Colville. His work has a sense of darkness to it... an ambiguous, nebulous, hard to grasp mood that leads one to think that he would be a morbid, depressing personality. He was a war artist back in WWII, so to assume this would seem reasonable.

But I had the good fortune to go to one of his seminars about art... he was kind, good-natured, witty & fun! I was pleasantly surprised. He's also highly intellectual & philosophical. He's been a huge influence on my work.


09-08-2003, 09:14 AM
I don't get this. Why is a horse a symbol or metaphor for "females in a male world"?

Aren't horses used as male symbols often?
"Stallions" and the like?

09-09-2003, 02:31 AM
I just found this thread. That's a beautiful painting and poem, dodger. Wow! so powerful! Especially since you shared how you it was a mid-life turning point for you, with leaving your husband, etc. Obviously you haven't looked back!

And also, to give yet another point of view to the original question from sandl,

It makes perfect sense to me that your art might be radically different to the personality that you identify with, but then I tend to hold a more Jungian point of view - which would probably say that the art you do is an aspect of yourself that in this case you probably don't identify with as strongly as your brash self. And that it's obviously an aspect of yourself that's just as important to your whole self as your everyday personality, since it comes out in your painting process and you really enjoy that process. It could be an aspect that's wanting to emerge more in your daily life, or it could simply be something that's always been there and shows up, as someone pointed out, to balance things out.

Also, maybe your more extroverted, brash side does show up in your paintings in the finished works rather than in the actual painting process. You haven't told us what the finished paintings look like. Do the finished works have qualities of strength and boldness in them? Do the glazes and scumbles add up to radiant and intense colors? Or are the paintings also quiet and meditative?

I wonder what it might be like if you explored that peaceful and meditative part of yourself that comes out in your painting process. From a Jungian point of view, that could be an interesting thing to play with. But at the very least, you're already playing with it with your paintings so anything further is probably not necessary. You may even find that this peaceful meditative part of you appears as dream figures in your dreams, since all those things tend to be related.

Great thread, thanks for sharing it. This kind of thing really fascinates me.


09-09-2003, 08:07 AM
Thanks for your insight Julianna.
I do appreciate Jung. I don't always agree with him and I find his writing obscure at times (I find him chauvinistic).
I'm not quite as brash and belligerent as I have projected myself. I am quite extrovert. I have these examples of my work:



09-09-2003, 09:44 AM
Hi Stoy,

It's me .. Dee :)

I just wanted to add something to what you said ...

I find the same thing with me and my art ... you know I tend to do whimsical funky characters and stuff ... I like bright primary colors ... well .. other colors too, but lots of bright cherry colors and happy and silly pieces.

Yet I also grew up with lots of fighting between my Mom & Dad, a bad marriage all around ... nobody encouraged us kids to stay in school .. or pursue our dreams or develop our talents.

I still remember junior high school and my first 'real' art class ... where I began to express myself ... it was usually funky, whimsical and just plain different from everybody else. LOL!!

Soooo ... maybe our childhood and our past DOES give us this push toward 'happy' and 'whimsical' ... not sure why .. but it seems to.

Of course, I have also done a few 'dark' pieces ... and I'm sure that's my unhappiness coming out .. my deep emotions.


09-09-2003, 10:54 AM
I wonder...as we become better artists and better people, does our work reflect our personalities more authentically? I mean, does our work reflect our maturing and our maturity?

I think it does.

09-09-2003, 11:01 AM
Just thought I'd jump in here and add a few comments.

I'm in an emotionally abusive marriage right now ... have Lupus, and many other health problems .. trying like crazy to get out of the situation ... under GREAT amounts of stress ... and yet, here's how I've been drawn to create lately:

This is just one .. I've done several other 'whimsical' pieces.

Why? After years of abuse ... and being told it was all ME, do I still go deep inside and find that woman who is good, funny, outgoing and ok? This brings me close to tears .. but it's also good for me to look at.

As for the 'morning pages' of the 'Artist's Way' book ... I've seen that most of my blockage is from this abuse ... and lack of self-esteem from the lack of love and support in my home.

This is very interesting ... sad for me .. but interesting all the same. Another of my drawings that I've been possesed to do over and over in the last few days ... is 'Eve' .... a whimsical, temporary ... somewhat abstract woman ... who is very pretty, with a long neck ... such as the cat has. Hmmm???


09-09-2003, 11:12 AM
Sorry about that ... the picture didn't show up ... here it is:

09-09-2003, 12:37 PM
Just revisited this thread... great insights. :)

I love your work, Sandy. I find it direct, honest, sensual, insightful. And what can be more basic, more metaphoric, than fruit, getting back to the seed of life, creativity stretched to new heights?

O'Connor.. the horse is well entrenched in our history, in our symbolism. Yes, you're right, it can represent power in the form of the stallion... which is why you'll see historic leaders like Napoleon, depicted in paintings on stallions. (His horse really was a stallion)

But the horse in it's domesticated symbolism, like a draft horse used in the fields, indicates a more female version, a version of quiet work. The horse is rich in metaphor... power, freedom, beauty, grace... a beast of burden & yet so much more. It has a significant place in our own evolution.

