Choices

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Dear Artist,

When I was a callow youth I was lecturing a hundred or so painters one evening. I was talking about my then-current method of working on a bright russet-red ground and consciously leaving out one of the primaries. As I spoke, a gentleman in the front row rose to his feet. The tall, bearded Gordon Kit Thorne, an elderly and respected painter, waited until I paused in my verbosity. Having gained everyone’s attention, he then spoke out in a stentorian voice that echoed all over the auditorium: “Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!”

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“My Special Flowers”
watercolour painting, 16 x 22 inches
by Gordon Kit Thorne

He then turned to the group and gave us all a short lecture on “correct” methodology.

Gordon and I were both expressing choices. It was a good lesson for me. Anyone who sticks to his game–any game–can fall into the trap of thinking he has an immutable system.

Today I spoke on the phone to several colleagues. We were talking about planning versus improvisation. While many fine artists plan everything in detail and then simply execute, others admit they don’t know what they’re doing from the get-go, but they start anyway and spend a lot of time fixing up. Both systems work. Just as some folks are happy and others are miserable, we can simply make choices. The nice thing about choices is that they can be changed.

If I had 50 cents for every time I’ve made different choices about grounds or primaries, for example, I could send all you subscribers a couple of bucks. Watch the mail.

Because there are so many roads leading to Rome these days, the trip must be sufficiently engaging for all pilgrims. The wayside choices we make, however minor or major, determine our signature, our style and our level of personal satisfaction.

I’ve just hung up the phone from a discussion on the business of painting the background first — working your way down like you are pulling a blind — as opposed to laying in a foreground first and working up the painting behind. I’m currently of the latter persuasion. My telephone friend is currently of the former. As the wise man said, “And this too will change.”

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them.” (Kahlil Gibran) “Choice by choice, moment by moment, I build the necklace of my day, stringing together the choices that form artful living.” (Julia Cameron)

Esoterica: “Choose well,” said Homer. One of the great values of properly constituted art schools is the opening of students’ eyes to a variety of possibilities. A school’s stable of competitive instructors representing various media lays out a lifelong stage for exploration and experimentation. If you don’t have the benefit of that kind of school, you can choose one for your own studio. It’s a matter of attitude. It’s called the “Attitude of Choice.” As a perennial student, you take up the artistic equivalent of the scientific method — a seemingly endless uncovering and testing of choices.

 


A lifetime of curiosity
by Terry Mason, Sarasota, FL, USA
 

What’s interesting about this letter to me is not that you differ with my own practices or with others. What is interesting is that creative people just need to create. We change things because that is just part of being curious which is a mainstay of creativity. So one year we paint from top down. The next year we paint from bottom up. One year we start with our darks. Another year we put in the focal point first. It’s all good. When a painting works for me I could sit all day and figure out the rules I used to get it right. I could do the same thing the next day and use a different approach and still have a good painting. It doesn’t mean there are no rules. If I lose my darks the painting won’t hold. Period. If I muddy the lights then the painting will be muddy. Period. If that isn’t what I intended, well then that didn’t work! Period. In it all are more approaches to getting it right, or wrong, that I can learn in a lifetime. How wonderful.



There is 1 comment for A lifetime of curiosity by Terry Mason

From: Barbara — Mar 27, 2009

Oh I do agree. We HAVE to try it and how wonderful when something we’ve tried works.

 


Going for the energy
by Jeanne Illenye, Grand Rapids, MI, USA
 

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“Fawn hiding”
oil painting
by Jeanne Illenye

I paint where the energy is. It’s all about emotion as I do not have a subject in front of me for my larger work. I paint in the realist style yet for my larger still lifes, particularly my elaborate florals, I have a general idea or vision in my mind, then stare at the blank canvas for a few moments and begin at the focal point — the main energy. For me it’s all about ebb and flow, utilizing the basic compositional structure and movement of the Dutch Masters, playing with light and dark all laid out initially in bold washes of color — no drawing first, not photos, no still life in front of me — just my imagination. The details become evident after numerous layers of refinement, always elevating the entire painting simultaneously… It’s always interesting to hear how others paint, as we artists spend most of our time alone… creating.

