Artist Mitchell Freifeld wrote from Portland, Oregon to ask for more clarity concerning the letter “Ignorance,” which mentioned my dad’s criteria when jurying. “It would be a great benefit to have this road map ‘decoded’ in the simplest possible terms. I’m sure others who read the piece would like to see this as well.”
While these points are subject to modification — sometimes there’s something major to upset them, like, “I like it” — here’s Dad’s list, with my notes:
Robert Genn’s Evaluation Points
Compositional Integrity — “Even in front of nature one must compose,” wrote Edgar Degas. You do this with eye-control, line-ups, weighting, corner management and by avoiding the ever-problematic homeostasis — overly regular, even-spaced or lined-up objects.
Sound Craftsmanship — I once observed an art consultant ask an ambitious amateur how long it would take for her collage to disintegrate. While conservators are re-gluing a cigarette butt to a Jackson Pollock drip as we speak, realize that your marks have the potential to outlive you. Use archival materials, finish with a mark of authorship and, in every way possible, show you care.
Colour Sensitivity — “Color is the daily bread of the eyes,” wrote watercolourist Frank Webb. “It is not only seen but also must be felt.” Mastering its power both technically and intuitively elevates and identifies superior work.
Creative Interest — Dad called this, “What can be?” Is there an opportunity to show more imagination?
Design Control — Is it clear who is conducting this orchestra? “Any time one or more things are consciously put together in a way that they can accomplish something better than they could have accomplished individually,” wrote Charles Eames, “this is an act of design.”
Gestural Momentum — Never underestimate the power of a few bold strokes. Then, leave your strokes alone.
Artistic Flair — Have you added something that is uniquely and bravely yours?
Expressive Intensity — This has less to do with brashness and more to do with the subtle art of showing your commitment. How do you convey your message? What is the deeper “why” to your work? Can you say it clearly?
Professional Touch — From the sureness and commitment of your strokes, the twist in your hanging wires to the polish of your signature, consistent painterly quality, one neat area, a perfect gradation, a characteristic line or other undeniable markers of your style that can be recognized from across a room — what are the signatures of professionalism that set your work apart?
Surface Quality — Can you show evidence of a million experiments in brushwork, all distilled into a handful of techniques that you now claim as your own? Scumbling, glazing, wiping, spraying, dragging, feathering, edging; texture, super-flat surface, oil-bar application, resin use, holiday space, mirror-shine. Your magic is the double-whammy illusion of a picture sitting atop a 2D plane of creative play.
Intellectual Depth — Is it a lake of feeling or a knocked-off puddle? Where did it come from? Are you able to reverse-engineer the internal sources of your external output?
Visual Distinction — Squint. Is it yours? “One really beautiful wrist motion, that is synchronized with your head and heart, and you have it,” said Helen Frankenthaler. “It looks as if it were born in a minute.”
Technical Challenge — “Technique is noticed most markedly in the case of those who have not mastered it,” wrote Leon Trotsky. And so, we must continue to work to master our most difficult technical challenges, rendering them unnoticeable. Whatever it is you are exploring in your painting today, choose the most technically difficult aspect and climb the mountain of how to do it peerlessly.
PS: “Be both the gardener and the rose.” (Author unknown)
Esoterica: The last of the items listed in Dad’s jurying criteria was something called, Artistic Audacity. To a group of painters set up in an island meadow, he recommended they run at their canvases with a large brush and lay a first stroke without hesitation. As an ice-breaker to timidity, it was merely an exercise to physically embody for a moment, the courage required to make any kind of mark in the first place. “Courage,” said John Wayne, “is being scared to death — but saddling up anyway.”
To each and every one of you, we thank you for your continued creative friendship and wish you a very happy holiday. With gratitude and best wishes from all of us at The Painter’s Keys,
Sara, Shawn and Peter.
“And don’t think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It’s quiet, but the roots are down there riotous.” (Rumi)
I am very happy to be teaching two workshops at Casa Buena Art Retreat Center again next year. Register for one or stay for both.
THE FIGURE – Feb 20 – 27, ’19. Enjoy working with a live model using dry media. We will deal with proportion, measurement and likeness.
PLEIN AIR – Feb 27 – Mar 6, ’19. Paint authentic Mexico – village life, beaches and landscape. We will deal with composition, light & shadow, color, value and more.
Cost: CAN $1800 + GST. Includes instruction, some art supplies, accommodation, all meals, transportation to and from Puerto Vallarta airport, visits to surrounding areas, a jungle boat ride and a lot of fun.
Contact Jane Romanishko firstname.lastname@example.org for the extra 3 day “no-pressure” painting option.
Mary’s interest in pastel painting began during her years at Whitworth College in Spokane, WA where she majored in art and elementary education. Though she has worked in watercolor and oil as well as calligraphy, her interest has consistently turned primarily to pastel because of the medium’s potential for glowing, vibrant color and the harmony achieved in bringing together lights and shadows.