Sunday, March 17, 2013

Style, Development and Being You

I was reading some interesting articles on art.  My memory flood gates opened wide.  I remember the likes of "so you want to be and artist?  Are you sure? Or do you want to paint Mickey Mouse?"  Then when I was thinking of showing a painting "are you ready?"  But after a long period of reflection, perhaps my favourite was "people will buy any kind of ...  crap."  The truth is both tough to take and hard to find from someone who actually knows.  But it is invaluable if you are truly interested in developing your art.

The article I was reading referred to Monet being rejected from the Salon for being "too Monet".  That is what Monet strived for his whole life.  When he painted for another purpose he went off the tracks, but was still too Monet.  Here are two paintings.  One for the Salon, one painted in his "own manner".

The Seine at Lavacourt

The Seine at Lavacourt - Monet Mode

Monet was not alone. Mary Cassatt, refusing an award said words to the effect "I must stick to my principle - no jury, no medals, no awards - no profession is so enslaved as ours."

Robert Henri of Art Spirit fame taught that growth is the entire payoff.  "Making pictures is what we do when submitting to juries."  There should be no emphasis on production.  Painting marks are a by product of seeking to be who you already are.  This theme runs through from Corot to the Impressionists to Cezanne, Matisse, and Picasso.  Picasso famously said "it took me 4 years to learn to paint like the masters and the rest of my life to paint like a child."

My mentor explains "distractions like that rob you of development"  - from becoming who you are.

The living masters have their version as well.

David Leffel; "Painting pictures is confining.  Learning to paint is limitless."

"So many paintings, so little art."

Richard Schmid;  "You and your mind are ultimately the real subject of your art regardless of what you paint."

"Do not ask yourself, What do I see?  Rather ask, What do I see?"

It takes time to internalize these words.  Some of them I have struggled with for years.

Here are a few ways to develop as an artist.

1.  Avoid the goal of making a successful painting.  Think of periods, such as childhood, when your self understanding grew and you became more of who you are.  With such a freedom we realized the payoff was growth.  Making art should be this way.  Paintings are just a series of events that happen along the way.  Let them go.  Keep moving.

2.  Make many starts.   As soon as the freshness evaporates, stop.  Picasso lectured eloquently on this.  "Finish is the death of our work because it means we are painting an expectation and that puts the brakes on painting to see and feel more deeply.  Every beginning is a new prompt.  Begin everything, finish nothing.  Also stated by Cezanne.  Paint some everywhere, don't finish anywhere.

3.  Ignore non artist authorities (many painters few artists).  Juries, grantors, facebook likes, the gallery, the direction from "them" are just so many fingers in our pie.  These measures push us to performing and not creating.  Their sense of worth takes over our own.  This is precisely what Parisian artists fought against (think Salon).

4.  Let the world see who YOU are.  It is so easy to hide behind others expectations, seek sources of praise that we can count on by pleasing our audience.  We cannot be free to be who we are if we are not risking who we are in front of others.

A "career?"  The painters of Paris made their big career move, as it turned out, by biting the very hand that fed them.  The assembly line to the great gallery opening is the painter's kiss of death.


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  2. This is beautiful, I love the slow fade along the horizon from sky to water and how the sky and water somehow become one in the same all at once. Kudos to Monet (as usual) and kudos to you for sharing with us the works of Monet!