see the world anew

Matthew Collings2015

Art can make you see the world anew

A good painting can transform even the most familiar subject into something out of the ordinary, says lifelong painter Matthew Collings.

Welcome to the world of painting. It’s a beautiful place, full of feeling and life. Dive in. Get used to the properties of paint, explore its powers. There’s something very satisfying about getting colours to work. It’s like alchemy – the magical transformation of mere materials into a 3D object.

I’ve been painting all my life, mainly abstract colour relationships. Personally, I think all art is abstract: the shapes that give pleasure in art ultimately come from our experience of nature – structure, light, tone, texture, the feeling of space. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if you end up an abstract or representational artist. But if you’re a beginner, something ordinary is a good place to start. Let’s say a tree. But where do you start representing that tree?

Step one: set everything up – the tubes of paint on the table (they don’t have to be tree colours), the brushes ready, some medium – water if it’s acrylic paint, a mix of turpentine and linseed oil if it’s oil paint, something to paint on, and the tree clearly in view. You’ve got your paint and your subject, the materials and the idea. Now make some marks. Have a look out of the window again. Have a look at the marks. Tell yourself this: the tree isn’t the main idea. Instead, what the marks are doing is the main idea. That’s where the alchemy will be. But you can only get that to happen by respecting what’s out there in the world….

Read the full 2009 article in the Guardian: www.theguardian.com/artanddesign

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