Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Art... as A Lifetime Learning Adventure

I was recently asked by a well-meaning student, "When did you know that you were an artist... had a style of your very own...and that you had made it?" What a question! I'm afraid that I likely didn't offer the expected answer... or that I didn't likely even satisfy the question asked in that particular student's mind. It is indeed difficult to "art - iculate" an definitive answer to such a question because an answer... if such a thing exists .. is based upon perceptions... assumptions and as well, many misconceptions. It is also based upon the individual thinking and philosophy of each artist as applied to their creative pursuit of skill and knowledge.

I feel that these uncertain financial times have spawned a plethora of "new faces" into the art business... who sincerely believe that armed with a handful of paintings... a few hours of dvd instruction and a free web site... that they "have arrived" and can call themselves"artists." I am not criticizing their desire... or their valid right to enter the art field and market... but I am questioning their notion that they "have arrived."

A true artist pursues his or her craft as an avocation and not as a hobby. Tenure in that kind of pursuit of excellence lasts a lifetime. It commences with an interest and through diligence... searching... experimenting with a number of mediums and refining of skill... it can blossom into a passion which inspires and motivates one to continue the search for new ideas and knowledge for as long as one is able to participate. As with firewood... ageing is a prerequisite to create optimum "heat" and longevity in that flame. And like a wood fire... the he(art)h must be constantly tended... and new fuel added to perpetuate and increase its strength and vitality. Otherwise... the fire will go out!

Simply making art is not enough to fully discover the breadth of possibility... or to create a unique style of one's own. One must religiously read... view the art of others and examine the lives and processes of master painters... past and present. Through these sources... knowledge gradually seeps into the very foundation of one's own creative process, where it seems a pathway emerges upon which one can travel... for the remainder of their years of painting.

Add to this... the religious discipline of a monk and drawers...  or maybe even rooms filled with (unsold) sketches and paintings which reveal a body of work... a compulsive bid to gain proficiency in at least one medium. To this recipe, add a dash of courage... the courage to approach a main line successful art gallery with one's port folio in hand... or a national juried show to determine whether or not critical evaluation matches one's own measuring device.

After these steps have been taken along the pathway to adding the title "artist" to one's accomplishments... one might consider one last test to see whether or not one has "made it." Consider teaching a small class of individuals who are without a compass... but would like to try their hand at creating art because they always had a feeling that they might be able to do so and would enjoy it. In preparing lessons and activities to lead, or at least guide these neophytes... one learns a great deal about the actual process of gaining creative potential. You are able to see it develop in its smallest increments and to watch it emerge painfully at times... and in leaps and bounds in others. You will discover very quickly... that such learning is both developmental in its nature and unique to every individual. It is exactly that for us all!

Through having to lead another through the labyrinth... you gain knowledge of your own strengths and weaknesses. You will even have to lay aside your own medium of strength... to teach outside your own comfort zone. Teaching techniques in water media... is vastly different than pencil, oils or pastels. Are you up for the challenge? Dare you step into the ring without your weapon of choice? If you can... and dare to... you will learn much about your own artistic abilities. And after your experience... you might then feel more deserving of the much bandied about title of "Artist"... simply because, now it is not the title that counts... but rather it  is the life style... the path chosen to conduct your journey... and to share with others!

In closing... I will offer my answer to the student at the beginning. I paraphrased a version of something I had recently read during my own searching... but could not quote. I will also offer some jpegs which show the growth and fire in her journey! I thank Marsha... for profoundly elevating my own self-knowledge! I am proud of your accomplishment and enthusiasm! Fair journey this winter! See you (with your bundle of paintings, I hope)... next Spring!

Her persistence in working on her own between our sessions as shown in the fall landscape... which she repeated three times reveals that she has the fire within. She has created a studio with the assistance of her husband and spends her leisure moments painting..... painting... and painting!!! Can't wait to see her work when she returns!

Marsha's acrylic version of :Lanterns and Brown-eyed Susan is shown above... and my version below. We both learned a great deal... together during this session. She learned about drawing form... applying colour colour and values.

I... on the other hand was painting out of my element... playing with new possibilities using acrylics in a wash technique... building colour layer upon layer.

Learning through "play" exciting when it is shared without fear of judgement... or failure. It is enriching to the soul... and builds esteem. It is both meditation... and therapy... all rolled into one!

