Friday, October 9, 2009

14 steps to better painting

Eastman Johnson 1824-1906 Cranberry pickers Nantucket image

Above is an Eastman Johnson painting. I included it here because I have been doing all of these American art historical posts and I wanted to be sure to impress upon you readers that I am cherry picking the landscapists from the greater history. I have skipped over a number of fine and important painters as they are not particularly associated with the landscape tradition. This blog tends to be mostly about landscape painting, however much that is here would be applicable to other genres.

I have continued to brood about what steps an adult with a real life and its responsibilities can take to improve their painting. Here's the nightly disclaimer, if you can, find one of the traditional painting ateliers and study there. But if that is not possible, I suggest that you ;
  1. Frequent museums and galleries to study fine painting.
  2. Read books about painting, particularly those written by artists. I will post a suggested reading list sometime soon.
  3. Join the best art association in your area.
  4. Befriend and "shadow" artists who are professionals, that you think have good technique, and from who you can learn.
  5. Take workshops on painting.
  6. Join a figure drawing group.
  7. Copy old master drawings. I wrote about that here.
  8. Do memory drawing exercises.
  9. Enter local shows and galleries.
  10. Paint, paint and paint some more. Work at it everyday, if you can.
  11. Find a few friends who are working towards the same thing and try to encourage one another and share the new ideas you are learning.
  12. Subscribe to art magazines and keep clipping files. I wrote about that here.
  13. Stock your work area with good quality materials, brushes and equipment, art is hard enough to do with the best of materials.
  14. Put butter in your shoes.
I think that if you do these things you can be assured that your painting ability will grow. It pretty much has to. Artistic is not a steady upwards progression. You work and work and then suddenly realize you are operating at a new and higher level. Then you seem to have to put in a certain amount of time at that level before you are promoted to (or should I say earn ) the next. But I do believe it is automatic, like reaction follows action, if you do the work, you WILL get the progress.

I have known a few good painters who were not terribly bright, I have known none who didn't work obsessively.


Deb said...

What's your address? I'm ready for #4.

Todd Bonita said...

Great list, thanks Stape. I like when you lay it out like this..bang-bang-bang.
all the best,

Gregory Becker said...

The Atelier was my first choice when I first began but the closest one is 5 hours away and that one is in Toronto.
You can do some light research into the methods of most Atliers and find ways to set goals for yourself as well as create projects for yourself.
Some days for me it's hard to find the energy just to doodle. But I do find a way.
Nathan Fowkes advised me to do one serious study every day no matter what and that experience would be exponential. He's right about that.
I do about 50% of your suggestions. I found a drop in figure drawing class for 5 bucks 3 hours.

Bob Carter said...

We've all known artists who weren't that sharp, but all the really good ones I've known and/or studied with were super bright. And that has nothing to do with degrees.

Philip Koch said...

Stape, is it true that putting the butter in your shoes with a turkey baster can lead to baroque excesses in painting? There's a rumor Thomas Kinkade tried this.

Frank P. Ordaz said...

You missed # 15 which is a good case of Chianti. It takes the edge out of a bad day.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Baroque excess is never caused by putting butter in your shoes. My suspicion is that Kinkaid may have been substituting cheese in his footwear.

Philip Koch said...

Cheese indeed it must be in those shoes! Well spoken.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have no actual physical presence. I am solely existing in cyberspace at this point. At least I might as well be.The amount of communication going in and out of here these days is unbelievable.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks, I thought of your fondness for bulleted lists and was about to go with the bullets when I saw the numbered item icon, and that looked cool. If I put a bunch of numbers in there, thats science.

Stapleton Kearns said...

The main advantage of an atelier is is gives you a chance to train your eye by being corrected by a drawing master who "sees" better than you do. Everything I put on the list out there is good, but rigorous drawing training is the best. But I realize that most people can't drop everything they are doing and join an atelier. So you go for what you can do.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I guess it would be wrong to name any names here. But I have known several really good painters who were ,well, thick. I always found it amazing but they do exist.I know of one great example whose name you will recognize although they are dead now.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I am not much of a drinker, I will have to gnaw the little basket thingy off the bottle while you drink its contents.Do you remember when every still life had a chianti bottle and a silvertone guitar?