Karen LeGault ~Fine Art Blog

January 22, 2015

Engineering in Art ~ The Creative Process in the Evolution of a Painting

Filed under: Artists,Floral/Botanical — by Karen LeGault @ 02:44
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by Karen LeGault

All writing and paintings in this article copyright by Karen LeGault. If you share please give credit to Karen LeGault and post a link to my website – http://www.karenlegault.com.

Engineering in Art 

“One of the things that really struck me when talking with you is that you use a predictable and disciplined approach to your creative work – it’s not a random walk in the dark that I think many non-creative types think creativity is about.  Rather you have the structure built into your process to allow the creative juices to flow and the art to take form through “design” and iteration.  That’s the core of any successful innovation, in my mind anyway.” Kevin McGourty http://www.inpdcenter.com

How my Persimmon Paintings Have Evolved

Recently I was speaking with my friend Kevin McGourty, who helps engineers and manufacturers figure out how to reformat existing tools to create new products. As a visitor to my studio he was particularly interested in the creative process of how paintings evolve.

He said that one of the issues he often faces with engineering types was they wanted their answers in a straightforward manner. One of his challenges was to get engineers to let go of the need for a direct answer and to “play around” with some ideas and options to see where they lead.

One of the many subjects my students have painted as a class project over the years has become a Persimmon Painting. It didn’t start out as a persimmon painting. It started out as a Loquat Painting.

In teaching Chinese Brush Painting we learn by copying the excellent compositions and brushstrokes of paintings of Master Painters who we admire.

One of the many Masters who we have emulated is Chao Shao An, who excels at the Lingnan School style of painting. The Lingnan School is a “Southern” style exemplified by an environment that is warmer, hence softer, intimate and even somewhat tropical. By contrast, to give you an idea, the “Northern” style often shows imposing and cold looking mountains, sharp and angular composition and brushstrokes as opposed to flowing and rounded.

Chao Shao An is widely collected and shown by the Asian Art Museum in SF. His brush strokes are wonderful and the control of dark and light ink very compelling.

Here is a picture of  Loquat Painting by Chao Shao An that I have long enjoyed.


Loquat Painting by Chao Shao An

After a few years of painting (every so often) paintings inspired by this painting as a “jump-off” point, I began to think to myself that since I rarely, if ever, have seen a Loquat Tree that I would turn the painting subject, in a similar composition, into a Persimmon Painting. I do adore Persimmons and I had painted them from life into many of my still lifes.


Persimmon in a Silver Dish, still life on hot press paper circa 1996

View from my bedroom window

Inspiration when I wake up…A view of a persimmon tree from my bedroom window.

 People forget that when you paint on rice (actually a mulberry source) paper, there is no going back and redoing your composition. The strokes need to be in the right place, or you need to be able to follow up on seeming poorly placed strokes to recover the balance and movement that you are aiming for.

So it started to look like these, from imagination using a series of various brushstrokes.



or like these – from life examples I placed on my work table to work fromPersimmons


Sometimes I revisit the original composition and opt for minimal brush strokes.


After that the painting began to look more like these

Persimmon Branch - Version 2


… and I started going back and forth between a direct brushy style and a more built up and layered style.


I enjoy both styles, but as an artist ultimately want to move towards an expression that is uniquely my own.


40″ wide

Currently this is the evolutionary development.

This long horizontal was a radical departure from the earlier compositions. There are many small branches rather than one main branch. Maintaining the interest while “spreading out” the subject matter was a challenge. If poorly planned, the shapes could be repetitious and uninteresting. I want a flow across the paper, the “breath of the dragon” to still be in play.

Partly from life and partly from imagination, I created a sense of overlapping leaves to lead the eye back and forth into the depth of the painting to stay engaged.

Currently I was  inspired by a new client to create a painting based on it that would be taller. This was even more of a challenge,  creating a sense of movement across a frontal space with fairly repetitive forms. I had to keep the forms balanced in the lights and darks and wanted to keep the rich fall colors. One of the challenges is to avoid parallel lines. Basicly this is a composition of lines balanced with oval shapes. The space between the branches is really critical to a dynamic composition. The placement and turnings of the leaves and fruit shapes has to keep the eye in motion and in the picture. It would be a simple matter to let it “die on the vine”, so to speak.

Here is the painting in progress. It is currently being created. Several studies preceded its inception.

Cameron commission persimmon painting in progress

In Progress – Cameron commission persimmon painting


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