 


The paths we take
by Lisa Chakrabarti, Los Angeles, CA, USA
 

032709_lisa-chakrabarti-artwork

“Autumn stream”
ink/ watercolour
by Lisa Chakrabarti

We’re a lucky bunch, in general, we artists: we have so much control over what we produce, from the very beginning when we stare at our blank canvasses and either take a grand plunge, mull over, or very calculatingly plan our moves. In the very beginning, I was into studying masters, both Western and Oriental, and then as I got braver, trying to find my individuality of expression — paths that I would guess every serious emerging artist travels. At some point, like Frost’s ‘two paths,’ we make our choices. I think one of the broadest — and perhaps not consciously — is whether we are process-oriented or product-oriented. There are artists who are consumed by the motions of creating, a ‘moving meditation’ of sorts (that’s me), and those who’s eye turns unwaveringly to what will be the final outcome. The technical choices that you discuss, of ground, color, inception are further branches of these initial paths.

 

 

 


Thousands of ways to paint
by Susanne Kelley Clark, Dallas, TX, USA
 

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“White Rock Lake West #1”
pastel on paper
by Susanne Kelley Clark

Painters need to be able to problem-solve through a painting as if each one is a new experience and a vastly different set of issues. We follow a different course depending on the subject, and how we want to present it. I tell my students that beyond learning what oil paint does technically, there are no rules. Everyone will learn to use paint the way they will. There are thousands, if not more, ways to paint. It’s more about the painter, what they bring to it, how much they love it, what they are attempting to accomplish with it, through it. It is a very difficult challenge, but fulfilling and joyful at the same time.



There is 1 comment for Thousands of ways to paint by Susanne Kelley Clark

From: Alan Soffer — Apr 14, 2009

Couldn’t agree more.

 


Another person Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!
by Marilyn Timms, Courtenay, BC, Canada
 

I was taken back to a wakeup call of my own on reading this. I received an email link from a friend of mine that put me on to an artists website where my methods of working in watercolours were being hotly debated. It seems a new painter had found my website, read up on my methods and was quoting me as her guru. The debate centered around some basic premises that I had been teaching for many, many years about the properties of certain transparent non-staining pigments and how to handle them. Like Mr. Thorne, the responders said I too was “Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!” After my ego subsided, I took a long, hard look at what they were saying — even studiously “checked it out” in paint and, much to my chagrin, they were right. I, too had fallen into the trap of thinking that my way was the only way. It changed my teaching, and my paintings, for the better immediately. Now, I am much less likely to feel the need to defend what I am doing and much more likely to be open to change.



There is 1 comment for Another person Wrong, Wrong, Wrong! by Marilyn Timms

From: Alan Soffer — Apr 14, 2009

That is a very big thing to admit, especially for an experienced painter and teacher. We abstractionists tend to be more open-ended about how to go about painting. But I’m always impressed when someone has a system that works well.

 


Yet another case of wrongness
by Nancy Bea Miller, Philadelphia, PA, USA
 

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“Spring fever”
photograph
by Nancy Bea Miller

Boy did this come at the right moment! Yesterday I was lecturing one of my classes on the “proper” way to set up their painting tables in relation to their easels! While some obediently made the switch according to my command, er suggestion, many seemed resistant and told me they had already been taught a completely different method. Slightly miffed, I went next door into another classroom and asked the other teacher how HE had been taught. I was fully confident that he would support my method, after all, he had gone to the same art school I had! To my annoyance, he told me that my students and I were ALL wrong, and proceeded to expound a completely bone-headed, er different, system of his own. Fortunately, this quickly made me realize the same truth you just expounded in your letter: there is no accounting for tastes! Or artistic techniques. Whatever gets you to the place you want to go is fine.



