Art education

An element of our education as an artist should be the development of the ability to move away from the subject concerning the painting or drawing we are creating and to be able to look at the work we are creating about our subject. In other words, we need to see our work of art as separate from the subject.  We need to start working with the intangible.

Seeing your art as separate

A true work of art is supposed to take on a life of its own, and to do so; the artist needs to separate the elements on the substrate from the elements upon which the work is based. At some point, we need to stop copying and start using our creativity. Very few can get past the idea that their painting or drawing is not a reproduction of the subject they are working from and is, in fact, something entirely new.

Art is not just a reproduction.

A work of art is not a reproduction or a copy of our subject. Most certainly should never be a reproduction of a reproduction or, in other words, something entirely based on a photograph. Instead, a work of art should contain intangible elements placed there intentionally or unintentionally by the artist.

A quest for the intangible

Therefore the determination of either the success or failure of a work of art cannot strictly be based on the perceived skill of an artist but also must include elements of his or her creative intent and the artist’s ability to insert what Kandinsky and I like to call the intangible in such a way that the viewer feels that which the artist has placed there. The artist must have a great ability to have an uneducated viewer have the same feelings as those of the educated when they look at a work of art.

About ability

This ability is just as important for an artist to have as mechanical skills. While some will say that ability is synonymous with skill, I would say that ability speaks more of an artist’s capacity to do more than demonstrate the mechanical application of the material in a believable way. Ability speaks more of a developed intelligence, while skill speaks more of the mechanics and motions involved in what an artist does.

Levels of understanding

There are as many levels of understanding about the true nature of art as there are artists. Whether we like it or not, there are artists, and then there are real artists. A statement such as this frequently brings on wave after wave of protest from both amateur and semi-professional alike.

Beauty and the eye of the beholder

Some will say that art is subjective, while others will say beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. While both of these statements are valid, they cannot be an acceptable excuse for poorly composed and constructed works or working intuitively.

The truth about the intangible

Far too many jump to the conclusion that working with the intangible requires a complete letting go of and the total rejection of the processes and concepts that govern art-making. Nothing could be farther from the truth.  The intangible survives best in a well-thought-out work of art.

The rules still apply.

Many artists of the abstract persuasion seem not to know the basic 101’s of oil painting and think that they can get away with work that simply cannot and will not stand the test of time. Fat on lean is one example of a law of chemistry that no reputable oil painter should forget.

On skill and knowledge

Moving away from strictly mechanical skill-oriented art requires us to bring this knowledge and experience with us as we move into a more creativity-based process. True abstract artists are fully trained professionals who can do representational work and have an in-depth understanding of the science and chemistry of painting. In other words, there is a skill and ability in the work that they produce. They have decided to explore a different aspect of their creativity.

Become a better artist

Become a better artist. Set yourself apart from the Sunday painters and the amateurs by learning the craft, techniques and start working creatively. Develop your skills and your ability to push past the superficial.

About the drawing above:

Summer in the studio, mixed media on paper, 22 x 30 inches.  © Stewart Fletcher

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