Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Should you work with a brief?

This article was first published in my newsletter "Notes From My French Easel".

In his book “Hot-wiring Your Creative Process: Strategies for Print and New Media Designers”, Curt Cloninger gives the following definition of a brief: “The creative brief is a short written document outlining the problems, goals, strategies, and challenges of the project.”

Sometimes, we get some boundaries that act as a brief: when we paint for a themed exhibition, enter into some competitions or accept a commission.
Even if nobody gives you a brief, it is still a good step to draft your own brief, understand what you want to express and why a particular subject grabbed your attention. As artists, we often skip the pre-design phase and go straight to our canvases because we are so eager to paint. But creating a mental brief or jotting notes on paper is like taking a deep breath before you dive.
The central question is “why am I painting this?” There is no unique answer:
  • I like the subject (but why the subject appeals to me?) – You have to keep asking until you get a specific answer.
  • I want to perfect a technique (painting with knife, glazes, etc.)
  • I want my work to be inspired by an old master’s work
  • I want to create a particular effect.
When you identify the area you will concentrate on, you make each painting an exercise, a stepping stone on the way to continuous learning. Focusing on a particular aspect of your practice and regarding each painting as an exercise will take the pressure off - How would feel you if you were asked to paint a masterpiece (who would be judge?) and your life depended on it? The second benefit of seeing each painting as an exercise is that you will stretch your limits. By going in “exercise” mode, you grant yourself permission to take risks and experiment. You are more likely to end-up in an interesting place.

Finally, knowing where you go means you know when you get there. So, thinking about what you want helps you to determine when your painting is finished.

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1 comment:

Casey Klahn said...

I use a brief for a series. The last one covered three newspad pages - what size? I think the 18" by 24" or so.