There is 1 comment for Yet another case of wrongness by Nancy Bea Miller

From: Alan Soffer — Apr 14, 2009

Nancy, love your comments. It’s always a forward growth to allow for changes.

 


Planners and pantsters
by Lin Stepp, Knoxville, TN, USA
 

032709_lin-stepp-artwork

photo of Lin Stepp

Writing is my primary creative endeavor and paint as a side endeavor. In writing — as in painting — there is an ongoing argument about the correct methodology for writing a novel. Many writers do get dogmatic about their methodology-of-choice, thinking they have, as you say, an immutable system. In writing, the two ends of the continuum tend to be called “Planners” and “Pantsters” — those who plan meticulously before they begin their writing , researching, plotting, and outlining their chapters ahead , and those who jump in spontaneously ‘flying by the seat of their pants,’ so to speak, writing as the muse and inspiration come, cleaning and polishing later.

My pragmatic view would be to examine whether the methodology works well — either in painting or in writing. Is the artist producing creatively and well, experiencing satisfaction versus frustration in his or her work? And is the artist actually seeing a strong, consistent output of quality work? If so, their methodology choices are probably good ones for them. If not, it might be well to explore an alternative method. It seems foolish to argue for, and continue with, a work methodology that is obviously not producing good results. Creative people should always be open to explore and consider new methods of work, but should also be wise enough to know the methods that work best for them day to day.

 


Clearing the mind’s palette
by Nikki Coulombe, Lewisville, TX, USA
 

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“Dancing with trees #3”
acrylic painting
by Nikki Coulombe

Even those who fly by the seat of their paints have done some pre-planning in their mind’s eye before starting. Jackson Pollock said “…the painting has a life of its own. My mission is to bring forth this life.” Though I paint nothing like him, it’s so true that each new piece (painting, sculpture, whatever) is a brand new experience. What we do is half calculated and half mystery. However it’s done, we’re creating an illusion based on a ‘what we know/what we don’t know’ combo. Experience, visualization, attention, passion, and tenacity get the job done. In my work the method is often dictated by subject matter and the intention of it. It helps to start each painting and each day by clearing the mind’s palette first.

 

 

 


Fear and dread
by Ralph Giannattasio, Wyndmoor, PA, USA
 

Today’s letter got me to thinking about “planning” my work and reminded me of a conversation we had during a recent art class. The question was this: Do you start a new painting with joy and anticipation of the beauty you hope to create or is it a feeling of fear and dread. I must admit that I fall closer to Door #2. I really don’t start enjoying myself until I am done with all the preliminaries and I begin the “corrections” that make the painting a painting. I have a suspicion that some day this feeling will drive me away from the easel. I’ve been serious about painting for about a year and half and, like most things I have done to fill my spare time, I have approached painting with an all-consuming passion. The “book” on me is that I will improve rapidly because of my passionate approach to things but will soon hit a wall where improvement stops. In the past — when improvement stops – I stop. I wonder if this feeling of “fear and dread” is common?



There are 3 comments for Fear and dread by Ralph Giannattasio

From: Holly Quan, Turner Valley, AB, Canada — Mar 27, 2009

Ralph — you’re not alone in the fear & dread department. I do start each new painting with a sense of anticipation that quickly turns to “heart-in-mouth” doubt. I plough onward though — and, like you, I get the most fun from concentrating on the details. That usually results in my paintings becoming overworked — I spend too much time in the weeds. I often have to remind myself of a phrase my instructor used: “we’re not creating art here, we’re practicing technique.” For me that’s certainly the case. I hope that once I’m more confident in my technique, I’ll lose the fear factor.

From: Lisa Chakrabarti — Mar 27, 2009

Ralph,

there are going to be times when your work stalls and you don’t feel any improvement. It happens to every artist/writer/musician/athlete (pick your field!). The important thing is, if you want to be a painter, then you have to push through those walls. NEVER give up. Those miraculous breakthroughs only come after dogged determination. And rest assured, you will see your works develop.All of life is dynamic, your frustration or dread will change and morph into a sense of progress so long as you keep working. The only time you really ‘hit a wall’ is when you stop.

