Master-apprentice dynamics

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Dear Artist,

Back in the good old days, a select few youth were chosen to work in the studios of active and proven masters. After a few years of grinding pigments and other grunt work, they may or may not have had the opportunity to get their hands on a brush. In today’s world of instant gratification, most beginners prefer to cut to the chase without bothering with a proven master. While good quality workshops provide shortcuts for sure (see our Workshop Calendar) there are still many untutored and unguided, who wander daily into their studios to struggle on their own. With the current abundance of wonderful books by masters, this has also become an acceptable and often effective route.

Japan is a country where traditional apprentice-master approaches affect many areas of creativity. Known as Meisho-Deshi (May-ee-shoh-deh-she), some remarkable systems continue to frame and advance the Japanese miracle. Traditionally, apprentices were taken on at about age ten, and were not allowed to touch a master’s tools for several years. Surprisingly, some were not even allowed to ask questions. Even more surprisingly, they were taught to disdain the information provided by books. The apprentice was to learn by seeing and absorbing. The ideal apprentice was all eyes — and mute.

If a master was very old when he passed on, the apprentice might be quite elderly, and quite quiet, before stepping into his sandals.

Further, as well as “kata” — or “way of doing things,” learning to be a master involved philosophical and ethical obligations. Part of mastery lay in the need to develop an understanding of and sympathy for human nature. Further, with increased skills, prowess and consequent fame, obligations came automatically. A true master needed to live frugally and yet be generous with his earnings. Among the most ascetic masters, it was not good to keep a day’s earnings through the following night.

We recognize that things have sped up since Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) made woodblock prints of all those spots along the Tokaido Road. (These days the Shinkansen (bullet train) goes the length of it in about two hours.) But in our game, there is still a place for working, sharing, showing, and the good old business of demonstrating. Hiroshige, whose many apprentices developed in brilliant directions, would just be dazzled at the speed.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “The Japanese system was geared to produce experts, not just men with enough training and experience to do adequate work. As a result, the quality standards for workmanship in all fields of labour were those requiring the ability and dedication of a master.” (Boye Lafayette De Mente, from “Elements of Japanese Design”)

Esoterica: It always surprises me when beginning artists do not make a rugged effort to search out their masters. Fear of “bothering” and shaky feelings of intimidation may be a couple of the reasons. Most masters I’ve known have been more than generous with their time and encouragement. Daily, I thank them for being there. I have, however, never known one who didn’t try to keep his earnings through the following night.



Finding the wisdom of others
by Brenda Behr, Goldsboro, NC, USA


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“Final bow”
watercolour painting
by Brenda Behr

I’m beginning to believe that sharing knowledge is an even greater gift than sharing art. It is truly a sign of abundance. My Ikebana (flower arranging) teacher, Sensai Wasui Kazuko, taught me many things. She taught me to appreciate the budding promise of a young flower as well as the spent beauty of a dying flower. After ten years of lessons with her, we developed a meaningful friendship. Through her, I earned my Ikebana certificates from the Sogetsu School in Tokyo. However, I am not permitted by this school to teach Ikebana. That would require a teacher’s certificate earned only by a one-year apprenticeship to my sensai. I still contemplate this apprenticeship. But alas! Painting is my calling, not Ikebana, and so I’ve chosen instead to go the route of a painter. More than flower arranging or any other art form that we might learn from the East, I wish we Westerners could get off our “Youth is God” high horse and begin giving more respect to the teaching profession as well as to the wisdom of those who have walked before us.

I currently have a portrait mentor (John de la Vega), as well as another whose workshops I have/will attend (Carol Marine). Neither of these artists is beyond taking workshops themselves. This I say in admiration.

There is 1 comment for Finding the wisdom of others by Brenda Behr

From: Dottie Dracos — Jul 21, 2010

I love your painting – and its title.





