Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Waiting, Tiananmen Square"...A Valued Approach

I just completed my new Chinese painting, "Waiting, Tiananmen Square", thanks to my daughter's recent visit there. Painting it, I am reminded of the principles of balance in all things.

So, inspired by own quiet thoughts this week painting this little girl so far away in China, I wrote a class handout tonight thinking about new students coming to either one of my new teaching semesters beginning tomorrow. Let me know your thoughts...


There are no rules, just tools.

I teach a certain art ‘alphabet’ through my art eye as my great teacher says. The 'language’ is YOURS to make your own through dedication and repeated practice, especially drawing and painting from life.

Every teacher teaches a slightly different alphabet. Don’t fall victim to the endemic art disease ‘PARALYSIS BY ANALYSIS’. Too many teachers, too many classes. Stick with a school of painting to really learn for a LONG while, until you feel you understand it. Random WORKSHOP-ITIS will get you nowhere but your wallet will feel lean by about $500 each time, plus supplies. Don’t be a kid in an art candy store. Pick your favorite candy. Chew. Suck. Mull the flavors over.

Buy every art book you can afford around THE school of painting you like. Set those books up when you paint. See the level you aspire to. Allow yourself a few years to ‘look’ like a bad replication of your teacher. This is normal and required. Then move on. You have to be unique and share your own art voice, point of view. There can never be another Rembrandt but we sure can learn from him.

DRAW!!! Often. You don’t need to pay for this class. IT is free and worth its weight in art gold. It separates the men from the boys. It is the biggest challenge I have faced. And continues to be. DRAW!!

VALUES comes first. Color second. You can paint a face purple and it will look great if you understand values and how to turn the form. It becomes second nature after a while. But it does take a while to get down. Keep it simple. Three values for the light, two for the dark, never the two families of light and dark ever wishing to meet. Like families, they are having a row and hate each other. Forget Thanksgiving.

BALANCE: Every painting must have this.

BALANCE in value range: Don’t paint what you see. Paint what you know. Push the effect. Gear your painting to a ‘lighter’ value painting with your mid values going higher or lower value painting, with your mid values going darker. YOU decide to your art eye what fits. Control the value pattern.

BALANCE in color: Use your color wheel. LEARN IT. It is easy. Choose to paint with three primaries for a long while, plus black and white. Especially on art trips! Handcuffs are on. Select compliments. Red with green, yellow with purple, orange with blue.

BALANCE in temperature, Cool versus warm and vice versa. Remember, your ‘grayed’ color is the stage to show off the raw, vibrant color. Like a good, rich French sauce over a bland piece of steak. It will sing. Your viewer will want desert. It has taken me a while to learn this.

BALANCE in brush work application: rough next to smooth. A bore says it all with too much of either. Quiet is needed. Excitement is needed. Just like in life. Too much of either makes one dull.

BALANCE in paint application: thick impasto areas of the canvas thick as cream, thin areas transparent as a silk stocking. Keeping things transparent is hard. How many times have I lost transparent stockings from over-working or drawing errors?

BALANCE IN COMPOSITION: a thread of dark in a sea of light, as thread of light in a sea of dark. Painting without these contrasts fall as flat as pancakes.

BALANCE IN YOUR ART VOICE; allow yourself to some days paint angry like Van Gogh, some days paint quiet like Vermeer. Don’t question this. I often do and it is a mistake. TRUST THE ART SPIRIT

BALANCE IN SELF-BELIEF. Know some days you will find it hard. Some days it will flow. Some days you will get into competitions, some days, in fact most days, you won’t.

BALANCE IN ART VIEW. Some like to be Sunday painters, some like to be professionals. Both are equally important.

BALANCE IN EGO. Let it e-go. There will always be someone who paints better than you unless you are very lucky, especially gifted, or my mentor. There will always be someone from centuries ago who knew so much more about classical art than we do now. Rembrandt? Vermeer? Waterhouse?

Therefore, be gracious to your art neighbor. Being competitive is counter productive. Instead, play forward whatever knowledge you have been blessed with or learn tomorrow. I most certainly teach because of that. I only write all of the above because I have been blessed by great art people, a magnificent mentor, along with a great art school. I have studied and learned from all of this along with my art books. You are all on my book list. And, of course, I am still on the journey.



Marian Fortunati said...

I love this post, Johanna. Reminded me of all those times in class when you tried to teach us ...... I never was able to make even bad impressions of your work... but I have enjoyed the journey!!!

Kelley Sanford said...

Great post, Johanna. Thanks for students need to read this. Love the painting too.

Mary Aslin said...

Outstanding ruminations. Thanks Johanna.