The importance of looking beyond technique

Once under my roof, children were educated

“Once under my roof, children were educated”

The last blog post and the number of hits on this blog really made me think. One one hand, I wasn’t surprised that progress pictures of a painting would attract all kinds of fellow painters, if only out of curiosity. I guess it’s only natural that we want to know, how does this guy do it and maybe even learn a thing or two.

In my workshops and classes however, I notice a certain obsession with technique, color mixing and to a lesser degree, art materials.
Sometimes it seems to me that that’s all people ever think about when it comes to painting! As if technique and color is all we need to create art! The fact is, that is only the beginning. It is one of the very first things. Comes right with understanding of perspective and drawing skills. Sure, we need to know how to paint that certain something, how to paint the light etc. But does that ensure a great painting once we know all the ‘how’? I don’t think so.

Technique and color mixing is a bit like being a novice carpenter with all the Snap-on and Milwaukee tools on hand. This man or woman can make straight cuts with the saw and does perfect 45 degree angle cuts on the molding. Is that enough to create an amazing piece of furniture from scratch? Of course not. It is only the first step! It takes a lot more to build that custom chair, that beautifully shaped cabinet. It takes something you can’t really put your finger on. Something that can’t be copied, acquired from books or dvd’s. It is the magic that comes when you put your heart into it and thousands of hours of your time! That is the most important thing, not technique.

Being preoccupied with technical painting issues clutters our minds. You never really get to
paint. It’s just a picture once it’s done. It’s techy! Sure great, impressive drybrush work, nice runs and wet on wet washes…but that’s it. Otherwise lifeless, no mystery, nothing that draws us in! There’s a lot of artwork like that out there.

Paint with your heart. I finish by leaving one of my favorite quotes by a guy named Fritz Perls
‘Only when we loose our minds can we come to our senses’  For painting, nothing rings more true than that!

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8 thoughts on “The importance of looking beyond technique

  1. Carol King

    Hi Frank, I love this painting. There is something lonely yet beautiful about this landscape. I like the sagging roof of the house and I wonder who lives there.

    As far as fixations with your technique, color mixing, etc.in workshops I believe I can say that as an amateur artist, I find that the thinking goes “if I do what he does and own the same brushes and paper and paints then I can do what he does.” While I know this is incorrect thinking it doesn’t stop us. I do know that I need to devote more time to painting if I ever want to find my way down that “lonely road”.

    Thank you for being a good teacher.

    1. frankeber Post author

      Excellent comment! No, I understand where you coming from. It’s like you said, you *know* the secret can’t be the technique etc. It is something you grow out of as you become a more proficient painter. I’ve painted with a few big name painters in the past but it didn’t occur to me to try to figure out their color mixes or other technical issues. As you said, as an amateur it is ok and quite expected to ask questions and even copy the artist you most admire or learn from. But there comes a time when you have to move on, otherwise you won’t develop your own voice!
      Thank you my friend, for your nice words. This painting is part of a series I am doing. There will be more, stay tuned!

  2. lesliepaints

    Well said, Frank. I always tell my students that each new technique they learn are what they can stick in their back pockets to pull out when they need it. Yes, like their tools! I have had some learn softening an edge in one evening and others have worked for a couple years and can’t quite manage that. BUT! They have all learned to turn off that negative voice inside themselves which prevents them from growing; and each one of them begins to explore possibilities. They pull out those techniques when they need them and they truly bring themselves and their own hands to the painting. The artist that can’t quite soften an edge brings wonderful edgey paintings to class and the one who can’t see brilliant color brings nice monochromatic paintings. I think the biggest mistake an instructor can make is to teach their own style. I often think an art instructor is an encourager with an “eye”.
    That painting is HOME. That’s exactly what it looks like here in Indian, now!

    1. frankeber Post author

      Also well said, Leslie! I agree with you and teaching a style, it’s not what an instructor should do at all! Interesting to hear about your own experiences teaching. It seems you are a great teacher, esp in light of the fact that all your students turned off that annoying, negative voice inside themselves! I can’t seem to get that out of some of them. That is an accomplishment!
      Thanks for your continuing visits here, really appreciate it!

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