Productivity of the factory artists
by Norman Ridenour, Prague, Czech Republic


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“Healer/comforter”
wood sculpture by Norman Ridenour

The master-apprentice system was normal in Europe until the late 17th century for all trades; carpenters, masons, weavers, etc. Until about a century before, artists were as nameless as tailors and dyers. Who did the sculpture for Chartres Cathedral? All trades worked under the Guild system, master / journeyman / apprentice and artists were just another trade. Even the top artists did not escape, Michelangelo paid regular dues to his guild. In fact, successful artists like Rembrandt, had to be entrepreneurs and run a small factory. Warhol was only a reversion. So much of the grunt work required for painting in those days needed many hands; grinding paint, making stretchers, priming canvas, painting backgrounds, applying varnish. In fact it has been averred that Rubens himself only did faces. Any painter who looks at even a medium sized Renaissance or Baroque painting should be mentally counting man-hours. There is a good reason that Vermeer, who worked alone, was not very productive.

There is 1 comment for Productivity of the factory artists by Norman Ridenour

From: anonymous — Jul 21, 2010

This is an excellent point. Whenever I see artist’s potfolio containing tens and hundreds of ellaborately rendered paintings, and the artist claims to have produced the in an unrealisticly short time span, I start wondering how that was accomplished.





Mentor experience shaped his life
by Jeffrey Hessing, Nice, France


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“Omega”
original painting
by Jeffrey Hessing

When I finished undergraduate school my drawing teacher, who already was a kind of mentor, suggested we seek out our favorite living artist and study with him. My first letter to Leonard Baskin remained unanswered. My second letter to him was more strident, a bit over the top actually. I was accepted to several graduate schools with good reputations but went to study privately with Baskin instead. At our first meeting he told me I couldn’t draw at all. He gave me a murex venus sea shell with hundreds of spines and told me to draw it. I did it many times over in different sizes and then in bas relief. Baskin was a brilliant man, very successful and an avid collector. His house was full of antiques, prints, drawings, paintings, sculptures, roman glass, porcelain, coins, Oriental rugs. Being from a lower middle class family in Brooklyn I had never seen an antique. It was like living in a museum and opened my eyes to many things I would have missed if I hadn’t seen them day in and out. His fame brought many demands and pressures. There was a carton of mail to go through every day and the phone rang non-stop. I learned a lot about the life of an artist and its pitfalls. I saw him make pieces which later I saw in museums. My time in his house is a far cry from years of silence next to a Japanese master. Still it was an invaluable experience which shaped the rest of my life. I never regretted not going to graduate school.

There are 2 comments for Mentor experience shaped his life by Jeffrey Hessing

From: Mary Bullock — Jul 20, 2010

Beautiful painting, Jeffrey! I,too, would say you made the best choice not going to graduate school.

From: Jan Ross — Jul 20, 2010

Jeff,your painting is full of energy and a fun one to look at! I think your education with Baskin provided more valuable information than any classroom setting could. Congratulations on making the great choice!





Apprenticeship leads to friendship
by Bill Skuce, Sooke, BC, Canada


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“Layli”
original painting by Bill Skuce

In the early 1980’s Mario had just graduated from the University of Costa Rica with a degree in Chemistry. He met the Nicaraguan painter, Alberto Ycaza at a San Jose opening of the latter’s paintings. “Will you teach me to paint like that?” Alberto took him on…the condition: that Mario would agree to a classical master-student apprenticeship. Just one year later Mario’s very first painting was accepted into the Monte Carlo Biennale. (His master won best in show that year.) I had the good fortune to visit these two artists a number of times in the San Jose studio they continued to share long after Mario’s artistic maturing.





End of a painful relationship
by Ansgard Thomson, Edmonton, AB, Canada


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“Autumn”
print on canvas
by Ansgard Thomson

Taking classes from masters is certainly a very good way to learn. It is helpful to take workshops with different artists. My uncle who had inspired me as a very young child had such a relationship with his master in Germany. He used to paint many works but as long he worked in the masters’ studio, the master signed all of his paintings and also sold them as his own. My uncle managed to liberate himself by painting very different works in his own studio and ended that painful relationship. The master was very vindictive when he quit painting his canvasses and politically turned against his students’ art as “entarted” and anti Nazi.

There is 1 comment for End of a painful relationship by Ansgard Thomson

From: Anonymous — Jul 19, 2010

Ansgard, this is my favorite of the works I have seen of yours. Is this a new approach? I really like the visceral-ness of it. Susan Holland :)





Male in ‘state of incompleteness’
by Pepper Hume, Spring, TX, USA


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“Mistress”
mixed media by Pepper Hume

I thought you’d be amused to know that I am going to use Mikansei as the name of my incomplete male figure floating in windy cloud. He is the First Lord of Chaos and “state of incompleteness” suits him perfectly. The Second Lord of Chaos will involve light. I intend to resist the temptation to search for a Japanese term for that. They should all come from different cultural sources. There must be something Inuit or Nordic for the unending light of polar midsummer….







