Good painting is like good cooking

Why is it that I keep coming back to the connection between the creative process and cooking? Joseph Boyce said that "Everybody is an artist," and I truly believe that. But what about knowledge and mastery of rudimentary skills? Where does creativity come in? And where is the art in the kitchen? 

I came across this quote the other day and it rung true for me. “Good painting, good colouring, is comparable to good cooking.” (Albers, 1963, p 42)  

Anyone can throw together ready made store bought food, but in order to be a good cook you need to know the basics in the kitchen, have an understanding of the tools, the ingredients, and have studied the chemistry of what goes well together. 

It's important to know how to go by the rules, how to follow a recipe, but once you have a mastery of the basic skills and over time have used them enough, you're able then to explore and experiment. 
When I was an adolescent I would try to cook and throw all these different spices in, "Let's try this one, and this one..." I thought it would be good if I put all the ingredients in, but it was only a gross mess. 

Later, when I learned some cooking from an Italian grandmother, it was all about perfection and how to 'fare una bella figura', make a good impression with how perfect you could shape your gnocchi or roll your pasta. This may have been the beginning of my adult culinary journey. Living on my own, and then with my husband and children, cooking became such a regular event that it was natural to try to make it interesting by learning more about it, expanding my repertoire and experimenting. With cooking you have no choice, you need to eat so why not be creative about it and learn along the way?

Similarly, ones unique painterly language comes from an individuals extended knowledge of understanding the tools and materials, of learning the fundamentals of drawing/colour/form/texture as well as experimentation, studying artists and being immersed in the process. This last element is key as the more one is immersed in the activity of painting the more one learns through doing. One of my undergraduate tutors at Bennington mentioned that it's important to be in your studio daily, even if it's only to sit and read or sketch or apply gesso, this penetration into ones creative space allows room for creativity to germinate and grow.

So what do cooking and painting have in common? They are grounded in the foundation of chemistry and recipes, but they both grow over time as you learn new techniques, about new ingredients, and explore through creative experiments with exotic flavours and textures and colour.

Albers, J., 1963. Interaction of Color. Yale University Press, New Haven. 208 pages.


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