Sunday, August 22, 2010

Two Big Disappointments

When I studied Fine Art at university, I was surprised that we were not taught art techniques. We were not taught much about the materials we were using or how to use them. We weren’t taught the colour wheel, shown colour charts, or even how to paint. We were not required to complete tonal gradation charts, or know the names of the pigments we were using. We did no preparatory sketching, didn't keep sketchbooks or any records of our work. We studied how to make art without any reference to the craft of art making. I can only assume that the omission was deliberate and that knowledge of materials and technique was considered superfluous to the making of important and avante garde work.

Although I graduated with respectable results, I felt quite unprepared for a career as an artist and struggled to make art outside of university. This was a big disappointment, I had a degree in art, but I did not know how to be an artist. I embarked on a post graduate diploma, qualified as a teacher and I taught.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to teach art with a poor understanding of materials and techniques. I found that most of my students showed no interest in my highbrow philosophy of art making, they wanted to learn to draw and paint in a naturalistic way.

And so began my second art education – I taught myself the craft of art making. I became knowledgeable and skilled in drawing and painting, in materials and techniques and I passed on this knowledge to the best of my ability.

My students learned to make beautiful, realistic paintings; they understood their materials and honed their skills. But their work was superficial, it lacked substance. This was another big disappointment to me, although my students and I knew how to paint well, this did not bring us any closer to being artists.

It has taken me a long time to understand that art is a complex thing. Technique is a means to an end, but certainly not an end in itself.

So, what is it that sets good work apart?

but more importantly,

Can I make a good work of art?

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