There is 1 comment for Male in ‘state of incompleteness’ by Pepper Hume

From: Jan Ross — Jul 20, 2010

Beautiful work, Pepper!





Heel of the Master
by Keith Cameron, Sierra Madre, CA, USA


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Untitled
watercolour by Keith Cameron

Art has become the one area of thought that can still escape fascism. Boundaries assigned by Academia become more about human politic, and less about experiencing the boundless joy of creation. Whether to learn at the heel of a Master, or to boldly move forth beyond convention it is a choice made by a human being. One can endure, or enjoy the outcomes by choice. There are enough wars against choice and freedom. It shouldn’t take place in the realm of Art. Please again withold your editorial urges. My writing holds up my opinion very well without the need for Masterly intervention.







Masters teach without teaching
by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA


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“White beard”
original painting
by Rick Rotante

The word “master” leaves a bad taste in the mouth here in the states and is used indiscriminately on anyone who paints well. Or sells. It’s so… esoteric, uppity sounding though having a person with the ability and knowledge to teach you to paint is worth all the tea in China. I was lucky enough to have such a teacher but if I were to call him “master,” he probably would hit me with a stick. There are so many excellent Asian painters here in America now. We Americans here are on the fast track and many don’t see the benefit of taking time to learn to draw. Everything is fast, fast, fast. Got to have it now. Well after 30 years, I’ve reached a stage where I can look back and see that even with a “master” teacher it took years to be able to paint anything with the facility I now possess. And still it’s tough to make it as a painter. I’m not sure how you measure when one becomes a master. It takes more than being a good painter. It takes a lifetime of living, experience, dedication and devotion to the practice of art. The Japanese have tradition, we don’t. American artists have to get the teaching where they can and more than not, they stumble in the dark on their own. If you can find someone who can show you the way and let you become who you are. Cling to him/her and soak up everything they do or say. Most times they teach without teaching. Show you without showing you. Maybe that’s why they are called “masters.”

There are 3 comments for Masters teach without teaching by Rick Rotante

From: Susan Burns — Jul 20, 2010

Well said. A true master would recognize that we are all masters of something, and we have only to discover what we are masters of.

From: Sandy Donn — Jul 20, 2010

Amen.

From: artandink — Jul 20, 2010

So says the Skin Horse to the Velveteen Rabbit….. “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.” (I supposed this happens to “masters” also, wouldn’t you think ……)





Connecting with a Chinese master
by Lisa Chakrabarti, Los Angeles, CA, USA


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Untitled
sumi-e painting
by Lisa Chakrabarti

Fifteen years ago, in the course of developing my career as a fine artist, I decided to investigate the world of oriental brush painting. I became smitten with the medium, following an assortment of “how-to” manuals and Asian art history books. An eager self-starter, I practiced strokes and techniques. But since brush painting has its roots in Chinese/Japanese calligraphy, I eventually realized I could not get much further without guidance from a master.

There was a budding Chinese art supply shop and painting studio not too far from my own studio that had recently formed as the “Liaison of Chinese and American Brush Painters.” The calligraphy master, Lao Zhu, spoke very little English. Fortunately, the studio’s director was fluent in English and was able to translate when necessary. The process was to watch, practice, and partake of copious amounts of Dragonwell tea over a 3-hour lesson which segued into a shared meal of Chinese take-out. I studied with Lao Zhu for about 5 years, usually alone, but occasionally joined by his two other calligraphy students: an aerospace engineer near retirement and a young professional photographer. It was a wonderful time; Lao Zhu’s own career was starting to gel and he frequently traveled back to China for solo shows, returning with fabulous brushes, xuan paper, Chinese kangxie dictionaries and other treasures for us.

There is 1 comment for Connecting with a Chinese master by Lisa Chakrabarti

From: Jackie Knott — Jul 26, 2010

I’m always impressed at the committment it takes to learn a whole new art form, the time, the devotion. Humbling. Lovely painting.