From: Ralph — Mar 28, 2009

Thank you Holly and Lisa. I am not alone! Yay!!!!

 


The joy of choice
by Asheley Elizabeth
 

032709_asheley-elizabeth-artwork

“Breathing in”
original painting
by Asheley Elizabeth

There is nothing more exhilarating and simultaneously daunting than a choice… because one choice opens a door to the infinite possibility of choices. There is nothing more delicious, when confronted with an artwork’s endless possibilities, than the act of pinpointing one choice that sings of the most unique view belonging to only you.

As I progress as an artist, this action of choosing, the act of expressing my style, comes more easily… only because I’m steadily knowing myself more. When I bring a new media into the studio, it takes me longer to make choices, because it’s as if I’m wrapping the new texture around my senses… seeing how it mixes with my already defined tastes. I love mixing new baby steps with mature ones… there is play and purpose, freedom and composure, release and cultivation. A lifetime is not long enough to create all that is thought into form, but the act of choosing allows us to carefully edit, so that each artwork can become a snapshot of a creative, thriving stream.



There are 3 comments for The joy of choice by Asheley Elizabeth

From: Darrell Baschak — Mar 27, 2009

Well said Asheley, and a very cool painting!

From: Jennifer K. — Mar 27, 2009

Very interesting and unique artwork. Well done.

From: Asheley Elizabeth — Mar 28, 2009

Thanks Darrell, Jennifer :)

The image is a detail of a larger mixed media piece.

There are sculpted layers above and underneath the canvas, as well as light. I’m always reminded of a quote:”Push push push! ..Until the idea, without a doubt, becomes your own” :)

 


Blessed site
by Lynne Roswall
 

I am compelled to tell you how blessed I feel that I stumbled upon your site about a year ago and signed up for your letters. I’ve spread as much of you around as I could and still I’m surprised and excited when I get your emails. There are loving discussions / debates / opinions about art and the creation and servicing of painting as a medium, as a means, as Art. I also find comfort in quotes, be them from philosophers, artists, writers, etc. I am also curious as to how you keep your site working so very well — it is so incredibly organized! I’m wondering if it is what you envisioned it to be and do you find you are in testing mode constantly before you blast your letters out, do you have glitches and/or do you have a whole team working on keeping the site in order or is it updated easily by you through a CMS or admin tool that allows you to update content easily?

(RG note) Thanks, Lynne. As we often seem to be mired in Internet problematicals, impossible cyber-gremlins and mailing booboos, it’s a thrill to be told our site works so well and is so incredibly well organized. Believe me, it’s the team — Andrew, Michelle, Samantha, Judi, Lorna, Shawn and Sarah. Everyone has a role, and complaints are relayed to each youthful expert. As for me, every morning, after a short, abortive sortee into what must be the most congested inbox in the Western Hemisphere, I return to my easel and marvel at the relative calm, simplicity and Luddite beauty of my painting studio. As for my letters, I just write about what’s on my mind or what I think might be concerning others–and then, right or wrong, we just “blast them out.” Then the fun begins.



There are 2 comments for Blessed site by Lynne Roswall

From: Melissa Evangeline Keyes — Mar 27, 2009

Let me be the first to say, this time, that your letters, and all that you do, are most amazing, and surely the highlight of my day, twice a week. Thankyou, Robert!

From: Neil Preston — Mar 27, 2009

 


 

woa
 
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Larch Hills #1
acrylic painting
by Terry Greenhough, Salmon arm, BC, Canada

 

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 Norman Ridenour of Prague, Czech Republic, who wrote, ” ‘What is the difference between an artist and a craftsman? A craftsman always knows what he/she is going to do and how to do it before they start. An artist never does.’ I am both from day to day.”

