Why Gerhard Richter is the perfect artist

… and what can we learn from him?

Note to reader: This starts a new series of posts all about great creative ideas, how they came about and their impact. When I created MyIdeasBook as an online tool it was to help people develop their creative hunches into great ideas. The most accomplished creatives in the world use an idea and exhaust all its possibilities in all directions. These blog posts will offer an insight into great creative ideas with the aim of inspiring and helping you focus and deliver on your ideas. 

Gerhard Richter had a light bulb moment. He may not have realised it was a light bulb moment at the time, but one key action laid the foundation stone for a lifetimes artistic endeavor.

“A painting can help us to think something that goes beyond this senseless existence. That’s something art can do.” 2009

Panorama at Tate Modern was retrospective show which looked at six periods of work in Gerhard Richter’s life as a painter. It was an awe inspiring show because of the diversity, playfulness and the surprise presence of objects. This show has inspired me to consider why and how one particular decision can affect your creative work irrevocably.

Playfulness seems to be the starting point for all the triumphs in Richter’s work and it’s this playfulness or instinct to meddle which underpins the development of his work. He states that he did not have a role model father and nor the resistance of a father that ‘draws boundaries’, and that this enabled him to stay ‘childishly naïve that much longer’.

I am particularly interested in the diversity of media and style within his work. He has been able to express all avenues of his interests from abstraction to photography and realism and in market terms this has enabled him to reach a wider audience too. He has set his own agenda, not followed one. To have the confidence to experiment with a variety of art works which seem to tangent from the same starting point but explore ideas in very different ways is admirable and reiterates his ability to play.

Richter does not practice his art in a bubble or a vacuum. He collaborates and is inspired by his peers as well as absorbing and considering world events. He made paintings based on photographs from journals or magazines. He can take many years to make a work which explores an event like his painting September which evokes the horrific 9.11 without being direct, he leaves it to the viewer to bring their feelings and imbue the painting with them. This is what he also does with his objects – he allows the viewer to become part of the work using reflection. They are and intelligent and natural progression of his ideas in painting, which is also why there are so few. 11 panes 2006 is particularly noteworthy in its success at making the viewer into a Richter ‘painting’.

Back to Richter’s ONE big idea. In 1963 Richter painted a photograph and then took a brush and started to trail it over parts or all over the painting. This action blurred the image and took the photo-realism of his work to a new place where the painterly finish and mark making would become as important as the image. The technique added movement and life to the paintings and was discovered through Richter’s ability to take a risk and play. There could be a connection with this action and the print making techniques he had tried earlier. In print making you squeegee or roller ink and this principle is evoked in Richter’s soft abstracts and realism paintings. Painting from a photograph was radical in those days and Richter was very aware of what people were making and doing because he connected to and was inspired by other artists. Blurring the paint on the canvas that day set him on a path of painterly discovery to achieve a perfect moment within each work.

The blurring of the photo painting can be seen as showing a moment in time and just edging towards distortion so that the viewer is forced to give more time to try to understand the image while revelling in its beautiful painterly qualities. This relationship he encourages with the viewer is makes Richter’s work so beguiling.

In Richter’s abstract works he takes a large plastic sheet and spreads and moves the paint about till it feels like he can do no more – he tells it as though the painting speaks to him that it is complete and then he is relieved. The grey paintings and colour charts are meditations on rhythm, repetition and control which hone his skills and express other aspects of his psyche and his fascinations. But the theme of blurring and moving the paint is repeated through all his works.

It is important to his work how ‘bothered’ he is about humanity and what happens in the wider world and he has the intellectual capacity to express his thoughts as paintings in a unique and revelatory way. This probably comes through growing up in Germany with the extreme experiences it brought. His ability to transcend any of the negative, self doubting thoughts that can creep into artistic heads and keep painting and making regardless is inspiring. He confidently destroys his paintings when they don’t feel right.

Richter travelled a lot and interacted with artists and creatives throughout Europe to find out what was happening in the art world around the globe. These days we have computers to aid our connectedness, but we also have to earn a lot of money to just survive day-to-day, so we need to utilise modern methods carefully and effectively to help us connect and develop our great ideas. As artists, if we re-learn to focus on our ideas and play more then we may stand a chance of achieving some of what Richter has achieved.

For me personally, seeing his work has given me more confidence to explore and play with my ideas by just starting something and not worry about where it will go or what it means right now. I also think I will be reading and re-reading his life story and looking at his work continually over time for inspiration because he really is a ‘perfect artist’ for his continuity, diversity and being able to live off his work.

Gerhard Richter Take Away inspiration:

1. Study, be inspired by, network and interact with your peers.

2. Have a knowledge of and use your emotional response to the world around you in your work.

3. Stay playful – or learn how to be playful again

4. Pursue your interest to its end, persistence is essential.

5. Instinct – try ideas simply when they come into your head to see what happens.

6. Don’t be afraid to make/do the same things over and over again. But at the same time, don’t be afraid to play with a new version of the idea.

