Click on photos to enlarge.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Beginning Artist

Tribuna Uffizi, 1771, Johann Zoffany--Art history run amok.
Art history can be an intimidating study of names, dates, movements, firsts, lasts, and theories so arcane and esoteric as to be virtually incomprehensible to even an experienced artist. For the beginner, it IS incomprehensible, not to mention a largely unnecessary burden. For the beginning artist, what difference does it make  whether Picasso or van Gogh invented cubism? For the beginner, art history is important only as a means of placing their art in the context of past, present, and future art. Whether novice artists realize it or not, the art they create is influenced to some degree by art from the past with which they may have had contact, however briefly. It is also influenced by the art they did yesterday (yes, that too is art history). Moreover, everything a beginning artist does in art today influences the art they will do in the future.

All Star Generation, Emanuel Ologeano--very mixed media.
As a beginning artist, the media you choose to use is wide open. As a beginning artist, you should play to your strengths. Just because Michelangelo carved marble doesn't mean you have to break out mallet and chisel. You can study Bernini just as well with a pencil, pastels, watercolor, even a camera. The important factor is that the medium you choose be appropriate to the concepts being studied. It would make little sense, for instance, to try exploring something as ephemeral as dreams using a medium as concrete as clay. By the same token, the beginning artist should not feel bound by tradition to choose oils simply because most painters in the past used them. In fact, they need not choose paint at all. Colored papers and glue can often accomplish the same creative aims.

Whether you are a Neat Pete or a Messy Bessie,
bank your technical skills, just don't expect them to pay all your bills.
Creating art of any kind presupposes some degree of technical skill with the media chosen. Whether we like to admit it or not, ineptitude hampers and inhibits self-expression. It's a fact of life every artist has to deal with. Yet technical skills alone do not create art. If not married to a some understanding of art concepts and cultural contexts (a euphemism for art history), work will seem empty, and indeed, may even fall short of the illusive definition of art. The major evaluative emphasis you impose on your work should be on what and why you've done something, not on how well you've done it. As to the latter, you should simply demand your best effort. Creating a work of art is, in effect, a lengthy series of evaluations on the part of the artist. Thus, self-evaluation is vital.

But lots of rules to avoid a BAD painting.
Creating any work of art is literally a long series of decisions. These decisions begin with brainstorming ideas and end with the decision as to where to sign the work and how big. Each decision is usually predicated upon the one before. No artist inherently makes every decision in this chain correctly. Technical skills involve spotting errors of judgment and knowing how to correct them. Concepts and contexts are more general, thus evaluative judgments  are often more difficult, if not impossible, to correct short of wadding up the work and starting over with a fresh, perhaps more valid, concept or new contextual insight. This is where critical thinking comes into play. Don't let such an activity intimidate you. Let it challenge you. Let it cause you to elevate your conceptual thinking to a higher plane. Let it cause you to learn to think clearly.

Sometimes, erasers aren't enough.




No comments:

Post a Comment