Difficulties with commitment
by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, Port Moody, BC, Canada


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“Anticipation”
watercolour painting
by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

Regarding the teacher / apprentice relationship, the biggest difference I see nowadays is that we are unable to establish the same commitment between two people that existed in the old days. For example, if I would be your apprentice, what would have to happen to commit to that relationship in the old style? Both of us would have to make major changes in our lives. As you say, your day’s earning and mine, have too many complicated implications that require our attention. Even if the prospective apprentice is a child or very young – today’s kids already have a crazy full schedule with addition of many gadgets that they won’t give up in order to commit to just one goal.

I think that it is up to us to reinvent the apprenticeship of today. I am sure that your readers will have many ideas and suggestions and I doubt that many will see the old style relationship and level of commitment as possible, although it is a wonderful, romantic thing to dream about. I would chop your wood and cook your meal and grind your pigment and one day you would allow me to touch your brush…doesn’t even putting this in words sound bizarre to you?

Regarding students asking questions — I love the idea of not allowing the apprentice to ask questions. Having to figure things out develops person’s character and intelligence. I believe that one can never pay for someone’s time or teaching. You can give money, but how do you price the time of one’s life, and the energy out of one’s body — I think those are priceless, and only children can feel entitled to receive those from parents. That’s why I hesitate to ask questions. I don’t feel entitled to take control over such precious resources until I am certain that it is necessary.

I remember a new employee (Japanese) who stood in his cubicle not to fall asleep as he was reading self-training materials. Most trainees go bug someone, or as they say “pick someone’s brain” when they feel “lonely.” I think that Japanese have the right idea in this case. Yes, you are right that most teachers are generous with their time, but I don’t take that as a license to waste it before having thoroughly digested their teaching.

On the other side, nothing worse than when someone bombards me with questions without a pause to hear the answers. Sometimes people build their own agenda into a construction of questions and it really doesn’t matter what you answer — I hate it when I fall into that trap. A pure, extremely annoying, time waster.



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You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Mohamed Razif of Malaysia, who wrote, “I do agree with the old masters way of teaching. There are reasons for them to do so. They have gone through trials and errors and they definitely know what is to be done. Their most precious thing is their experience. To me, no matter what sort of artist we intend to be, the basics are the first step.”

And also Sudhakar Karayi of Mississauga, ON, Canada, who wrote, “I read all your letters. I use all my time learning art. I sell my work locally and use the money to travel and enjoy. These letters add to my improvement.”



Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Master-apprentice dynamics

   
From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Jul 16, 2010

Gotta tell you Robert- when I was starting out as a child- with virtually no familial support- the library was my best friend and an escape from the (religious/sexist) cultural rot of tradition I found myself in because I was already an artist. I read large books about Alexander Calder- who I was fascinated with- as well as many how-to books by other folks. But by the time I immersed myself in my work- at 26- I was so far ahead of any of my fiber/artquilt contemporaries (because there really weren’t any yet) that there was no longer a master relevant. I would continue to purchase a few more books- but even they became irrelevant. While the Japanese system may have merit- I thank God every day I’m not stuck in it. What a drag. I’ve said this before. If you want to produce original work- one day you have to step beyond any and all masters outside yourself and just do the work. It is the doing that makes you a master.

From: Charles Chapman — Jul 16, 2010

with the advent of utube and dvds instruction on almost every aspect of work can be found. Creativity can come before that, during and after one has developed the skills. Sometimes there is worth while work at all levels but the creativity plus the skills usually hits a higher mark for the artist.

From: Peter Brown — Jul 16, 2010

Your reflections on the apprentice-ship system in Old Japan sounds like an homage to the days of child-labor. In most countries, this sort of nonsense has been outlawed, as it should be. What is this Japanese Miracle, you proclaim? Did you meet a Paul Klee? Did you meet a Peter Breugel? A Bosch? Did you meet the new Andy Warhol? If you did, you are not sharing them with us. The master/apprentice paradigm is way old and very tired. The new paradigm is when your three year-old grandson shoots you down with a hose, and thinking this is so funny he laughs so hard he wets his pants. These days we grind our pigments with machines. There were no good old days. The old days were not really very good. There is only tomorrow. That is where I live, and that is where my tricky grandson lives. He will water you down, if he gets the chance. And, yes! I am talking about art. Art is what human beings do. It is as simple as a good meal, it is a piece of art, it is a little kid with a hose. Your letter was titled, “Master-apprentice dynamics.” Just name one apprentice who has gone on to do anything besides make a good piece of sushi. Art is not that simple.

