Dear Artists, Art Supporters and Friends of the Arts,
Maybe I’ll acquire some haters for this, but perhaps there are more like me out there than I think. I’m just going to say it…I do not subscribe to anything 100%. There you go. We are being assaulted with the all or nothing mindset. Electronics are run through binary code and unfortunately, humanity is being coerced into thinking in terms of 1’s and 0’s.
I will not comply!
Now, to clear up the ragged edges, yes I’m wearing a mask, curbing my “need” to socialize in person and keeping 6 feet between myself and others in the market. Also, I don’t touch hot stoves, dance naked in the road, eat delicious looking pastel sticks, or any other of the myriad things that require common sense. Politics, blue or red, neither if no one is espousing care, good morals and ethics or reason. There is a shortage of critical thinking and respect. I cannot fix the system but I CAN make sure it doesn’t swallow me and turn me into what I loath.
What the heck does this have to do with art you say? Everything!
As a professional artist, meaning I make my living off my art, I have come to many crossroads in my decision-making that guided my career. (Picture my eye roll) Everything from what people will or will not buy, what colors belong together or not, whether to place a subject smack dab in the middle of my painting or not, the right way to frame or not, pastel vs oil, portfolio vs carrying work in hand to approach a gallery, to sell on my website or not…DON”T do THAT, you MUST do THIS….HELP!!
I am here to liberate you.
The rules are merely suggestions. Photo reference is merely a suggestion. How a teacher guides you to their way of doing things in a workshop is merely a suggestion. This is where critical thinking makes or breaks an artist. At some point you have to ask, what works for ME? Maybe you are a crabby introvert or a nervous neurotic seeking gallery representation. Might I “suggest” a portfolio? “ I don’t know what that thing is in my reference, but I’m putting it in there because, well…its there.” Might I “suggest” a little common sense editing? “A gold frame tamps down the power of my light source in my painting but I’m going to frame it in gold anyway because it’s the trend.” Might I “suggest” honoring the painting with what it needs to make it look its best?
You know, I once heard a prestigious judge kick out a beautiful landscape painting that they otherwise would have given a ribbon to, because according to them, a specific type of yellow that the artist used “wasn’t found in nature.” Not that I’m not already sort of a natural born rule breaker, but when it came to art, that was a flat out paradigm shifter. First and foremost, I realized that even the most supposedly knowledgeable art expert can be blinded to genius by some rule they have subscribed to. My second big takeaway was that if I was going to break some kind of rule-of-proper-painting-etiquette, I wasn’t going to be shy about it. I was going to do it big, out loud and unashamed! It was after that I began to notice some of what people loved so much about my art were actually elements where I challenged the rules.
Back to critical thinking. What works for you, you know, the comprehensive list that has gotten you to where you are, is it working for you? Take a look at your assumptions, the methods you hold onto with white knuckles, are they working for you? Have you been chasing someone else’s rules so long you are horrified to pull the emergency brake and get off the bus?
Take a little time as you approach your next painting. Ask yourself why you are painting it. What excites you about the scene. Then when you begin to make a mark, whose voice do you hear? A teacher whose work you admire, or do you even remember? How is it valid to your work, or is it time to abandon it to see what the artist you are can do without that particular net? Rules are meant to be challenged to ensure that they are valid to YOUR goal and vision.
I remarked to my semi private class the other day. What if Monet and Van Gogh decided to go to the Bosque del Apache and do some plein air painting together. What if there was one rule by which to paint trees? What do you suppose those paintings would look like? Think about it…
As you gear up to venture out into the world as restrictions lift, think of your process as a new chapter. Not that you want to change a lot about your approach, but more than that, decide if you “own” the ideas you subscribe to. If you do, use them with power! If your not clear on why you are doing something in particular, explore the alternative. It could lead you to your Renaissance.
Happy and safe painting everyone,