I pick up my brush, gaze ahead, and paint.
I don't analyze my actions, although I do analyse what I am seeing. I break it down in my mind, shape, line, colour. If necessary I make a sketch, like making a map when giving directions. Usually I sketch, then paint directly on the sketch. The first sketch you make has all the energy in it. When you make a second sketch, you edit and lose the original impulse.
Once the bones of my painting are in place, in the sketch, I add flesh to them with colour and form.
In this part of my work, there is no secondary thought, all is instinct. I work quickly, my paint brush writing a kind of watercolour shorthand. I have no time for clever tricks and techniques. In fact, I hardly even consider technique at all.
I separate my conscious mind from the task at hand. I become all gaze and paint. I grab colour with my brush and apply it where it needs to go.
When I am painting in a restaurant or coffee shop, as I frequently do, I completely ignore the stares of other people. I focus on a few key people for my drawing, they are the anchors of the sketch. I don't worry about pinning down exact details, that's for a completely different type of painting. I focus on what defines the scene: a colour, a quality of the light, how people interact with each other.
This comes from long practice. It is good to have a small sketchbook and tools with you at all times. Even if you don't use them, they are there, ready for you. And make a habit of sketching, even for a few minutes every day, it is essential for your growth as an artist.
You never arrive at a place in your life when you know everything. There is always something to be learned.
If you feel like your work has reached a place where nothing new is happening, then try a new palette, a new medium, some new tools. The other day I purchased some new watercolours from Daniel Smith. They are truly new colours, recently developed, unknown to me. How will they live with my otherwise traditional palette? How will they handle?
It's time for some more colour grids, I think!
I've watched videos of myself at work. I am as fascinated as my students: I don't know how it works. I am surprised by my choices. I would never have consciously chosen my course of action.
I am in the Zone when I paint, and anything I do comes from a place deep inside me, a place with no thoughts or analysis.
Yet, somehow I know when I am finished. The same Mystery that informs my desires informs my painting.