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Monday, April 5, 2010

The Learning Curve

I'm changing gear on this blog. Don't want you to get bored with "Jack's Roses" before I'm finished. My worry about the red rose dominating the painting turned out to be a good thing. I'm putting a larger red rose smack dab in the middle. All of the other roses will lead to it in one way or another. See how practice makes perfect? I'm going to do some glazing which requires time and patience, so I will get back to you on the completion details (stay tuned).

There is definitely a curve in learning how to draw and paint well. Not only is practice involved, but learning from professionals who have been there--done that. I want to thank my first art teacher (I've forgotten her name). A professional art educator and artist in her own right. She taught classes in her basement each week, and I was an avid student.

She taught me how to see, especially how to focus on shape and form, and the tricky details of foreshortening. She taught me how to prep a canvas, and how to plan a composition and paint it in oils. Everything I learned from her became the basis from which I work even today.

I also learned through classes at junior and technical colleges. I discovered my favorite medium was brush and ink. I liked the stunning effect of black on white (or sepia). I won my first art contest with a linear drawing of a nude. I started the painting at the top of the figure and continued my stroke until the ink was dry. A first prize ribbon graced my efforts in the art show.

I learned how important live models are to the drawing experience. The freedom I felt in those classes gave me a new life and a purpose. Overwhelmed by personal problems in those days, I literally found an escape hatch. When I was painting and drawing, nothing else mattered. I was lost in a world of my own making. I felt in control of my circumstances and my art.

Sometimes I struggle with writer's or artist's block. I freeze up. I lose my self confidence. I become analytical and critical of both my skill and my execution. At those times, I try to get back to the freedom I felt as a student when it was all about discovery and learning. Then I didn't worry whether something was good or bad or whether it was the correct form or perspective. I just let my imagination fly and my spirits soar.

There is a learning curve in doing anything correctly, but there's also a choice. Plug along methodically and practice your art as a pianist does his scales by rote, or enjoy the ride: experiment, play, enjoy the freedom, savor the moment.

My oil on acrylic painting "Flash Dance" was an experimental painting. I let myself go. The colors are wild, the leaves and petals have a somewhat fanciful feel. I wanted the flowers to literally dance before your eyes. Did I succeed? You be the judge.
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