7. Regardless of how awful the world is and how broke and fed up you are just keep going. Never question what the point is.

What about you? Did you have a ‘light bulb’ moment in your work and have been have been exploring the idea ever since?

What methods do you use to develop and maintain good ideas? Please leave comments.

By Binita Walia   I am an artist and I created MyIdeasBook. This is the MyIdeasBook Blog. When I constructed the idea for MyIdeasBook it was derived from an understanding that in order to make great ideas you need to put a whole heap of inspirations into your head to get the brain to connect and develop a ‘hunch’ you might have had brewing deep inside you. Research is the secret and MyIdeasBook is a new tool that allows you to gather your research and develop your creative ideas better. Sign up to receive these blog posts directly to your inbox.

 

 

Why Rachel plays with shadows.

MyIdeasBook member and featured artist Rachel Welford is based in Scarborough, North Yorkshire in the UK. She designs and makes glass for architectural settings creating artworks that respond to the nature of a space, interact with the varying light of day and are constantly changing, allowing new detail and discoveries each time they are viewed.

Originally trained in fine art (painting and printmaking), the sensibilities developed during these early years are still evident within her current work. Gradually gravitating towards glass through a lifetime fascination with all things transparent, translucent and reflective, in 2009 she completed a Masters Degree in Glass at the University of Sunderland.

We asked Rachel about her inspirations, motivations and how she develops ideas. You can also see what inspires her in MyIdeasBook Community.
Where do you seek your inspiration?

I seek inspiration from the world around me – from anywhere. Wherever I go or whatever I do I keep my eyes and my mind open and I find that there are sources of inspiration everywhere, the world is full of them. Usually it’s something visual but not always. I then start to notice patterns that I’m inspired by in certain types of things. I examine the ‘what’ and the ‘why’, and that’s when ideas start to form. Sometimes this happens immediately, sometimes those sources of inspiration wait for ages, until some sort of tipping point moves things on to the next step.

What really excites you and gets your ideas flowing at the moment?

Shadows are a source of inspiration currently in the ‘gestation’ phase. I’m keeping an eye out for situations where very blurry shadows from things far away are combined with sharper ones from nearer objects. I’m also excited by the idea of combining moving shadows with frosted glass –shadows from nearby trees in the wind for instance, combined with film footage of shadows, and maybe layering again with sandblasted imagery on the glass surface.

The underlying inspiration, however, is light and how it interacts with objects and surfaces to create intriguing and complex two dimensional images.

Do you still use paper sketchbooks and notebooks?

I have several! I always have two paper sketchbooks on the go, one A4 and a small A6 one, although I use them less for art and more for writing notes, drawing diagrams to work out how something might be made, or making lists – things to research; germs of ideas; planning etc. My sketchbooks help me organise what I do and work things out. I also have a separate lined notebook for daily ‘to do’ lists. I do feel an urge to use sketchbooks more visually though so am thinking about that and may start drawing in them.

Why does MyIdeasBook help the development of your work?

I’m finding MyIdeasBook very useful in that it organises collections of images and notes by project or idea. In this digital age it’s useful to do this as a series of ‘books’ that can all be added to at any time. It offers an alternative to the linear chronological nature of paper sketchbooks, where notes or drawings for different projects are mixed up together but in date order, and can be hard to find at a later date. The think tool is really helping to get ideas moving and organise thoughts in a productive way towards plans and action!

How has the internet changed the way you work? Has it opened possibilities and how do you embrace these?

The internet has opened possibilities on lots of levels. It’s had a huge impact on speed of admin and communication – instant emails, internet banking etc. Of course it’s amazing as a low cost marketing tool – getting yourself out there and accessible. The internet is always my first port of call for research too – for keeping up with what’s happening in my field; market research; materials; techniques; services; finding opportunities and of course buying specialist supplies is easy online. I get nervous about a wholly cyber based life though so I still like to get out there and meet people face to face.

Do you intend to use the internet to market and sell your work?

I already use the internet to market my work. I have a website and use social media i.e. Facebook and twitter, I’ve had conversations with people on twitter who I can’t imagine making contact with any other way. I don’t see these solely for marketing to customers though, I like making contact with other creatives too. My next internet marketing project is starting an email newsletter that interested folk can subscribe to. When I get chance I’d also like to set up an online purchasing facility, but I’m not sure of the best approach as yet.

Why did you choose to use MyIdeasBook?

I thought MyIdeasBook would be useful in several ways. Collecting thoughts and developing ideas in a different manner to the chronological way of keeping sketchbooks was one. I’m interested to see if this leads to better ideas or being able to bring more of them to fruition – developing them in a more efficient way. The Think Tool was also attractive – anything to help get ideas over the rocky road to actually become something! I was also interested in the community – getting to see things by other artists, making new contacts and links. And it’s a marketing opportunity too!

