One of the many wonderful benefits of being an artist married to another artist is the rich ongoing conversation about all things art. Having been artists for so many decades, we’ve gained a long-range perspective on the twists and turns of artist’s road. We have been discussing lately the interesting pendulum swings that take place in the development of our individual art and on a larger scale, in the trends of art around us.
Because we both received formal art training at a time when basic skills were de-emphasized and concept and imagination were worshiped, we did not receive the education in the craft of painting we hoped for. Even in those early days, we both were inclined toward working representationally and honoring beauty. Painting real life was considered out of fashion, unless it was used to make a social or cultural statement. We were told to pick up the skills on our own, and that’s what we slowly did. In hindsight, we can see that the training in learning how to think as artists – the focus on stretching our imaginations and working through ideas – that we received back then is still a vital tool. But artists need an entire set of tools. Without them, our best and brightest ideas can remain unrealized.
This has led us to consider how we can best teach our own students now. Our commitment begins with teaching skills. Rather than inhibiting creativity (as some of our professors felt in the early ’70s), we think that having the skills empowers the imagination. With practice and presence, skills can become tools that can be employed with confidence and used to express the artist’s unique vision. Today, the pendulum of art is swinging back towards valuing beauty in representational art, and for that one must know the craft of painting.
As the student develops confidence, the search for one’s unique voice naturally begins. One of the hardest things to coach (because perhaps it is not really teachable) is how to find one’s style. Being present and putting in the time at the easel is paramount. But living life, being an observer of life and painting one’s distinctive life seems to be just as important. In an interview with Don Henley (of the Eagles) a very long time ago that has stuck with us, Henley was asked why it had been so long between albums. He answered, in effect, that one had to live life in order to have something to write about.
Our advice to aspiring artists is to look around your life at what you love and is important to you. Then paint your life!
Join us for some camaraderie on The Artist’s Road. You’ll find tips, interesting articles and interviews with artists. Members enjoy a discount in The Artist’s Road Store, where you’ll find the Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay and Impressionists of the Watercolor Books for young artists.
–John and Ann