I think our enjoyment and learning is evident in both pieces!

A student beginning their search to become an artist is akin to a reader on page one of a three hundred page book. Not wishing to sound pompous... I added that after 68 years, I was on page sixteen... and am by my nature.... the kind of reader who relishes a newly discovered book and preserves its duration by delaying its end. I never want the book to end! That is "Me"!... Could that be "You"????

I wonder...

Good Painting to ALL!!


  1. Your words echo my own thoughts, Bruce. It is also why I cannot consider myself an artist, though I keep on trying. Working doesn't allow for me to sit in my studio much and work at it. Throw in fatigue and my piece become farther between. Ah well...It is still joyful.

  2. Good Morning Sherry!... Thanks for adding your own thoughts to the post and for visiting regularly as you do! I always look forward to our conversations!

    Making art to create joy in one's life should be the goal for anyone. Embracing the practice of making art as a life time pursuit... is like all things in life... a choice.

    I have always admired people who enter the priesthood... as I do, women who dedicate their entire lives to their church and Christ.

    The rest of us sway in and out of such a commitment simply because our deepest conscience and being cannot support the same level of sacrifice... and yet we do share their love of church and Christ's work.

    Life leads all of us in separate ways and yet... we can share part of our journeys having a passion and need to create. It should not matter what the title is... should it?

    As Gordon Lightfoot's song is titled:

    "I'm just a painter passing through.".... and "I" am content in that knowledge!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  3. And I am another who doesn't consider himself an artist, merely someone who plays with art materials for the pleasure they give. I am particularly taken by these words .... "Learning through 'play' exciting when it is shared without fear of judgement... or failure". Some months ago I was fortunate enough to have a friend stay with me for a week. We are at a similar level with our 'art' and we spent hour after hour 'doodling' with paint as we discussed techniques and styles. The 'quality' of our doodles was never under consideration and the pleasure we derived was immense.
    Another great and insightful post Bruce. Thank you.

  4. Hi John!... Oh that it were possible for this feeling of non-competitive play and the union of minds... for the sole purpose of sharing passion and time together!

    It is so very simple to understand... and to accomplish... when kindred spirits make it so! Maybe that's the best one should hope to accomplish!

    Thank you for visiting and for sharing your very encouraging and insightful ideas of your own here at my site John! Always a pleasure to compare notes!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

    PS You are very modest about your Doodling... I might add! I love your graphite work - it's always splendid!

  5. I had to smile at your experimenting and using thin washes of acrylic. That's exactly what I was up to in my last post. :)I like the resulting floral!
    Painting is just another faction of life. The older I get, the more I realize that I don't know. In order to be an artist you might as well realize that you will be a student till the day you die.
    Liven, love on, paint on...and be happy that you have this day.

  6. Hi there Dean... We're right on the same page it seems... nearly every post!

    We share very similar values and the exact same passion for living our lives and for creating Art!

    I don't think one can really ever get "old"... when like us... one is... "young at Art"!! Not intended as a punny joke! It is a matter of Truth!

    I will live... paint and be happy sharing my "voice" with folks like yourself who uplift my soul!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  7. Dear Bruce,
    Once again your words are true, "young at Art". I love the fact that there is something to learn everyday. The joy of experimentation is that of a child playing with paint or crayon for the first time. Yes,Marsha's work is lovely.

    She is very fortunate to have you as her mentor.

    All the best to you,

  8. Hi Bruce, I entirely agree with what you have said here. Art doesn't fit neatly into the pattern of - intensive study - take an exam - obtain qualifications - set up in business. It's much more of a whole lifestyle and a never-ending learning process.

    Judging by the work you've shown here, I think Marsha is well on the way to answering her own questions in due course.

    All the best,

  9. So wonderfully put, I feel the more I paint the less I know! Yes teaching others really teachers you just as much as your students.
    It is the joy and pure pleasure that one derives from painting that makes it the best 'job' in the world, and if one can share that with a painting buddy then it's double the enjoyment. That is the way I started out painting with a friend and I just caught the art bug and have never stopped since.

  10. Hi there Diana!... So nice to hear from you!

    Thank you for sharing your own thoughts with regard your own painting journey and the common feelings of joy and satisfaction which come to each of us out of our passion for painting!

    Stay the course... your own work is exquisite and is wonderfully crafted. IT speaks of your joy!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,