And also Claudia Roulier of Idledale, CO, USA, who wrote, “Artists who plan precisely think 180 degrees differently from the artist that is more into the process journey — it’s a basic difference on how each sees and approaches the world. I prefer process and I think about that journey the whole time I’m working and yet I don’t spend much time trying to change things.”

And also Judi Birnberg of Sherman Oaks, CA, USA, wrote, “I’d like to mention the just-opened exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts: Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese. Worth the journey. Its only other venue will be in Paris.”
 

 

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Choices

 

 

From: Consuelo — Mar 24, 2009

Creativity in ‘methodology’, I’m confident, is as important as the creativity expressed in the final product.

From: John Ferrie — Mar 24, 2009

Dear Robert,

I find it BLOODY RUDE that anyone would interrupt your train of thought. There is nothing worse than someone who interrupts in a regular conversation let alone in a lecture where people are spending their hard earned time and money to hear you. I would have been there to hear you and hear your vision about being an artist. There is nothing quite so lost in this world than being a good conversationalist. Being a good conversationalist is being a good listener and is far more important that mouthing an opinion. I know that I have more to learn that teach. Who did this horrid man think he is by interrupting you? He is a very lucky man that I wasn’t in the room. I would have asked him first of all shut up, then I would have told him to leave and finally I would have personally escorted him out and given him a stern etiquette lesson.

Maybe that was is just me,

John Ferrie

From: Joyce Goden — Mar 26, 2009

I agree rudeness is never in fashion.

I had a jr. high art teacher do the same thing after she joined in a adult watercolor class I was teaching. She went from student to student bossing them around.

I let her stay for the session she paid for, then I refused to the adminstrator to let her back in my class, she worked for the same school board.

From: Dyan Law — Mar 26, 2009

Funny how we artists are constantly seeking the “correct” way to achieve uniqueness! I can simply regard my personal correctness to be that I am never truly correct. We are incapable of making such judgement, just as we are incapable of knowing which came first, the chicken or the egg. Unfortunately this is the stuff wars are based on…..my religion versus your religion, my ideals versus yours!

Isn’t this what the Impressionists (and others before and after) tried to say through their work…eh, well, that is until the Modernists came along…..and on and on as we “go and grow.”

In art making, and otherwise, we need to make choices, but we don’t need to dictate the “proper” process, techniques or the end-results. We are fortunate to have a sea of choices in this age of highly sophisticated technology. We can refer to our computer, photos, intellect, intuition, two eyes and two hands to do the “best” work we can do, but we can also say correctly that many of us without such choices will still do the job well. Some of us may have use of one arthritic hand or no hands, poor or no education, poor or no eyesight, own no camera or computer, and STILL can create amazing pieces of art! What’s “wrong” with this picture? No…it’s what’s RIGHT with this picture. Perhaps it’s okay to say that anything is possible as long as we are open to receive and learn from it….without regard to who we are and where we come from.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Mar 26, 2009

There is nothing more boring than someone proclaiming the ‘right way’ and then ridiculing ‘the other way’ and finishing off with a huge pat on self’s back and a variety of sorrow or disgust for the “other side’s” perils. That kind of stuff bores me to death, edging with major annoyance. There is a big difference in sharing experiences and using the ‘right of way’ to set oneself up higher on the imaginary ladder of authority. I think that this is what you are addressing in your letter and it really strikes a cord with me. I very much enjoy hearing about different experiences and approaches, but I have no time to read those ‘odes to myself’ which sometimes crop up in discussions. Anyways, what we say and write is a choice as well, and so is what we read.

From: Liz Reday — Mar 26, 2009

As usual, you are right on target for my present dilemma. I was asked to take part in a group show of artists in my local area. The gallery director chose the theme of still life. This is not my thing so I thought it would be fun to try something different. Days were spent hunting out various objects that had meaning to me, with interesting shapes and colors. Hours and countless hours spent in arranging and re-arranging objects. A visit to the local outdoor market expanded the possibilities, flowers bloomed and wilted, fruits and vegetables withered and rotted under the lights. Every time I got what I considered an original, compelling set-up, I spent more hours doing careful pencil and pen sketches, then more addition and subtraction and re-arrangement ensued.

