Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Learning Curve – It’s Essential

                          Jan Ellen Atkielski
Some people expect to be professional artists as soon as they get their fine arts degree. It doesn’t work that way. Nothing happens over night. There is always a “learning curve.”
Of course, there are those who are gifted with talent and the ability to see at a young age. But most of us have to improve our skills over time. Combine practice with continuing education, and you have a winning formula. I’ve photographed one of our guest speakers, Jan Ellen Atkielski, who spoke to our art league about marketing, goal setting, preparing portfolios and statements, and how to exhibit. There are many components to continuing education. This is one of them.

Diane Carmen and Bonnie Wolff

I’ve always claimed that my first art teacher didn’t teach me how to paint, she taught me how to see. But I’ve discovered since that the learning continues. Just when I think I’ve overcome the tendency to fill-in-the-blanks with my brain, I pull the same stunt again. The perfect example: I submitted one of my paintings to an online critique at FAA. I sensed something was wrong with the painting, but couldn’t quite figure out what it was or how to resolve it.

Pat Papa

Boy did I get critiqued! It is a humbling experience, to say the least. There were those who for the sake of showing off their skills nit-picked to the point of over-kill. At that point, I was ready to dump my painting altogether.

Jan and Annie St. Martin

Then there were the serious artists who really wanted to be of help, but they were somewhat timid. The rest were extremely helpful. One person showed me what I’d missed in my original photo and one other artist nailed it by pointing out what had been bothering me from the first: a glaring discrepancy that the others skirted around to avoid embarassing me. I’ll share their critique and painting 1 and 2 on one of my future blogs and get your input.

Learning to draw and to paint is difficult. If you’re really serious about it, you must sketch, draw, or paint every day. Using a variety of media is important until you find one you know and love. Practicing various brush techniques can help you use the right brush in the right place when it’s needed. Knowing how to mix colors and make values is critical. I’m still having trouble with values and perspective, but I know it will come with practice.

I enjoy doing quick sketches like this young girl playing soccer. I like to capture the energy of movement and then carry that forward in a painting. Is my sketch perfect? No! Her head is a little too large and her extended arm was too long. When I shortened it, I lost some of the detail. I do think I nailed the foreshortening of her legs as she manuevers the ball, but you be the judge.

Don’t get discouraged, and don’t give up. No matter what your skill or profession, there is a learning curve. You can’t get away from it. If you want to be successful bad enough, you will achieve your goals!