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Oh! Here I am. Thank you to all of you who have commented on the blog. You have given me several subjects about which I may write. I had a visit from two readers from Utah, they even took me out to dinner. I enjoy meeting you all. Writing this blog is like speaking to a darkened theater where I can not see the audience or gauge their reaction to what I am saying. Workshops are the way I generally meet my readers.. The blog gets a lot of visitors, Sometimes as high as 30,000 a month, but fewer, lately, as I have been posting less often, but it is still a whole lot of people. How odd! considering that writing it is so solitary. More about the workshop problems;
Failure to appreciate the difficulty of painting well. I always tell workshop students that learning to paint is no more difficult than learning to play the violin. They are always shocked to hear that. Some of them have decided to paint en plein air (as they call it) because they have supposed it would be easier. Again I am not talking about you, anyone you know or have ever met, I mean those bad people who are far away, those whose taxes should be raised. Painting is wicked hard. No one would ever bother with it except that it is so much fun and perpetually interesting. I believe it takes about ten years working full time to become a competent painter. That doesn't mean you shouldn't paint if you have less time, it is fun and rewarding. But you wouldn't imagine you could learn to play the violin adequately in less time would you? Still many of my workshop students expect a hundred pounds of progress for ten pounds of application. I love em, but they need to be realistic about the effort it will take. Even the most brilliant teacher can't make that hurdle go away, that is just the way it is.
I HAVE HAD DOZENS OF STUDENTS TELL ME THAT THEY WERE GOING TO GO "PROFESSIONAL" WHO HADN'T THE SLIGHTEST IDEA OF THE QUALITY THAT WOULD BE REQUIRED TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN.
I THINK THEY WERE NOT WELL ENOUGH INFORMED ABOUT WHAT EXCELLENT WORK LOOKS LIKE, SO AS TO BE ABLE TO SEE THE FAULTS IN THEIR OWN PRODUCT. SOME OF THEM HAD THE FOLLOWING PROBLEMS THOUGH;
- Believing that quality in art is subjective No idea is more destructive to the progress of a painter than this. The comfort it provides the student comes at the expense of advancing ability. The hard truth that there are folks out there who truly paint a whole lot better than you do is daunting, and I am sorry that is scary, but it remains true none the less. When people tell me that art is all subjective and that there is no such thing as one persons art being "better" than another's, I always tell them "I play guitar as well as Hendrix, you might not like it as well, but after all it is so subjective". I was a high school garage band member with zero talent, by the way. I know some people who play like gods ( you know who you are!). I am comfortable with that. Somebody has to be in the audience. The following are the problems with the subjectiveist model;
- Why look to the greats in the art, like Rembrandt or Sargent if they are only superior to your own daubs in the opinion of people who can be ignored or argued against?
- If all art is equally good, how could you make your own better? Improving your art would only make sense if you could add quality to it. How depressing it would be to look back on your art from a decade ago if it could not have been made better.Why would one work to better their craft if the only possibility was to make it different rather than better?
- When I look in the mirror, sometimes I am handsome and other times I see a caviling dork. I see only what I think of myself, and not myself. The eye sees itself only by reflection, Shakespeare said. If we argue that all of art is only subjective, then the only way it makes sense to think that our art is improving, would be if it is more what we would have it be. But then our ability to judge it will wax and wane like our opinion of ourselves. Before you say that you always have a great opinion of yourself, realize that would preclude self criticism altogether. That you yourself like your art is a slim recommendation for it in the larger world, and unlikely to convince those outside of your immediate circle of friends.
- It makes it difficult to utilize the opinions or suggestions of teachers or "masters" after all, they are not arguably better at painting than we are, only different. Who then are they to criticize our art? Our art is just as fine as anyone else's.
- I don't know any successful or skilled artists who believe this. There must be some who do, but I have met hundreds of painters and can't I think of one. I conclude it is an opinion not held by a significant number of fine artists. Surely it must be useful to emulate or follow the path of those who have had success in painting. There results are extensions of their opinions.
- Why would art be singular among all the efforts of man and not have standards, measures or examples of quality? There is better and worse carpentry, whiskey and cancer treatment. If there is no art better than another,why go to the museum? Wouldn't the greeting card rack at the drugstore be just fine?
Well that should do .... I better throw in something less philosophical and more "useful" to counter my ranting and raving. How about this?
I like my paint to stay "open" all day. But after that I want it to dry. Paint that stays wet for days is a nuisance for me. If I wanted that, I could add poppy oil to my paint. I don't like acrylics because their rapid drying time makes it hard for me to manipulate it before it seizes. In order to speed my drying times I use an alkyd such as Liquin
Or I could add a fast drying paint to my palette. Different brands of paint and different colored pigments dry at different rates. There are two logical places I have found to do this. The first is the white. I can add an alkyd white like Griffin, or use a flake lead that dries quickly ( no lead for you amateurs please! leave that to those of us who will blithely risk poisoning for our art.)
Lucas paint (available form Jerrys) has a fast drying time. Since, after white, the color I use the most is ultramarine, I will often add the Lucas ultramarine to my palette. Since ultramarine gets into many parts of my canvas it is will pull along the other pigments with it as it dries. And it is cheap..