Increasingly, the artists I write about for our magazines are providing me with instructional DVDs or links to websites so I can see them painting and listen to them describing their approaches to drawing and painting. Some are short news clips filmed by local television stations; some are home movies posted on YouTube; and a few are professionally made programs that have been scripted, filmed in a studio, and carefully edited. The production value and content vary widely from those that make me nauseous from the jerking motion of the hand-held camera to the ones that put me to sleep with their slow pace, up to the cinematic documentaries of major American artists.
My own experience is that seasoned teachers, larger-than-life personalities, and organized instructors are the best at video art instruction; and, conversely, people who are soft-spoken, painfully shy, and hopelessly disorganized just don’t come across well on the small screen. Artists might be exceptional at providing one-on-one instruction and thoughtful critiques, but if they don’t have stage presence and a well-organized educational program they shouldn’t attempt to record their approach on DVDs. Similarly if they lack technical skill and significant painting experience, they will embarrass themselves by filming a permanent record of their deficiencies.
I can usually get enough out of watching any DVD programs to complete my profile articles, but I wonder to what extent the people who pay for them find the educational content to be commensurate with the cost. Moreover, I’m curious to know whether they buy the DVDs because of the fame of the artist being filmed or because of the quality of the educational content. That is, I wonder whether artists buy DVDs because they feature Richard Schmid or Charles Reid or because the featured artist demonstrates how to handle a medium and/or subject that interests the buyer.
I decided to use this blog to ask for your comments on the types of filmed programs you find helpful, which ones are so good you’ve watched them more than once, and which ones proved to be disappointing. I would appreciate it if you would write about your experience, omitting the names of the specific artists or production companies that didn’t deliver what you expected. I’m looking for general descriptions, not criticisms that might get both of us in trouble.
M. Stephen Doherty