Friday, March 09, 2007

People who rub us the wrong way, do they sharpen us?

I was invited to attend an open studio class for watercolor today at the museum. I was very excited since I haven't really been able to do any classes since I took a watercolor class when my kids were in elementary school. The class consisted mainly of older women who were working on varies projects, one in oil, one in acrylic and 3 of them were working in watercolor. My girlfriend Marta told me to bring some work so the teacher could get a feel of where I was artistically. The teacher said she was going to save me for last since it would take longer. When I put up all of my small study pieces, which are posted here usually, she began to say that I had the technique down and what was I hoping to do now. I told her I would like to become looser in my style and not feel like I had to stick every detail into each piece. She said that art has to talk to you, that you have to feel something about the piece. That the viewer should know something about the artist by her paintings in order to want to buy it for their home. I think I agree with that, but what makes you or I feel something will be as different as each of us are. She said that she felt I was a good painter, had the techniques down but didn't show anything of myself in my paintings. She said I was an "illustrator", able to reproduce an image but that my paintings were kind of boring. She went on to make some other comments, all said nicely but the words still hit hard. Here I sat in front of all these women, who were now hugging their own paintings, being called on the carpet. I told her I was ready to make the next step in my art and she said you have to dig inside and figure out who you are and then say it. I think she believes that your subject matter reflects who you are and that each painting we do should have some deep physiological meaning. I tend to believe that if I am a good artist I should be able to make something ordinary and boring beautiful based on colors and shading etc. That everything doesn't have a deep seeded thought process just a good outcome. Anyway, needless to say it was a hard day but it was thought provoking. I have been thinking and thinking, chewing over all the things she said that continue to run through my mind. How do I show myself in my paintings? How do I tell a story with my art? Do I just reproduce images to spare myself rejection. Does every painting have to say something or can I just paint an orange to paint an orange? Is my mural business side reflecting on my personal art side? How do I take my art to that next level, is it going to be a painful, personal, soul searching journey? Interesting concepts, makes me think about how complex we really are. I paid for four classes, I will go and do the assignments and "dig deep" as she said, to find a voice ( I only have a week). I told her maybe I need therapy instead? As I sat that last hour I just had my paint brush out and started to just doodle paint to kill the time. I wasn't following a picture or a model just from my head. She asked what that meant to me and where was I going to take it? That my assignment was to take and paint something that reflects me? I would love to hear comments on this, do your paintings all say something about you? Do they carry deep meaning or do you paint what you see. When you are depressed do your paintings become dark? Do you think that maybe that is what separates the painters from the artists? Why did illustrator sound like a bad word?


Linda said...

Oh! I know what you mean! I think we all are TRYING to "say something" about ourselves when we paint ordinary or beautiful things -- sometimes we succeed in illustrating and sometimes we succeed in saying something incredible. But I also think that sometimes it varies from viewer to viewer. When you think about it, what keeps a A. Wyethy painting from being an illustration? And I think your painting of oranges (which I love!) is very artistic and full of warmth -- very comforting. Oy. It doesn't all have to be dark and dreary to be full of soul!
:-D One week to find your voice, huh? Well...
And for some reason, the art world has made "illustrator" a nasty word -- yet what did Michelangelo do but illustrate?
Please take the good from the class and the critique, and keep the good in what you are already doing! I, for one, love your work!

Susan said...

Maybe it's the retired teacher in me, but I can't imagine telling someone their work is boring! I haven't found your pics boring, ever. For some people, for some art, she may be correct, but I tend to think that some things just are what they are. If you paint an orange, and it's a lovely picture of an orange, what more does it have to be? Does it have to show how you feel about oranges, or death, or life in general? I don't think so! I like art that looks like something, and I always enjoy your pictures.

It may be that something she said will spark great creativity for you. I prefer a more positive approach, myself. =)

I consider my quilts to be art, it's how I express myself, but it isn't about me. It's about color and design and what I like, about what it gives me pleasure to make, but it isn't about my struggle to accept various things in life. It *could* be for someone, but it hasn't been up until now, for me.

Lessandra said...

Today was our last watercolor class and we had all of our art hung on clothesline strung in front of the chalkboards. Our teacher is a wonderful person and her belief is, everyone has their own way of painting and it's all beautiful - or interesting :) Another art teacher, who is now dean of the leisure studies at the college came in to critique our work. She is an excellent painter and photographer. We were discussing personal style and how sometimes we do paintings we don't complete because it's not "saying" or doing what we envision; so we put it away or throw it away. My art teacher keeps hers several years before she will throw it away, because after viewing it with fresh eyes a new idea or solution may be there. Then one of the students pointed out how one of the artists threw one of her watercolor paintings in the trash and the teacher retrieved it. It was a superb landscape painting! What I'm trying to point out is, you may be hard on yourself - and will work on your artwork until you are satisfied, but, as the critique teacher told us, listen to all the critquing, advise, etc and keep what you feel is helpful advise for your art development and ignore the rest! I happen to think your art is full of beauty and is very interesting as well! Keep up the great work!

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