How I Paint
I continually think about the process of painting. I understand that every artist is different in his or her approach and this is why, I find it challenging to take time to understand myself, my needs, my strength and my limits. I consider my paintings as glimpses, spontaneous comments on my life, experiences, feelings, emotions, memories and thoughts. They come from deep inside me, most of the time in unconscious ways, filtered by my soul, my spirit, and intellect. They are expressed through shapes and colors which I see around me. Sometimes I take surreal approach; at other times toward a colder design expression. At all times there is a tendency to have my vision imbued with an organic touch, originating in diverse feelings and emotions which oscillate in my life. I am not attracted to a pure abstract, intellectual expression. I am trying to make my expression lyrical to satisfy my soul need. I paint mainly for myself, trying to be true to myself, using this activity as the most pleasant and efficient way to deal with complexities of real life. I do not want to hide my struggles, insecurities, worries, tensions, sadness, contradictions, conflicts… They appear in my paintings and I welcome them. This is my life; I accept the way it is, and my paintings reflect it. In my studio, surrounded by my paintings I feel whole, satisfied and secure.
It takes time to understand myself, the inner drive that feeds my passion for painting. I love nature, but I never was satisfied painting directly from nature. I look at nature as an infinite source of imagery, capable of impressing me, arousing and refining my feelings. I try to absorb and understand nature in its complexity, discover the rules of its built up, but I want to scramble it in my mind, adding my input and recomposing it from fragments into an imagined abstracted reality which is mine, only mine, and I resonate with it. My approach is experimental, I am painting out of my own reality. Every single painting is an adventure into unknown territory.
My primary concern is not creating beauty, but spontaneously releasing my deeply buried feelings and letting my hand help me to express it. I am convinced that if I would follow my vision steadily to the end, there will be some beauty embedded there – and that will be my beauty. Beauty is a very elusive notion of human beings and is a wonderful sensation human always want to recreate. Beauty is a unique concept of well-being which triggers emotion that makes us happy. Beauty is different for different people: some people are more sensitive, more trained, more refined to see it, but it exists everywhere. It is harder to explain but easier to feel. The right art speaks to the viewer and in response, out of pure pleasure, the viewer wants to cling to it, to own it, to look repeatedly at it, to retain longer that beautiful, happy feeling.
At the very beginning, when I decided late in life to start painting, I put myself on a trial, to find out if I can do it, if I have something to say, if I have the right ingredients needed for a sustained creative activity. Based on my life accumulated wisdom, I decided to go ahead by myself, relying mainly on visual and written information. I was convinced that this way will bring me closer to finding myself and my voice.
I found it challenging to overcame the stress of starting a painting and then forgetting myself in making order of the beginning chaos, seeing how intentions are taking form, bringing color alive and feeling the overpowering pleasure of being the master of my own expression.
I started the journey painting realistically, learning my colors and feeling all the time a calling light dragging, pushing me ahead. After the first two years I felt liberated from realism and confident to try an imaginary, more abstracted expression. What fascinated me most in the process of painting was the discovery of the creative process, which I heard about, but never felt it myself. I was fascinated to observe how it works. At first, I could not believe the magic, how you get inside the process and the intuition takes the driver seat and you just follow it, and if you are lucky, everything falls in place. It was a magical discovery I could not believe. It was worth working days, for reaching this state of exploding creativity. You cannot jump directly into it, you need to work, to struggle and only then the magic comes. At least that was my case.
I do not think that every artist goes through all this. I read about other ways of painting. Some painters relay on nature, on photos, on sketches, on carefully studied composition, on memory or all the above. It all depends on an artist’s gifts and personality buildup. Some, with very strong imagination, can start at one corner and finish at the opposite one, copying from their mind the whole image. Others need to keep creativity stimulated and alive, by working in steps, revising, and improving all the time, in a permanent dialog between painting, mind and intuition. Both artists can reach their goals and get artistic satisfaction, but the amount of work is different. The more talent you have, you go deeper, connect easier to the magic phase. It takes talent to start working, and it takes a lot of sweat and blood to make the best of your talent.
The amount of imagination an artist has counts. It is not my strong point, I cannot imagine my finished painting and work for its completion from my imagination. For the same reason sketches do not help. I feel the painting inside, I feel emotions, I feel colors in my mouth, but no clear image, just sensations. I work in steps, needing permanently to be stimulated by my own actions. The process starts slowly, unsure, an energetic approach helps, opening more doors to walk through. The beginning is hard, uncertain, no guarantee, frequently disappointing. As the buildup starts to envelop me and deeper I go, a new world, full of my truth opens to me. I connect to my intuition, forget about myself and enter a zone of no time, just profound freedom, and happiness to express myself. In this stage the work flows, I make the right decisions, one after another. I am chasing this phase, I do not own it, it owns me from time to time. The amount of time in it is fluid, you never know. It is MAGIC.
Abstract expression in art is very special. Few lay people take the time to understand it. To many it seems like nonsense and they just skip it, ignore it. It is mainly the problem of understanding it through learning, training and culture. Here is my story:
At the end of the 1950s on a short stop in Moscow, flying for my student vacation from Beijing – China back to Romania, I visited Pushkin Western Art Museum. In a big important room, behind a shady wall hidden from the main traffic, hang a huge, probably 8 feet tall, abstract painting by Kandinsky. I have never seen an abstract painting before, all I knew was that it belongs to a decadent artist, decadent style and it is not real, valuable Art (remember, Romania was a totalitarian country). My spontaneous reaction was unexpected. It moved me so much, the emotion was so strong that my eyes filled with tears. In the same room were several walls covered with Rembrandt masterpieces, recognized worldwide, and praised. I looked at them, intellectually admired the realism of depiction, the painting skill, but missing that deep emotion which brought me to tears in front of the Kandinsky painting.
What is the meaning of this memory which stays so vivid with me now, in my old age, almost sixty years later? What made my heart pound and filled my eyes with tears, so I could never forget this encounter? What was so powerful in the abstract painting that shocked me? It was the power of imagination? It was the puzzle of mysterious strong shapes and colors? To this day I do not see the details of the painting, just feel still fresh the powerful impact of unexpected emotions. Many years later, when I moved to the US, I read every single book about Kandinsky, trying to understand him and myself. Through this early episode I understood the power of abstract expression and it came naturally to me later to try to express myself as a painter in an abstracted way.