Improvisation: The Pictionary Method

I’ve been procrastinating. Trying to paint on the canvas stretchers I built is making me feel pressure that the work has to be good enough to hang in a gallery and/or sell. If what I paint isn’t good enough for that then I either have to scrape it off and start again, or keep it and build more stretchers. If I keep too many here then I’ll run out of space, so I can’t let them pile up like I have the works on paper and unstretched canvas.

The trouble is, I’m still experimenting and learning. I don’t yet have (or want) a formula for making “good” paintings, nor a criteria for discarding “bad” paintings.

Another problem with pressure is that it can lead to choosing subject matter based on what you already know you can paint. For example, a painter who is confident painting metallic surfaces might choose to paint an image of a car, to best show off his or her technical ability. The painting isn’t really about the car, it’s only about the painting. That’s fine, but I don’t want to paint that way.

I want total freedom in choosing subject matter. I’d rather make a clumsy painting of a subject that I’m interested in, than a well executed painting of a subject chosen for the purpose of making a well executed painting (whatever that is). I don’t want to take too long over each painting either, because there will be other things I want to paint. I also don’t want to work from photographs because there are way too many painters already doing that, and I find the copying process very boring.

Basically I want to “doodle” anything straight out of my head, using oil-on-canvas instead of ball-point pen on a notepad.

In an effort to get into the habit of paint-doodling, I thought of the game Pictionary. In that game, content is prioritised 100% over style, and there are no images or models to work from so it all has to come from your own mind. I decided to try painting that way, just thinking of a random idea and attempting to paint it.

The first idea was, “A car with its head lights on, sinking into a lagoon, at night”.


160808b Car Sinking into Lagoon, Night (2016) oil on canvas 28 x 27cm

The second idea was, “An octopus smoking a cigarette”.


160808c Octopus Smoking Cigarette (2016) oil on canvas 30 x 26cm

I think this one has echoes of Dana Schutz. That makes me like it, but also makes me wary not to become too derivative of her paintings in future. This is the second time I’ve seen her influence showing up in my work.


Dana Schutz Swimming, Smoking, Crying (2009) oil on canvas 114.3 x 121.9cm

On a different topic: Here are two photos of the octopus painting, showing how difficult it can be to take an accurate photo of a painting.


5 thoughts on “Improvisation: The Pictionary Method

  1. Pingback: Imagination and memory | dailydaub

  2. your’e a fucken marvel. Let’s play Pictionary soon. You will never lose spontaneity the way you are writing Liam. And fuck copying. Never mind if someone’s influence recognisably emerges. Acknowledge that, but never despair of it. It’s what was in you, even spontaneously. Your craftsmanship is evident.

    I have to shut up because I am sounding condescending to myself about you. That is deathly. Your candour invites in me a response. But sometimes it’s better to be silent and to just nod you head. (see me nodding). Yet your introspection is so warming, yet again. Never underestimate the value to others of your giving of yourself in words. As usual, in this one you have managed both to tell an interesting story about yourself and at the same time to wonder aloud about aspects of your practise

    Don’t throw them away. Don’t judge them now. roll them up and throw them on top of a cupboard or under the stairs. They don’t have to stay stretched.

    Liam, thanks for this one. Put them all in a gallery somewhere on line. You might already be doing this.

    c ya



    • Hi Phil, thanks again for your comments, I really appreciate them. Don’t worry, I hoard my own work, so very little gets thrown away, and “under the stairs” is absolutely jam packed, and under my bed, and in the loft, etc etc.
      I’m going to create some kind of gallery to put them all in soon. That’s on my to-do list. Thanks for reminding me. 🙂


  3. Pingback: Colour and transparency | dailydaub

  4. Pingback: Different strokes (Schutz, Linhares) | dailydaub

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