Finally, I got one successful painting and six total dogs, err… wipe-outs, throwaways, messes. Another OK painting awaits finishing as I ponder the folly of overworking it. Now I’m onto my ninth set-up and I long for the casual, loose, thoughtless days of plein air. Still Life is so contrived! All this control is not helping! So I threw some stuff on the table, grabbed an empty canvas, and I’m well on my way to the best effort of the bunch so far. It helps to NOT THINK.

So yes, I would vote for spontaneity! Having said that, I’m well aware that I needed all those over-considered, unoriginal, formal compositional set-ups, laborious drawings, tight and utterly hackneyed paintings to get to the loose and carefree little underworked gem now sitting on my easel.

From: Bonnie Adams — Mar 26, 2009
From: Fred Asbury — Mar 26, 2009

I must say that your words speak the underlying truth behind all the rhetoric. But, I have another burning question. You have created a department in your web site for artists to display his or her work in a gallery. I have participated in several group gallery sites and found that the only folks that are looking at my pictures are other artists. The only comments, replies, and feedback has been from other artists. I think they are simply comparing my work to theirs or maybe trying to find inspiration for their own work. I find myself doing the same thing. None of these folks have any interest in buying.

I am looking for buyers, agents, gallery owners, and collectors. I am getting the impression that the real buyers are not interested in wading through hundreds and thousands of images to try to find something they like or something that they think is important enough to invest in. Where are these folks looking? Or are they relying on magazine articles and gallery owners and other so called experts to make the decisions for them about what is important enough to invest in.

Ovationtv.com has been great for peer critiques except the other artists participating, out of politeness, only give positive comments. This gives a great boost to the ego but is not really an honest appraisal of the your work. One must also understand that no response is truly a negative response.

I am now trying facebook. I am using an indirect approach knowing that there are several gallery owners and avid art collectors in our fair city that take part in the social exchange. I am hoping that through this social playground, the real buyers might take notice. We will see.

My question is: Where are the buyers and how does one get noticed by them? Where do I place my concentrated effort to either find the buyers or find the person that can find the buyers for me for a commission? Is there a direct approach? I am looking for specific solutions not generalities. I have a city full of opinions. I need concrete directions. Sorry if I sound demanding. Its just the frustration blowing out.

From: Loretta West — Mar 27, 2009

Thanks for the Titian reference. Another confirmation as to why I love his work so much. When we visited the Prado Museum in Madrid it showcased a number of well known Spanish painters, and while I favoured Valazquez, it was Titian I was drawn to, particularily The Bacchanal and Venus Delighting Herself with Love and Music. That Venus knew how to party! Did not know that he used his assistants drawings, what a great idea. Get right to the color, post haste.

From: David Benjamim — Mar 27, 2009

I would like to address 3 comments from above”

Fred Asbury – Who is a buyer? I am and I make my choices by wandering into every gallery I can find. What attracts me, I buy if I can afford it.

John Ferrie – Rude or what? It is not up to you to chastise such an individual. Rather, it is the sole province of the lecturer to do so. I speak from 35 years teaching graduate and medical students and giving many many seminars on my research. My philosophy has always been to encourage comments and questions and deal with them in the sense of learning.

Dyan Law – I agree concerning the “correct” way to achieve uniqueness. There is no correct way – it is what you choose to do and how you choose to do it, forever trying to satisfy yourself. You are the only true critic of your endeavors – that is, except for my wife and my mirror.

