Thursday, January 20, 2005

On being a trained artist

I have a MA in Fibers and a BFA in Painting and Drawing. Big Whup.
I have taken every art class available to me in high school and was always the kid that got to draw with the colored chalk for the monthly black board illustration in the back of the room.

I'm here to tell ya, there ain't no such thing as being a trained artist.
At art school you learn theory, maybe, if you're lucky, and techniques, and history. Some of it is interesting, some of it is fun, but none of it makes you a trained artist. Is being a trained artist like learning to juggle or roll over and play dead?
Being an artist is not those things.
Being an artist is already in you, and can't be learned any more than learning your blue eyes.

You can't go to school and learn the right way to draw or the right way to sculpt or the right way to paint. You can learn the correct proportions of the figure, but then how does that help when you want to paint abstractly? Learning all the techniques in the world still leaves you with the problem of how to use them to make art.

Having the desire to make art is really the part that should get the attention. This is a natural human expression, like wanting to talk or sing. Some are blessed with a good singing voice, but as I recently learned, the forest would be a much quieter place if only the birds with the best song sang.
Stop using the excuse that you have no art training. My friend Carol Taylor used to whine about that endlessly, and now she has five Best of Shows to her credit. Hard work did it. Sure she took every workshop she could, even from me, and gathered up techniques like mad, but it was her strong desire to make art that took her to the place she is today.
Make more work. Nothing else will take the place of cranking out the goods. You learn from doing and if you learn to trust your own instincts, that is the most important thing you can discover about art. Its all in there, just waiting to come out.
Make only what makes you happy. You get no extra points for the struggle. If you want people to think you are meticulous, then make those dreadfully time consuming works to prove it. If you want people to think you are a deep thinker then makes those works that are heavy with meaning and full of verbiage. ( If you want to send a message, try Western Union). If you make art that pleases you, that is fun for you to make, it will show in the finished product.
Your art is your ambassador. What you put out there inevitably attracts people you will like and who will like you. Caryl Fallert told me this and it couldn't be more true. Folks who don't like what you are making won't give it the time of day. If they do like your work, they can't wait to tell you. Then you have made a new friend. How wonderful is that?
Not everything you make is great but it is still work worth doing. You already know that little something you tried didn't work, and what you might have done to make it better. It's OK to put it away unfinished. You needn't ever finish it, but you could use it or parts of it in something else that does work. This is one of the best things about quilting. Can you imagine cutting up a part of a finished oil painting and trying to seamlessly insert it in a new painting? Not easy to do.
Steal Knowledge. Look at artwork and deduce the qualities that are inherent in the work. Find structure or layout that can be useful in your work. Understand how the colors work in a piece to create a mood. Feed your muse with art and keep images to inspire.
You know all that already. Don't you ? See, you
are an artist.