Growing as a Painter

Growing as a painter

Over the years, an artist will discuss and hear many views about how one approaches art, technique, materials, subject matter, etc…. In the process of producing an original work, an artist will have their own unique way of putting all these elements together. However over time, for most artists this changes as they discover new ideas and try different methods.

Many artists read books and articles about art, and in so doing can pick up good tips and ideas to apply in their own art. The same applies to workshops and classes. Some books and workshops may give the impression – especially to a new or intermediate artist – the ideas presented are the only or best way to produce art. However, the ideas presented in books and workshops should best be thought of as tools an artist can incorporate for their own use. We all learn from each other, but in art there is an added dimension that’s based deep inside the artist. The work of art comes from the artist not the tools. A look back at master paintings created over the past few hundred years will reveal an almost unbelievable range of techniques, subject matter, color palette choices, application methods, etc… The aesthetic quality of these paintings is not dependent on matters of technique; rather it’s dependent on the artists’ own aesthetic sense and representation of his or her vision. That sense is what drives the artist.

An artist may over the course of their career try out different materials, colors, mediums, brushes, application techniques, etc… How often and to what degree an artist does this kind of experimenting is dependent on the artist. They may experiment on their own, or apply an idea from a book or workshop. An experiment can range from something as simple as trying a different kind of brush, to something as bold as using a knife to do a complete painting. In doing this, they slowly make discoveries they would not otherwise make. Experimentation is a discovery process whereby an artist finds out what works for them, or not. Either way, something is learned. Better to experiment and risk learning what you tried didn’t work, than to not experiment and remain stagnant.

I see painting as a life long learning endeavor, however understanding this in my opinion is to be careful not to use that as an excuse to produce work that is not up to the artist’s best possible. There are principals in the visual representational arts a painter should in most cases adhere to. Good drawing, perspective- both linear and aerial, good composition, color harmony, etc…   In my opinion experimentation should mostly be done within these parameters.

It may be that one definition of an artist must include that she/ he to some degree experiments, and tries different ideas. Painting is an all encompassing practice. It pulls together craft, emotion, knowledge, intuition, and many other elements. By experimenting a painter has no choice but to learn something and grow.



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