Saturday, August 25, 2012

Teach Yourself Art

I don't have much in the way of formal art training so I'm busy teaching myself. The best way I know how is to copy others.

There are a lot of ideas and myths about what makes a ¨good¨ artist. Many of these concern technical ability.

For instance, Whistler (I think it was) used to show off that he could look at a scene for 10 minutes, then turn his back on it and describe it in detail (number of windows in a building, and so on).  Later, when he was in his studio he could reproduce the scene from memory.  (Clever dick.)  I tried that once but after looking at the same thing for even a few minutes I couldn’t remember what I was doing.  Back at the studio I couldn’t even remember where
I’d been, let alone what I’d seen there!

Another myth is that a good artist should be able to draw a perfect circle freehand - first time, every time.
One of my favourite artists is Graham Sutherland. A few of his paintings are on permanent display at Cardiff Museum. I first took a liking to them when I used to go there as a kid.  Recently, they dug out more of his work from storage and had a small exhibition.  I took my sketchbook along a few times and made some studies.
Although Sutherland's work is very abstract and organic , it is also very structured in composition. In fact, when you look closely, there is a grid of small squares drawn in pencil on the canvas.  In places it has been left to show through.  It’s almost like the scaffolding on which the picture is allowed to grow and take shape.

I also noticed something else.  Where he has painted a large circular form, I saw a tiny hole at the centre where he placed the compass point!  At first I was a bit taken aback by this because it felt a bit like cheating! It's supposed to be done freehand! Then I realised that it's just being practical and real about the process.

Making art is about more than technical virtuosity.  There are tools to do the job and there’s no shame in using them to get the idea and the image across.

A ruler and a compass are just some of the tools of the trade.

(My old Primary School headteacher would go bonkers reading this. "It's a pair of compasses! A compass is what one uses for directions!)

Mr Sutherland should have used blue tack then he wouldn't leave compassss holes - or was he trying to make a point?
Ha! Not sure what he was up to Sarah!
I definitely love this site.

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