|Self Portrait by Egon Schiele, 1912.|
Let's say you're Egon Schiele. You have a singular vision so original, so violently intense, that you can develop as an artist by feeding exclusively on your own inspiration. Your drive will crush every obstacle in your way–even feed on it, transforming your mistakes and flaws into revelations.
Now let's say you're you or me. We might be good or talented–maybe we'll even become great. But in order to get where we’re going, we have a body of technical skill that we need to add to our toolboxes. What should we do about that?
My first step was to choose a master. This master, preferably someone safely dead, will act as your pole star. This master will be someone not only of massive artistic accomplishment, but of formidable technical skill. By studying the master's work, you will find both inspiration in terms of what art can express, and insight into how art expresses it. Your master will have produced work of such technical sophistication that you can spend hours poring over his or her work, learning new lessons as your own skills advance enough to prepare you for further growth.
|The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and
St. John the Baptist by Leonardo da Vinci,
I chose Leonardo Da Vinci. In the next few posts, I will describe to you how and what I learned from my years of studying Da Vinci.
But in the meantime, I want to share with you what I think is the most important reason to choose a master: you should always be thinking of an artist better than you. It is important (albeit egomaniacal) in the process of becoming an artist to think that you are the best artist who has ever walked this humble Earth.
But it is just as important to think that you are nothing, that you are the lowest of the low. Very little inspires the will to improve like the company of someone who demonstrates that there is still room to improve. When you depend only on yourself, you depend on the inspiration of one person. When you have a master, you depend on the inspiration of two. A conversation is often a better place to learn new things than a monologue.