From: Jean McLaren — Jul 16, 2010

It is interesting to note that none of the long time apprentices were women. They were all staying at home looking after “their men” as many still are today.

From: LD — Jul 16, 2010

Ahh we digress… I think Robert is pointing out the old ways and suggesting that some aspects are still applicable; like seeking guidance along the way, even if we have the talent and will to work at our art, there is always something to learn from others… (Even if it is just “not” to do it the same way.) Think about it, don’t we all examine some kind of art everyday and relate it to our own? And something led us to our own style…it didn’t just fall out of the brush…we have been seekers as well as artists. Maybe we don’t follow a literal “master” but we are thirsting just like the young apprentices for what will make us a great artist!

From: Francine Fanali — Jul 16, 2010

Robert, I appreciate your sharing the “good old days” about apprenticeship. I for one would love to have had the opportunity to study under someone whose work I admire. I’m considered almost a senior citizen at this point in my life and am struggling with trying to paint, taking workshops when I can. I want to paint plein aire and I want to be good at it! I’ve often thought about going to school but there are artists out there who “poo poo” that idea and say “just paint.” It’s frustrating. I would love to study under a master painter and completely immerse myself in the making of art everyday soaking it all in. I didn’t have the chance when I was younger and I am freed up now that my children are grown. So I take workshops and classes and until I meet the artist that would want a “senior” apprentice, this is what I’ll be doing until I can no longer hold a brush!! Thanks for your newsletter. It’s much appreciated.

From: Melissa Evangeline Keyes — Jul 16, 2010

No questions! Heaven!

From: Thierry Talon — Jul 16, 2010

Says Jean: “It is interesting to note that none of the long-time apprentices were women. They were all staying at home looking after “their men” as many still are today.” Not interesting at all, Jean, no more so than that most nurses are women. We make our choices and then we live with them. Most grave-diggers are men, isn’t that ‘interesting’?

From: BJ Bjork — Jul 17, 2010

It’s so nice to have an artist friend who writes to me twice a week with always something important and thought provoking to say. I bought the BIG BOOK of your last ten years of letters. It is my constant companion.

From: Jim Shires. — Jul 17, 2010

I just got home from Japan with my Japanese wife. We spent time with friends in Yokohama, and then spent several days with our friends at Aizu-Wakamatsu at a Hot Springs Resort Hotel in the north of Honshu. Very refreshing in the mountains. A week later we traveled up to Sapporo, in Hokkaido and spent a week with my wife’s family. I didn’t get much art done, but I did capture quite a bit on camera. We’ve been going back for 40 years now. and still love the tranquility that can be found in such a bustling environment

From: U Watanabe — Jul 17, 2010

The point is we can learn from others who have also learned from others. With our current love affair with individualism, and the belief that talent and success are somehow innate, it is no wonder that so many fail at art.

From: K. L. Julian — Jul 17, 2010

Add to the above a feeling of entitlement, and you have the widespread dissemination and even appreciation of mediocrity. Chicago

From: Anonymous — Jul 17, 2010

Mr Brown has obviously not been to Japan.

From: Bela Fidel — Jul 18, 2010

I’ve never been a proponent of coincidences and your last letters, from Japan, find me in a rut, stuck inside my now unmovable Zen Series. In this series I seek the simplicity, the serenity, the surprise detail often off the beaten track. Wabi Sabi and the incompleteness and transience of design and execution pose a challenge to my often overworked paintings (I don’t think most of them look overworked, though. If I’m right, I’m lucky). Your letters are perhaps the Universe’s sign of compassion for my enui, disconnection from my work. Incorporating these welcome elements into my paintings will require a meaningful pause and a great many changes in the way I feel, think and work. But perhaps this is what I have been waiting for, unknowingly?

