View Full Version : Art Analysis Paralysis

Dr. Keith L. Young
11-25-2004, 04:16 PM
Hi all,

I'm sure many of you experienced artists have experienced this: The more you learn about the principles of art, the more you cease to become spontaneous. Pacasso once said something like "the more you learn about art, the harder it becomes."

I used to put things together very quickly, brightly, and with great creativity. And now, I critique my sketches and shoot them all down.

You know, if we all followed the "rules" we'd all paint things exactly the same. What a nightmare! Help!


Brian Barnes
11-25-2004, 04:51 PM
Interesting observation.

I find that, having looked at a great many paintings and their critiques over the past year here at WC, many of the "rules" are broken with pleasing results. Break some rules and see what the reaction is. I also find the reaction is best (for me anyway) when you introduce a whole lot of your own imagination and a subject that tells a story.

When you get to the self-critiquing stage with your preliminary ideas and sketches, put them in here and let us do the "shooting down". I bet the anticipated "downing" will not happen. We'll have the opposite effect. Worked for me! :D


11-25-2004, 05:31 PM
RULES!!! - there are rules??? Waaaaaaah no - one told me! :evil: :wink2:


11-25-2004, 05:36 PM
But rules are made to be broken , especially for effect,

Learning the techniques is more important of how to get the most from your medium ,


11-25-2004, 06:28 PM
Don't worry Kieth, you are in good company. Even Michelangelo shot down his own work yet look how brilliant it is. I think being critical of ones work is how you learn best. I dont see the principles as 'rules' but instead I see them as guidelines.

Keep at it and relax! :wave:

mr sandbanx
11-25-2004, 06:49 PM
"Art Analysis Paralysis " sounds like we need a doctor.... hey, you are a Doctor?

I think as you paint and learn what you can do, or what can be done, you develop a more critical eye. And as with most things, you aspire to get better every time, so you are looking for ways to improve. No matter how good you are. Also you may recall things in prior works that you may not have been happy with, so you are looking for those. Sometimes it is fun to just do something fast and with no expectation for success. It helps me. I have written little notes on the side of paintings before, saying things like "Don't do this... or that" It works very well sometimes.

And do what Brian says... post, sit back and let us do the nasty work. It is usually a lot more positive than you would get if you only listened to yourself.

I suggest you take two aspirin, try and forget what you have done in the past, and call yourself in the morning....meanwhile.. Welcome Keith, hope you don't fix knees or they may never let you out of this place.

11-25-2004, 06:51 PM
First you need to learn to play the Piano, Then you can create a Concerto.Don't you think?
I had a great Teacher that told me once to look for a subject that blew me away, Then go to work technically to say it. Then look and see if you captured your original feeling in your work. I call it the "Shazam " ( Captain Marvel) feeling you get when you see something that hits you over the head like a sledgehammer .
Look at some of Arnold Lowerey's work to see what I mean. Skilled hand followed by WOW emotion! June :)

11-25-2004, 10:10 PM
Keith. have you read Betty Edwards 'Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain'

she uses limbering up drawing excercises that bore the analytical bit of the brain so much it gives up being critical, letting the creative bit get on with what its best at.....................

it occurs to me this could be a useful trick in this situation.........

The first time I tried it ,the internal dialogue from my critical /ananlutical/verbal side had to be heard to be believed............it kept it up for , I guess, about twenty solid minutes non stop . .......things like ' well this is a waste of time........ how are you going to learn anything from this........ you cant possibly draw something without looking at it......... what a silly idea....... wouldnt you be better off doing xxx... or what about YYYYY.... youll end up wasting the whole day at his rate...... and what have you got to show for it...............some stupid squiggly lines that dont even join up. .......at least you could draw something interesting.. .......what about .........Im sure youve done enough now.........lets do someihng else ...you were going to move that plant in the garden....... Im tired of drawing .......lets put the kettle on...thats rubbish, youre not going to show anyone are you?......... and on and on and on till. .........quite suddenly..... the voice in my head stopped and I got completely lost in what I was doing......!! extraordinary experience !!!!

11-26-2004, 12:02 AM
Hi all,

I'm sure many of you experienced artists have experienced this: The more you learn about the principles of art, the more you cease to become spontaneous. Pacasso once said something like "the more you learn about art, the harder it becomes."


I totally agree, but I still have fun trying, and that is the mosrt important part..

HAVE FUN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If it ever becomes a chore I will give it away.. ;)

11-27-2004, 03:38 PM
Hi Keith,

My diagnosis of your malady is that you seem to be suffering from (said in a very somber tone)... :music: analysis paralasis :music: for which there is only one known cure.

Turn off that nasty voice in your head. Find a reference photo that shouts PAINT ME! then have fun throwing paint at the paper and mucking it about, using the largest brush you have so you don't get caught up in too many details. AND keep telling yourself our unofficial motto It's only paper!...and it has two sides to it if I mess up the first one.

