Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Education, Portraits, and Blab

For some time, I have wanted to elucidate (explain) the purpose of art education. Is it helping the student to arrive at a pretty picture? Is it more? I would hope so. Robert Henri explains the purpose thusly; Development of a strong perosnal art...through stimulating in students a more profound study of Construction, Proportion, Drawing---stimulating activity, mental and physical, moral, courage, invention in expression to fit the idea to be expressed;the study of specific technique, impressing the importance of the idea, that it must have weitht, value, be well worth (work). The development, therefore, of artists of mind, philosophy, sympathy, courage, invention. ...Individuality of thought and expression is encouraged. (p.224, Henri, 1923.) Wow, isn't that awesome? Now, what does it mean? The student should be devoted to the point where the teacher may "destroy her darling" , or in other words, wipe off the painting and start over. As painful as that may be, it needs to happen for a variety of reasons--it needs to be redone, the artist must gain ego freedom of her/his work--a sense of detachment for a better product. A painting may need to be redone 6, 7 or more times as the great James Singer Sargent (ala Don Hatfield personal notes) would do.
Portraiture, as in the example above, is a passion of mine, perhaps held back. I am not sure why. There are so many good portrait artists but I want to bring to mind what a more contemporary artist, Dan McCaw who says, to develop within the student her/his inner voice, whether is be realism, abstraction or impressionism. That will help the student to stop when they have created the statement they want to create. Without a vision, there is no stopping point and the student begins licking the painting--hitting the paint brush over and over reducing the power of the painting.
The blah in the title of today's blog is how I feel. It is okay, I am in a down zone. Quite normal from what I understand talking to my artist friends. But I wanted to get these ideas out to help other students become clear on reason for studying art. Yes, a pretty picture emerges but from a grasp of technique, ideas, invention, and expression. Develop the latter and the former may emerge.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Alameda Theater, 8x16, $700
This blog is on design--partly because I don't know what else to write about and partly because I read an exciting description of the difference between simply painting what you see and design. My esteemed colleague, Stapleton Kearns makes a distinction by stating, " is an example of a circular composition. I have been talking about designs and said this;
"What I meant was that design is a human construction and can not be copied from nature. You use decision making to add it to your painting. Design is a decision making and not a transcription process. No matter how carefully you copy that which is before you, you won't end up with a designed painting. Design is a construct, a geometric armature upon which you build your painting. I think I will show some examples for a while here. The most important thing I want to teach on this blog, design. Not just how-to, but you-should. You can learn to draw accurately, in fact that is essential. But it is not enough to make a picturemaker of you, only a journalist. " So, the rebellious part of me wants to disagree, because occasionally I will stumble upon an excellent design in mother nature but generally Stape is quite correct. You must think design and instill it as part of your painting construction--note I say construction, not transcription. Otherwise your a journalist, not a oil painter. In Edgar Paynes book on composition, he notes various designs like the 0, S, and triangle but one I will show in this blog is the L design. Simply note how the buidling goes straight up while the people and cars make a line to the left. This design theme can be seen in many great paintings of the past and contemporary artists and has a strong feeling to it. I will write about the rest in future blogs--maybe just quit and refer you to some great blog sites out there that do a better job. Only kidding, had a slow show saturday in Alameda so little in the dumps but will get my mojo up soon. So, think design don't just copy what is in front of you. As my friend Frank Ordaz says, "I always think design" . Have that as a mantra and your art will improve.