Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Painter's Primer, Part One

I recently came across an artist page called Linea: How Artists Think, part of the Art Students League of New York. The post I was reading was a reprint of a painter's primer by Irwin Greenberg, given to his students at the High School of Design in NYC. He passed away in 2009, at 87. It's a long list of 100 points, and I thought I would share it with you a few at a time, and give my thoughts on each point. Here's the first list:

1. Paint every day. This is a good idea if you can, but I would open it up to do something related to your art in some way, whether it's looking at an exhibit, finding something that stirs you for your next project, or even trying another art expression. Sometimes you need to refresh yourself with a new outlook. 
2. Paint until you feel physical strain. Take a break and then paint some more. No. This reminds me of the old fitness mantra of "no pain-no gain", which did no one any good. I already deal with this in some ways because of my illness, but even if you are completely healthy, I can think of no better way to turn yourself off from something you love to do, than to make yourself feel strain.
3. Suggest. OK, I can interpret this as "What if ...?". It keeps you out of a rut, and even if the original idea doesn't work, you never know where it will lead you!
4. When at an impasse, look at the work of masters. For a painter, I can see this being an encouragement. Or you can look at the work of masters in other areas. But for a painter, I would suggest looking specifically at the work in an area where you are struggling, whether it is the form, or handling light, or understanding perspective. There are numerous sites online to help you work out your struggle.
5. Buy the best materials you can afford. Absolutely yes! It is so important to have excellent materials. Not only will it make a difference in your work, but it will lift your spirits not to have to deal with cheap brushes shedding their hairs in the midst of your masterpiece, for example.
6. Let your enthusiasm show. I agree with this, too. Exclaim to the world, wherever you are, that you love what you are doing. Share it! Be ready to share how you did it! People are starved to find beauty and someone who enjoys sharing their abilities.
7. Find a way to support yourself. Always a struggle in these days. In fact, always a struggle down through history. But there are ways, if you are willing to deny yourself some of the latest tech toys and do work others may not want to do, such as housecleaning or being a part time nanny. Perhaps even pizza delivery!
8. Be your own toughest critic. I don't agree with this, because most of us tend to be perfectionists anyway. I'd rather say "Be honest with yourself." There are enough prima donnas in the world who think what they do is greater than it really is.
9. Develop a sense of humor about yourself. Yes. Absolutely! Learn to laugh when it doesn't turn out the way you wanted. It's ok, you're not the first artist to have that happen, and it won't be your only time to have it happen. Ask yourself if it's really worth raising your blood pressure over.
10. Develop the habit of work. Start early every day. When you take a break, don’t eat. Instead, drink a glass of water. Hmm, well .... yes and no. Developing the habit of working on your creativity, rather than occasionally dabbling in painting a little something, yes, it's a good idea. But some artists aren't early risers. Picasso painted until 3 in the morning, than slept till the middle of the morning. Find your own rhythm, what works best for you and then stick to it. Drinking a glass of water is a good thing as well, but if you struggle with low blood sugar, having a small snack is actually better for staying alert and focused.
Any thoughts on these? Do you agree or disagree with my comments? Let me know!

1 comment:

  1. hmm, a housecleaner or part-time nanny, you say? ;) looking forward to reading the rest of the list!


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