Like Brian and Chris ^^^^ have said, stop wasting your time being self-critical...that's what we are here to do. :evil: :wink2: ;)

Seriously, the way to get better with watercolors is to practice, have patience, and persevere. The most important P of all is PRACTICE, PRACTICE, and PRACTICE. Remember the joke about "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" it goes with painting too.

Hope to see one of your paintings in our Gallery soon. Welcome on board!


11-28-2004, 11:05 AM
I think everyone feels that way at some point but after a while you get back into it. Do a different type of creativity inbetween working in your preferred medium. Sometimes all it takes is a different subject and imagination to get out of the feeling of not producing good enough work.

Your style is trying to emerge and your mind is fighting the fact that your work WILL look different than others. Maybe if you want to immulate a particular style, try analyzing the colors the artist used, did he paint wet or dry, what subjects does he paint etc.

Enjoy the process. Picking the colors, brushes and getting the paper ready is a part of the art too.

Keep practicing.

11-28-2004, 02:01 PM
Interesting thread you have started here!! For many years I painted what I thought that I "should" paint or what I thought others would like to see. Having hit the age of 60 I now only paint what I want to paint and how I want to do it. I call it recapturing my 5 year old approach to painting again. In fact, it's time to change my avatar - I have decided to regress!!!


11-28-2004, 02:28 PM
You've gotten some solid points of view, but I wanted to see John's thoughts and found his new avatar :D

But, seriously I didn't paint for more than 20 years, and probably due to that "analysis paralysis" you refer to rather than follow my own innate desire to create. So, I did other creative work during those years and it brought me back to gooey-paint and lots of brushes, and if I had an avatar like John's of me as a youngster, I'd change mine, too. :evil:

Dr. Keith L. Young
11-28-2004, 03:45 PM
Thank you all for your help. Picasso once said something like "there's an artist in every child. The problem is what happens when he grows up?"

I started art seriously again about five years ago and found it is very scientific. There are many formulas for composition, color, etc. Imagine what goes in my head as a dentist/artist? It's an ongoing civil war. Left and right sides are always going at it. It's beautiful, but . . . There they go again!

My enemy now is the cursed "golden mean rule." I was going to type "Law."
You can see how my right side functions! The rule worked for the Phonesians and Greeks. Does it apply today? Does every flower petal's width and length have a ratio of 1.614? Heck, no!

So, here's the corner I ran into. At lease I found my problem and the key. I have a post-it-note above my work area that says "The golden mean rule does not exist in nature." Also, "Art is anything you can get away with."

My advice is just know that the "rule" exists, but don't be a slave to it. Enjoy your artist as a child.

Keith :clap:

11-28-2004, 06:46 PM
Keith, I don't necessarily follow the GMR..

I look at my composition, and if it feels right I go with it..

Art is about spontanaety I think.. Good Art that is..:)

06-07-2005, 11:25 AM
Someone posted: "Sometimes it is fun to just do something fast and with no expectation for success." What an excellent moto! I would like to "tatoo" that on my forehead!!! Maybe then, when I paint, I could quit worrying and start enjoying! ~ Glo

Ragtime Willie
06-07-2005, 10:03 PM
The golden mean (or golden section, as it is often called) is not a rule, but a ratio. It appears quite often in nature (seashells, flowers, the human body, etc). A google search will turn up several websites that discuss such appearances.

I think that the problem is that people try to reduce complicated things to simple rules. A beginner's art book will say "never divide your paper in half; always use the golden mean." What they really mean to say is, "a paper dived exactly in half runs the risk of being static and boring; you'd better know what you are doing with regard to composition before you attempt this. In the meanwhile, dividing things according to the golden mean is a good way to avoid this problem."

In other words, not a rule, but a suggestion.

06-07-2005, 10:54 PM

While I find myself breaking the very rules I have tried so hard to learn, I will forever be thankful that I had a rule pushing instructor as my first. My painting improved the day I decided that there was good reason for rules. Other instructors have pressed spontaneity and I learned from that too. I am working now at learning when to break them and when to see they are followed. After using them for awhile, I find many come quite naturally.


06-10-2005, 02:33 AM
Just recently I've been trying to follow a new strategy: Alternate paintings with each (next) painting session. The first painting is 'serious,' something with a visible reference (usually still life, rather boring for me as a subject, though I still enjoy the painting process). The second painting is what I call a 'quickie' abstract (that is, largely unplanned, simply responding next to whatever's already on the paper). My goal is to merge these two distinct approaches.

The first approach is analytical, trying consciously to apply the rules up in my head that haven't yet become habitual for me. The second approach is playful and intuitive, but as I said, the rules are not habitual yet!

My strategy seems to be working, though not quite as I anticipated: Both types of paintings are turning out better now. *shrug* I don't know what your work habits are, but perhaps you can try working alternately on two distinct paintings. Do one with little thought or as intuitively as you used to (don't take it seriously!), and approach the second deliberately, with careful, conscious forethought. My hypothesis now is that both styles of work improve as a result of a positive transfer of training across them -- same tools in the hand, same environment, after all. :)