From: Jackie Knott — Jul 18, 2010

Every artist should be magnanimous enough to share knowledge to a fledgling artist. What does it cost you? It may be pearls of wisdom that helps the amateur progress and is certainly appreciated. Individually, I cherish what I learned through our public library system before I was able to take art lessons as a child – our libraries are our great national treasures. I am profoundly thankful because libraries provided me with a foundation to get serious about my art. The old European atelier system is similar to what you describe but is also old world. Contemporary teaching is far different. These days even apprentices and/or students have to be concerned with making a living. The art doesn’t necessarily suffer but the whole dynamic is different. The only caution with “teaching” is prolific DVDs in this Internet age that do not necessarily lend themselves to solid art theory. Regardless, learn what you can, discard what is not helpful, and be the best artist you can be … and that may be an individual pursuit. TEACHING may simply be contribution to your art.

From: S. W. Shaw — Jul 18, 2010

Referring to Classical versus Pop or Jazz, Duke Ellington said “There are only two kinds of music. Good and bad.” Richard Strauss said something similar. You could say the same about art and not break it down into abstract and realistic, etc. etc. For art that takes skill, this generally means some sort of a teacher. The important thing is to choose your teacher well.

From: Joseph M. Hutchinson — Jul 19, 2010

Recall that Leonardo da Vinci once wrote in one of his notebooks: “If a student does not surpass his master, he fails him.” Santa Fe, NM

From: Thierry — Jul 19, 2010
From: Sandy Donn — Jul 20, 2010

Is it just me? I’m noticing a trend here at “Genn’s house.” The letters and comments all seem to be much more strident than in the past. “My way or the highway” opinions abound and I’m afraid most are missing the point of just reading and absorbing. . .finding a nugget to keep. Discard the rest, but don’t go crazy trying to build mountains when there’s no need! Living here in America, the same has happened with our politics. . .right, left, each leaving little room for discourse or civility. I look at the art world as calmer and more sensitive. . .but lately folks, I’m seeing much the same banter here. A phase perhaps? I say stop, look and listen. . .breathe deep. Feel good. Absorb. Appreciate. Paint.

From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Jul 20, 2010

I love reading the letters and the comments. Very thought provoking to us when as artists we are mostly alone in our studios. I agree with Thierry, that “more than anything it’s about hard work.” I also agree with others above that an artist needs to give of his knowledge to those coming behind him (her). And, I love the quote about Leonardo about failing his student if the student does not surpass the teacher. This is wonderful. I have many times told my students to not paint like me, but to learn to question and try anything they can think of. This is the true way to finding what they do best. I am only teaching them my way of thinking, not my way to produce art. And I have said many times, my way of thinking is not the only way. I have had many wonderful teachers — and many wonderful books that I have learned from. Still, there is much more to learn. I hope I never stop learning. I have called several of my teachers, “my mentor”. Sometimes they just smile at me when I say it. But, they know exactly what I mean. It might not be the apprenticeship of the past, but it is still a mentor / student relationship. Thank you Robert — and everyone else for your thoughts!

From: Darla — Jul 20, 2010

Jean wrote: “It is interesting to note that none of the long-time apprentices were women. They were all staying at home looking after “their men” as many still are today.” Thierry responded: Not interesting at all, Jean, no more so than that most nurses are women. We make our choices and then we live with them. I think her point was that women did not have the option to become apprentices. There was no choice about it. Now at least some women in some places have the opportunity to get the education they want. The old apprenticeship system would probably not work now, but mentor/internship is serving something of the same purpose. I would like to see ateliers become popular again, with so many people wanting to learn how to make art. Of course, as with any opportunity, the more you put in, the more you get out.

From: Pamela Simpson Lussier — Jul 20, 2010

We had an aprentice living with us of and on the last 2 years. He came for 3- 12 week sessions with breaks in between. At first it worked out well. He helped with chores and worked one on one with David. it is a difficult relationship to sustain. I think he became too comfortable after awhile and we didn’t see as much respectful attitude as we had earlier. He started not getting up early to do his own work.He would do the chores but he wasn’t as self motivated for his own work by the third session. Maybe he didn’t have the maturity for this arrangement. Having someone around all the time is also distracting for the “master”. This is quite a committment. Still I’m sure he did get something out of his time spent with us and we certainly benefitted from his help through the difficult time when I was very sick.

