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The Basket List – by Robert Genn

The Basket List

by Robert Genn

You've probably heard of the " bucket list." It's the list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket. One of mine is painting a couple of peaks in the Argentine Andes from the Patagonian pampas at magic hour. I have other, more problematical items, including a short visit and few brief words with Paul Cezanne.

But what I'm talking about here is the "basket list"--often made on the run in a little notebook. It's a list of things we need to try in our work. My own lists are most often of newish observations made in nature, or painterly ideas, but they can also include motifs and techniques noted in the work of others. I call it a basket list because if I don't keep adding possibilities I might become a basket case. Several friends have kindly pointed out I already am.

In the full knowledge that we all have to create our own lists, here are a few items from recent sorties:

*Wheel tracks in snow with cast shadows of spindly trees lying across them. Three degrees of shadow.

*Foreground snow interspersed with patches of bare ground with green shoots sprouting. High-key green.

*A moldering, stone-based barn with horizontal and vertical boards in a variety of grays. Texture and impasto.

*The casual use of scumble to add freshness and "think-on-your-feet" sincerity. Be Velasquez.

*Truth imposed onto fantasy by a specific, abstract and unusual shape of shard ice. Strong gradation.

*Humble dwellings, trailer-park homes, with perplexed, uniquely twisted, grumbling personalities. Anthropomorphic.

While words are useful because they avoid specific copying and stimulate the imagination, a quick drawing is often necessary. FYI, we've put a few drawing examples at the top of the current clickback.

Each one of us looks out into the world and sees our next step. No matter how pedestrian the observations seem, we need to make them our own. It's one of the great principles of making art: "Name it and claim it."

Best regards,


PS: "I must see new things and investigate them. I want to taste dark water and see crackling trees and wild winds." (Egon Schiele)

Esoterica: Inspiration is not something that floats in the air like some radical gas to be collected in fairy nets; it is more effectively generated by a basket of practical ploys. Further, for flawed individuals like ourselves, it's easy to see something, have a vague idea that it's something special, then pass by and forget it. The written list and the quick sketch nail fleeting wisdom to the intransigent brain. "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." (Jack London)

Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to publish from his twice-weekly newsletter. For more of his creative insights, visit his blog at www.painterspost.com

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