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The "Adjacent Possible" and How this Concept Changed my Art

30" x 40" Admiring Addy

The day I realized that the best paintings I created were from paintings that were already started, ones with a lot of texture and multiple marks was the day I realized the power of inspired creating or perhaps a better word is the concept of the “Adjacent Possible.” I first learned this concept from Dr. Nancy Hillis, an artist, author, and Stanford trained psychiatrist.

By understanding this concept, it allowed me the repeatable process of creating my abstracts with principles that allow me to created artwork that I actually loved and pieces that got noticed by collectors.

I wanted to share this with you realization with you to better understand me as an artist.

I love starting a new abstract on a blank canvas but have found that is only the start of my journey on my painting and my best paintings are created on canvases already activated with some paint, marks, lines, splatter, etc. This under painting (that first layer) is only the beginning of the magic that happens on the canvas. As each layer of paint, each mark, each scrape is added, these all are the catalyst that informs and entices my next mark which turns in my next layer.

When the eye visualizes what is on the canvas, it is like the mind reacts to the marks, the colors, the texture and even the smallest drip of paint and the mind (from what I feel it the inner soul reacting to what is loves) starts to create the next mark, the next movement.

For me the artist, it is from known favorite marks, such as the spiral, drips, loose marks from a long plein air brush with my non dominate hand to create loose non defined lines or circles. At one point, my fingers want to dip into the paint and paint on the canvas with thicker marks. I love tools to scrape into the paint to reveal a layer beneath, which can never have happened on a blank canvas.

I found that was the same with working with others on commissions, and I allow this to happen as the client becomes a part of the process and not a kink in the process. For the person I have been commissioned by, they start to react and feel emotions from within as they look at the partially finished painting. Their own inner joy is sparked and many times they do not know why, but they just know they are feeling something. This is the time I ask triggering questions like do you like landscapes, wildflowers, lines, circles, straight edges, etc. From their known feelings, they start to tell me what they might what to see based on what they already see and from their inner joy. But these feeling could never have been evoked had the layer prior not triggered a response.

I also know that by my showing the layers I have completed and giving triggered prompts, I am limiting their response, and through this process I take them through an opening of their mind to explore more of what they like by limiting their possibilities to encourage true inner loves.

For me, the artist, it is like there are doors that cannot be unlocked yet until the layer created in front of me triggers the emotion of possibility. I now know that my best paintings are created by layers and layers of paint, that are intermixed with scrapes, loose marks and then some of those pushed back, more layers on top and after many layers, the painting takes form into an artwork I love.

If you look at my paintings, you will see the layers of paint, marks, and scraps that tell a story. Some from inspiration, some from marks I love and some new ones from accident, which I love.

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Bree Gordon
Bree Gordon
Jun 05, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Hello Cheryl! I started my very first canvas abstract! What I love the most, as layer one and two have emerged, is the sense of "the unknown". Turning the canvas in circles, I wait for it to speak to me. I am thankful for having to let paints of various colors dry, preventing me from turning the canvas into mud. I have also learned to date..that painting loose is far harder than one might imagine. Anyway, I hope you are having a lovely day. Bree

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