Thursday, December 27, 2007

Learn From the Masters

from All at Once:
a practically instant guide to creativity

Each generation stands on the shoulders of the last.
The wheel took a long time to invent. The Sumerians started out with simple logs, added grooves, cut out the spaces between the grooves, then, at last, made the wheel and axle separate.
As artists and human beings, we need to reinvent ourselves every day, but we do not need to reinvent the wheel. Many problems of form, color, texture and line have been solved by other painters.
Take time to look at as much art as you can. Visit museums. Go to galleries. Haunt the art sections of libraries. Notice what kind of work you like. This is probably the kind of work you would enjoy doing the most.
Do you like portraits? Realistic Dutch paintings of floral arrangements? Impressionist landscapes? Surreal dream paintings? Geometric abstracts? Expressionistic pictures portraying powerful emotions? Religious paintings? Rebellious paintings? Political paintings? Naïve paintings?
Find out about the training of your favorite artists. How did they attain the skills you admire? Many of the same training opportunities are available today.

Exercises
1. Copy a painting. If you can, go to a museum and copy from the original. You will need to either take a museum class or make special arrangements, but it is worth it. If you can’t go a museum, don’t worry. Most of us can’t. Use a reproduction.
2. Choose five favorite paintings. Think about what they have in common (for you). Use these elements to create a painting of your own.
3. Find reproductions of narrative paintings, such as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Think about how the subjects relate to your own life or to situations in the modern world. Do a painting or a series of paintings using master artists’ compositions, but your own figures, background elements and colors.
4. Attend a workshop or lecture given by a favorite living artist. Ask questions. If you can’t do this, write a letter. Tell the artist what you like about his or her work. Your librarian can help you find a mailing address. Don’t expect anything from the artist. The act of writing the letter or taking the trip will help you in ways you don’t expect. If you don’t like the work of any living artist, keep looking.