You can more of Rachel’s work

www.rachelwelford.co.uk

http://rachelwelford.blogspot.com/

http://twitter.com/rachelwelford

 'Surface' 2011. Drawing of tree branch silhouettes. Black powdered pigment and graphite powder on paper. 1m x 1m Detail showing how the reflective surface of the powdered graphite catches the light, in comparison to the black powdered pigment and white of the paper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pandora’s 7 Secrets to Creative Harmony

I became intrigued by Pandora’s work after seeing her embroidering while at a conference! Her work is richly diverse and a great example of how an artist can develop their practice over time and by using different materials for expression and collaborating.

I wanted to interview her to find out a bit more about her process as inspiration for my new project collaboration, as well as inspire those of you interested in diversifying and expanding how you make work in the new economy. What Pandora has managed to do is combine a quality of life as a thinking, ideas based artist who makes work that generates an income. She continues to explore her fascination with dark and difficult issues and this manifests as evocative embroideries, sculptures and works on paper.

Pandora Vaughan was born in London 1970 and is a UK/Canadian artist combining a studio art practice with public commissions and landscape design. Her work is focused on spatial experience and social history, often with themes of imposed confinement. Trained in metalwork and painting, she flips between two dimensional and three dimensional regularly. She is particularly interested in the social significance attached to different media and will use whatever suits a project.

Pandora studied in Nova Scotia and London, gaining a BA in Fine Art, MA Art in Architecture and MA Landscape Architecture. She regularly exhibits in the UK and has built installations extending from Snowdonia to Devon. For the past ten years she has also collaborated with the Welsh architect Huw Meredydd Owen under the name V&O – working across an area encompassing art and architecture, buildings and landscape, ideas and action, and between the community and its potential.

Where do you seek your inspiration?

– looking at crumbled abandoned places

– standing in the woods

– painting exhibitions

– flicking through sculpture books

Nova Scotian architecture

– in conversation with Huw when we are melding our thoughts on a project and something starts to make sense

What really excites you and gets your ideas flowing at the moment?

– Two different strands really.

The first is re-inventing a space which is neglected and how to bring other people into a community project around that which is not patronising but fun. I’m working with Huw and Ellis Williams Architects on the design for a sailing centre in Pwllheli right now. The site is a rough industrial seascape with lovely dunes, lousy soil and too much parking. Our (Huw & I) task is to help create a sustainable and interesting landscape and to involve the local community in a creative way, the challenge is very exciting and the attitude towards inventiveness on this project makes a nice change.

The second thing is a much more personal, visual art related pre-occupation which is the notion of how to interpret beauty and creative expression which is confined or hidden by our inhibitions or fears. I’m looking at this in a sculptural way now after trying with two dimensions for awhile.

Do you still use paper sketchbooks and notebooks? 

– yes, lots. For sketches of ideas and lists of all the things I want to make something out of and why. Also for scanning and adding to proposals. It is much more immediate than opening a program, typing and trying to draw freely with a trackpad badly. I do use ‘notes’ on my phone though, for ideas which catch me without a book. I love looking at old sketch books and finding a beautiful sketch of an idea, it reminds me that I had one, or that some things have stayed with me for 20 yrs and not yet found a form.

Why does MyIdeasBook help the development of your work?

– particularly the storage of images and being able to come back to them and see the connections between them and evaluate why they mean something to me or what they have in common. Then the categorisation of them. It is comforting to know that this method of sorting out inspiration is a creative tool that others use also and not a flattener of ideas.

How has the internet changed the way you work? Has it opened possibilities and how do you embrace these?

– exposure to other projects and exhibitions which I would not have heard about or sought out mainly. I don’t use social media very much because I don’t have time and I want to be in contact with the world physically as much as possible. I am on an un-manageable number of mailing lists so I do a lot of deleting and rarely visit even the interesting ones. The whole system is just too overwhelming. No one has that much free time.

Do you intend to use the internet to market and sell your work?

– most of my work is project based and there are several places where opportunities are posted so I do use those. In terms of saleable work, no. Past experience has had people find old work online, want to purchase it only to have to tell them its long gone, or else scams from fake buyers. I welcome enquiries but I don’t have a place set up for selling individual works. I might like to have a website of my own for doing that rather than relying on management by others.

Why did you choose to use MyIdeasBook?

– I think it is really helpful. Its a place separate from my laptop storage system which I have to seek out when I am in the mood and I make it a part of my studio practice to review it and add things and see a continuum. I also wanted to help Binita get the project seen by more people because I think it was brave of her to set it up.

Where can we see or read about your work online? 

Axis The Online Resource for Contemporary Art

www.vaughan-owen.org

 This embroidery is a plan of Brixton prison in London.