From: J.L.Sellers — Mar 27, 2009

I am consistently amazed that artists – or anybody – have the gall to pontificate ideas beyond their own mind and force them on others. Are they just so dim witted that they think we can’t see through them? Are their listeners so dim witted that they follow a nitwit? Art is as free as our imagination, and making it just as free in terms of setting up, getting it done, etc. I once took a class (to use the press) in etching where the teacher told me that what I was doing was impossible and would fail. After I pulled my edition, (and he gave me a ‘b’ in the class) he asked for one each of my print editions. I told him,” sorry, they’re all sold”. Like heck I would give away my work to that guy. He was getting paid to run the class (for some 30 years) , but sure didn’t know much about making the art actually work. There are efficient ways to do things that we can share, but to outright condemn a success as a failure for pride’s sake is just plain… well, nitwitty.

From: Rick Rotante — Mar 28, 2009

We all use a method of some sort be it comprised from our heads or from a myriad of artists we have seen, learned from or had contact with. A method is only a way of approaching the painting or finding a way to express your idea or a way to say what you want to say in that painting. I use what works for me that ‘way’ may change with each painting, Sometime I stick to the tried and true way, some times I break all the rules. It depends on what I’m painting and the importance of the piece. Not all my work starts out being for sale. In fact, only with my figure work or portraits do I start out with a tried and true safe method. But here too I have to say I push the envelope some days.

The idea of a ‘one system’ fits all approach comes from those who work a certain way, achieved a bit of notoriety and others want to learn their methods in order to paint “like them”.

I say whatever way you paint, if it works for you, do it. If you want to stretch out, study another method. The more ways you can learn to get the job done, the better an artist you will become. Every artist worth his salt will tell you they teach only one way, their way, but it isn’t the only way.

The one truth I have found is in the end you will still only paint like YOU

Paint no matter how many different teachers you come into contact.

Enjoy the process. It’s the journey, not the destination that’s important.

From: Dave C — Mar 30, 2009

I run into the same problem once in a while at the figure workshops I attend each week. I am a blender. Always have been, always will be. When doing shading and shadow, I like the way it looks after I’ve taken a blending stump, tortillon or Q-tip to the paper and pushed the graphite around to achieve the look I’m going for. And every now and then, I am told by one of the others, usually the art school grad, that I shouldn’t blend. I smile and continue on my merry way. Who knows? Maybe a couple hundred years from now, my drawings will be selling at Christies for millions, as superb examples of the blending of graphite and charcoal. Maybe the BBC will do an episode of the Great Artists series about me and how I really brought the technique of blending into the mainstream in the world of art. So, I shall continue blending, smudging, pushing and just, generally moving graphite, pastel and charcoal all over the paper with any tool I can get my hands on.

From: Peggy — Mar 31, 2009

Being a newbie to painting, I took some classes and 1) teacher at a Community College brought in flowers and said paint ’em, then went back to her desk and worked on her own stuff, no critiques, no method demos, no NOTHING 2) 2nd class was from a nationally known painter at a workshop and he said – “Leave your white space, do what I do, make it square and layer your glazes” – then left us on our own after his demo of his painting, and then critiqued at the end – these were both beginner classes and I was so upset, I swore I would never take another class, just practice, practice, practice and read books, and do what is pleasing to me. What a ripoff some of these “Teachers” are or can be.

From: Dyan Law — Mar 31, 2009

David Benjamim-Thanks for supporting my comments regarding “correctness”. You are most welcome to visit my studio/gallery in Pipersville, PA and/ or my website and bring your wife too! Also, I have plenty of mirrors. (www.dyanlaw.com)

From: Cheryl Lyons, Fort Myers Florida — Mar 31, 2009

I asked my daughter, years ago when painting together, “What do you think art is?” She was five at the time and answered, “Art comes from inside when you don’t have words to explain.” That seemed the right answer for me – and so, in painting, regardless of abstract or figurative, art is the completeness from within. As for structuring a work of art, it seems one structures according to their own way of being – I work until the work is done. Sometimes a month or two, sometimes a few years on each painting. If it doesn’t feel right, I just keep on going. And I’ve learned to erase, then add more. What an experiment life becomes in the studio.

 

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