Posts Tagged ‘The School of Oops’

Every effort—a learning opportunity

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

Does an artist always need to practice?  Absolutely!  The old adage “Use it or lose it,” applies here just as much as in any other realm.  Conscious and deliberate practice sessions are often undertaken to develop or strengthen a specific skill.  But every painting I undertake … or even consider and reject before ever setting brush to palette … gives me additional practice in skills that continually need honing.

Whether to paint, or not, is a continual question:  Is this subject worthy of the time and effort needed?  Is the concept interesting or evocative?  What makes me want to paint it?  Can the subject or scene be treated in an interesting enough manner to create an appealing composition?  When the answer is no, I keep looking.  When it is yes, it poses further questions:

How varied is the value range, and can it be adjusted or simplified to create a stronger statement?  How should I handle the color harmony?  Does the subject lend itself to a limited palette or beg for a broader spectrum of hues?  What is the chromatic range?  Will it translate well into paint?  If not, how can the scene be modified to improve its effectiveness?

What structural design will best serve the subject to effectively express the concept?

All of these questions and many more need to be dealt with before painting should actually begin.  And the act of simply going through the exercise of seeking the answers (either consciously or subconsciously) sharpens my artistic eye and multiplies the creative possibilities.

Finding alternatives to the obvious answers helps keep my work fresh.  Why allow it to bog down by approaching the same types of subjects in the same-ol’-same-ol’ ways?  It’s good to play with fresh approaches to see what might evolve.

No matter how hard we may try, not every painting is going to succeed.  But that doesn’t mean that the effort is wasted.  Every painting, whether successful or not, serves a purpose.  It is another step along an endless learning curve.  It may reinforce previous successes or call attention to a need for stricter attention to some technical skill; it sharpens my perception and hones my technique.  And it broadens my experience, which in turn nurtures my creativity.

Oh yes, it’s wonderful to find encouragement in achieving a difficult effect.  But it’s also a welcome challenge to recognize the need for developing a different approach to a seemingly insurmountable problem.  That simply serves as a goad to keep me trying.  And that, in itself, is valuable.

We rarely underestimate the satisfaction of a success.  But neither should we underestimate the positive potential of a failure!  We should always ask what we can learn from it.

The School of Oops

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

There’s a lot to be said for learning on the job—in other words, learning from mistakes. I’ve learned a lot that way, and I’ll pass some of that along to you so, if you choose, you can learn from my mistakes rather than making quite so many of your own.

My first major mistake as a painter was to allow myself to be talked into participating in a small community art show before talking with anyone else about it. Oops! I soon discovered that the other participants were professionals, with much more polished and mature work than I had to offer. (My first clue of trouble should have been that they asked me to participate—the organizers’ choice of qualified participants was obviously limited. The pros all agreed for the sake of the free exposure in that immediate area.) All was not lost, however. Not only did I learn almost instant humility, but when I confessed my plight, I was taken under the sympathetic wing of one of the pros involved. Joan, bless her heart, mentored me patiently, encouraging my strengths and gently suggesting ways to improve my work. She loaned me how-to books and industry magazines, introduced me to wonderful supply catalogs and websites, and offered me tips on mounting, matting, and framing.

When I first agreed to participate in the show, I had almost no work available to display. Oops! The rapidly approaching art show provided me with not only a strong incentive to improve my skills but also to develop a reasonable body of displayable work in a very limited time frame. Over a period of a couple months, I turned out vast quantities of gradually improving paintings. With each attempt I learned some small lesson and gained some worthwhile experience. (Fortunately, the show was eventually canceled, so I was saved the humiliation of exhibiting still very amateurish work within that elite company.)

As you saw in my “Color-Contrast Catastrophe” (March 8, 2010), I’ve encountered other Oopsies along the way. So now and then I may admit to yet another Oops, and pass along the lessons it imparted. You’re welcome to audit my classes any time at The School of Oops!