Artists Fill Blank Space with Stories and Emotions

(c) 2014 Amanda Balough

(c) 2014 Amanda Balough

Blank space, empty canvas, white nothingness – It can be so intimidating! On the other hand, it can be so exciting to consider how to bring new art to life, how to make something out of nothing.

(Side note: See the new-to- me, yet vintage 70’s, Grumbacher easel that now has a good home in my art studio, thanks to my wonderful brother. It has such a great feel to it, as only well loved, used items can. It has a slim profile that fits perfectly in my tiny creative space that doubles as artist studio and laundry landing pad. I love thinking about all the hours someone stood at this easel and I wonder what they created. That canvas looks great on it, but it can’t stay white for long.)

Choices of what to paint or draw next are endless:

  • What subject?

I don’t have a niche or a favorite subject for my artwork, so it can be overwhelming to plan the next piece. Perhaps that is why I enjoy answering Calls for Art so much, since it reduces the choices and reigns me in to at least a starting topic or theme.

  • Which medium?

I love creating with graphite pencils, charcoals, chalk pastels, colored pencils, and acrylic paints. I usually choose the medium based on the texture and boldness desired, weatherproofness, and sometimes based on the speed of coverage. I can cover a lot of background quickly with pastels, but then may lack some of the clarity and depth I can achieve with pencils. I have only recently started experimenting with combining multiple media, and although this is fun, it only adds more to my list of possible choice combinations.

  • Composition concerns – Wow factor equals a story, emotions

Sometimes a painting is turned into a masterpiece by creating a new composition, a creative point of view. Many artists have painted portraits, but only a few capture the light and soul of the subject. Many artists can reproduce scenery and landscapes, but only a few tell a story and draw you in. Sometimes a still life is simply a bowl of fruit. Sometimes the fruit looks so juicy you feel you can reach in and grab a piece.  Sometimes that fruit has a riveting story to tell. Sometimes that apple is the last one of the season and the entire art piece has an edgy, fearful feeling of not wanting something good to disappear too quickly, but also knowing you can’t hold onto it forever.

  • Which customer to please?

I struggle to complete artwork that is only for myself, customer orders always takes priority. So I’m thinking it may be easier now to create artwork with certain customers, or types of customers fitting certain demographics, in mind. Even if not commissioned, it may provide more motivation to think of who may enjoy it when completed, and then possibly who may buy it. Collectors tend to want similarly themed items; similar colors, styles, or subjects. Creating series of artwork with this in mind may help guide the next drawing and reduce the artist’s time staring at a blank canvas. Picturing the artwork on someone else’s wall may help generate that background story.

  • Time Investment

I have so many ideas in my head waiting to come to life some day. Some of them are waiting until I know I have the time to devote to them properly. Some techniques take much longer than others, like the slow layering of colored pencil. Some stories are better told with less complexity. Some of the most amazing art I’ve ever encountered is just a few simple, well-placed lines or colors. So spending more time on a time-consuming technique may or may not be a good investment.


I have not yet decided what is going to fill that blank space. My easel will patiently hold my canvas until I make a decision and begin telling a story with my brush. I just need to listen quietly and let it tell me the next story that wants to be told.



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