Creativity Inspiration

Is Source Material Getting in the Way of Your Creativity?

Is Source Material Getting in the Way of Your Creativity?



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Stanka Kordic shares how to take risks and push the power of personal interpretation.

As an extension to his feature profile on Stanka Kordic written for the June issue of Artists Magazine, John A. Parks shares Kordic’s powerful methods for freeing herself from source imagery to create fiercely original portraits.

Interpreting Reality

Stanka Kordic is known for using her subject matter as merely a starting point. Therefore, while her paintings center on the figure, she wraps it in a type of energetic paint handling we usually associate with abstract painting.

Kordic’s development as a painter gradually took her from realism to her current interpretive approach. She now teaches courses to help artists avoid slavishly copying source material references. Here is her best advice to artists who want to make work uniquely their own.

The Power of the Photograph

According to Kordic, a photograph can exert an overly strong pull for artists who often find themselves simply working towards it. “That whole attachment to a photograph or even a live model can get in the way of your natural expression. You can be too clued in to your reference,” she says. There’s an added irony that cell phone photos, often favored by students, are distorted and generally have poor color. As a result they don’t even give you an accurate look at the subject.

The Copy Trap

To get people out of the copying trap Kordic finds the best method is encouraging them to use new and often non-traditional tools to apply paint. “When they use a different tool then they have to change up,” she says. “They are forced to move away from the source material.”

Much of Kordic’s teaching involves demonstrating the range of techniques she employs in her own work. This includes scraping, pouring, sanding, glazing, and using a squeegee. “When I’m doing a demo, working from the model, the students can see that at some point in the process I’m not looking at my reference at all,” she says. “Really what I’m doing is stressing that you are making a painting. I encourage them to flip the canvas and to take a lot of breaks. If they are sitting there glued to their easel they are not thinking about the whole picture.”

Process in Perspective

Reference, of course, is very necessary for representational painting. Consequently Kordic stresses good practices in gathering source material, such as taking multiple photographs, and exploring a variety of angles, lighting and setting for a subject. But having secured the reference, she is adamant that it is most constructive to be selective in its use.

It is important to understand that it is only one part of the process of making a successful work of art.


About the Artist

Stanka Kordic grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and attended the Cleveland Institute of Art, graduating in 1985 with a major in illustration and a minor in painting. After working as an illustrator for years, she left the commercial world in 1988 to establish a painting studio. Since 2009 she has concentrated on personal figure work. Her awards include the Gold Medal of Honor in Painting from Allied Artists of America and two Certificates of Excellence from the Portrait Society of America International Competition. Her work has been exhibited nationally, including the National Arts Club and the Salmagundi Club, in New York City; and the Butler Institute of American Art, in Youngstown, Ohio. The artist makes her home in Bedford, Ohio.

John A. Parks is a painter, a writer and a member of the faculty of the School of Visual Arts, in New York. Learn more about Kordic and her inspiring work in his feature profile in the June 2020 issue of Artists Magazine.


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