Dee... one of the first things I noticed in the piece was the broken ear. It does indicate to me that you have a sense of your own wholeness with the (viewer's) left ear, but the right one seems to reflect your abused self. Also, the use of the cat (9 lives)could represent your hope... that you are trying to get into the next phase, next life of your journey. Awareness, acknowledgement, has to precede healing. You still have other lives to live. Good luck. :)

09-09-2003, 01:23 PM
Just wanted to add that the idea that a cat has 9 lives is because it's such a successful survivor. :)

09-11-2003, 10:34 AM
Hi SanDL,

Lovely paintings, thanks for the link. And, definitely 'in your face' proportion-to-canvas-size.

I'm not terribly familiar with Jung's personal quirks. Didn't know he was seen as chauvinistic. A lot of my knowledge of Jungian ideas has come from my interest in Process Oriented Psychology, which is actually a branch-off from Jung's work.


09-11-2003, 04:11 PM
I go along with Haven. I'm sure the brush strokes come from the unconscious and cannot be readily contrived. Anything else just looks stiff and lacks flow. I try to focus, get some energy and put everything I can through that brush.

I strongly suspect that if I want my painting to move on then so must I in some way, whether it be some kind of growth, new experience, or other change.

09-11-2003, 07:39 PM

Just browzing and came across your profound painting of the horse and your great poem and your explanations. I really like what you have expressed. I have a little info for you in that the bridle is actually a halter or is it ("halt her") . Thought I would pass that on to add to the double meanings of your painting that I greatly admire.

Congradulations on your freedom to be expressive and not looking back.


09-11-2003, 08:14 PM
Whoa! ;)

I knew it was a halter, but never thought of it in quite that way before! That's an eye-opener, Mar... thank you.

It is an older mare in the painting too, so that really fits.

I appreciate your kind words. :)

09-16-2003, 01:29 PM
Some fourteen years ago I began to paint doing auto illustration and some abstracts. My technique was mostly tight as I took the greatest of care with each detail. I could afford to loosen up a bit with the abstracts. After about five abstract paintings I began to feel threatened by what the paintings seemed to show me about myself and gave it up. Shortly after that I got a computer to do graphic design and dropped painting altogether.

After about eleven years on the computer I decided it was time to relax, drop the design and pick up the brushes again. That was less than two years ago. This time I got some teaching and told the teacher I felt the need to loosen up my brushwork and get more flow in the work. I quoted Manet as the ideal. He told me to paint fast, especially at the local colour stage. When I really have the feel good factor I can just let go and allow the brush to look after itself. I was told we have to stamp our authority into the brushwork. My natural tendency was to do it right first time, then try to improve things, only to make it worse. It seems we do need a certain confidence with the brush. I'm a little bit introverted, so don't think this is a personality issue. Character maybe, if you see my difference.


09-16-2003, 08:52 PM
Fascinating. You've described my problem with brushstroke.

I'm only a part-time introvert (while I'm painting).

I feel "frightened" when I loosen up. I have painted fast and placed brush strokes with authority....but I never believed that anything that came that easy could be any good and then I procede to worry the image to death for fear of being a fraud for not have worked hard enough.

I've known this but can't seem to get over it.

09-17-2003, 04:49 AM
Here's the best of what I did all those years ago with a tight brush. I'm not painting anything like this nowdays. Comments or critques still welcome.


09-17-2003, 07:59 AM
Look how loose your background is.

I think that tightness has a message and if done well, it will communicate it.

For now I'm tight. I'll loosen up when I'm ready.

09-17-2003, 10:36 AM
The background came later. I couldn't cope with it at the time.


09-17-2003, 12:52 PM
Hi SanDL,

You mean I should have kept with. I've just dug out one of my first efforts and have to wonder what happened. I couldn't draw hands to save my life, so got serious about it. My hand is gouache on good watercolour paper.

I showed the Honda painting which is mostly acrylic as watercolour and he didn't seem to be the least bit impressed.


09-17-2003, 09:57 PM

I am pretty sure my issue with overworking images is the feeling of being a fraud if I don't over detail stuff... very interesting food for thought :)


09-18-2003, 01:37 AM
Yes, Haven... & for me, I think it's the feeling that if I don't spend the time on it, then it simply isn't worth much.

I dunno where I got that idea from... maybe my mom. She's famous for saying "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right."

I guess somewhere I picked up the idea that worthiness requires time & effort.

09-18-2003, 07:58 AM
Yeah, I think it's a deeply internalized issue and it manifests in so many other aspects in life.

Just one for example, why have I committed myself to working in a school when I could be working toward painting full-time?

There is a notion that suffering makes us worthy. Is that a protestant thing that I caught like a virus? (I am an agnostic from a family of 2 generations of atheists).

09-18-2003, 12:39 PM
Hmm... suffering makes us worthy.

I can see what you mean, in your life as a teacher. But I can take it in another direction, too, Sandy.

The suffering, the difficulty it is to make a living as a painter, sacrificing the security of a paying job in order to paint fulltime.

Either way, we suffer. ;)

I'm thinking of looking into teaching workshops to supplement my income.

09-18-2003, 05:15 PM
Actually, I've been thinking of this off & on through the afternoon.

Suffering makes us human.

Hope you're faring well through Isabel everybody.

09-18-2003, 05:33 PM
Originally posted by dodger
Actually, I've been thinking of this off & on through the afternoon.

Suffering makes us human.

Hope you're faring well through Isabel everybody.

You are, of course, correct.
You were catching my frustration of having to drive to school today in wind and rain, and then back again in storm conditions. We were the only school open in a radius of 50 miles.

Suffering for painting or suffering through teaching K-8, it makes no difference. It is all relative. I could be living in Kabul, too.

Nah, I'm not really complaining nor am I suffering anything but my immature mind.