From: ziodonja — Jul 20, 2010

Love Island,they are so unique,

From: Jim — Jul 20, 2010

From one who wanted to do art all his life, but never had the encouragement or the fortitude to step out his article was very enlightening and encouraging. A year ago I finally started living my dream and creating art. My current problem is finding those mentors. There are many who teach workshops that range from 3-5 days, but I’ve not found any who want to work with someone on an ongoing basis; at least not in the Chicago area. I will be looking at the workshop schedule as I try to schedule at least 2 weeks vacation each year to take in workshops. What Jeffery Hessing did in his article above is what I would love to do, but alas a wife and responsibilities keep me from it. Would you suggest that if someone wants to be mentored be a particular artist that going to a couple of workshops on a yearly basis would work? I know this would be a little slower, but would give the opportunity for the critique that I believe I’m missing. I have a vast library, and while helpful it leaves me with unanswered questions as well. I do want to say thank you to those “Masters” of their art who are willing to take the time to answer email and give suggestions and encouragement.

From: Kay Polk — Jul 20, 2010

I have been working, with my committee, for a number of years now, on developing a Mentoring Program through the Society for people who do not have access to a mentoring relationship. They either live too far away from any art “center” or they just don’t know how to establish a relationship with a professional artist in the field of Portraiture. It has been a challenge to get it off the ground but we have succeeded in running a six month Trial Program year before last and then this past “school term of nine months” have had a very successful program for our first full term (of nine or ten months). I particularly liked the comparison with our current way of learning through workshops and books or however we might grab knowledge on the run to quickly get started on a career path!. But the “Japanese system was geared to produce experts, not just men who do adequate work!”

From: Thierry — Jul 20, 2010

Jean wrote: “It is interesting to note that none of the long-time apprentices were women. They were all staying at home looking after “their men” as many still are today.” I responded: Not interesting at all, Jean, no more so than that most nurses are women. We make our choices and then we live with them. Darla wrote: “I think her point was that women did not have the option to become apprentices. There was no choice about it. Now at least some women in some places have the opportunity to get the education they want.” I got her point, Darla, but you didn’t get mine: Jean’s point is very uninteresting. Who cares about how it was; today, women can do whatever they want. It shouldn’t be news, I thought. Now, let’s get painting.

From: J. McSporran — Jul 22, 2010

Lets face it. Apprenticeship and workshops are two very different things. All they have in common is that hopefully somebody learns something from the experience and someone gets to eat at the end of the day. Apprentices get on the job training. They do something useful and in exchange they learn how to do it better as they practice under the watchful eye of the Master. And they broaden their knowledge base. They also get to eat and have a place to sleep while learning. They watch and learn and practice. The human brain can take it all in. (admittedly this is assuming a good Master to work/study with and a reasonably capable student) Workshops are institutions whereby the student pays the Master while turning out useless stuff. The Master has no stake in ensuring the quality of the students work. The student has to come up with the means to feed and house the Master as well as himself. As generous as a master may be with his knowledge,( assuming he is a good master) how many students can absorb $100 worth in a couple of hours, let alone $1500 in a week. And how many can afford to pay this while also supporting themselves and practicing without supervision? (minimum wage being $8 / hour here in BC.) The function of the workshop is to augment the income of the Master, impart a mind boggling amount of information in a short time and entertain the student. Students may be seen as patrons immersing themselves in the arts for a brief intensive hit and then returning to the world where they make enough money for the next hit. There’s nothing wrong with these functions. Society has changed. The Master must eat. The burden of patronage is spread over a broader base. And getting involved in art is healthy ( as long as you don’t suck your brushes) and entertaining. All good stuff. But not equivalent to apprenticeship. Where are all the true Masters who will teach you all the skills of the trade, how to survive the business side and feed and cloth you in the process? Yes. they do exist. They are plumbers, carpenters, electricians……

From: Brian, Upstate NY — Aug 09, 2010

Art has long since been a trade, long before the error of thought that selling ones work was “selling out”. The myth of the starving artist being the only true artist? I have been starving and live on a pretty tight budget now and honestly it is not as glamorous as some believe it to be. So, if people want to apprentice then ought to, in fact I am a pretty firm supporter of the idea that after your BFA you should have a minimum of two years as an apprentice with an established artist before being accepted into an MFA program.

   
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