Aspirations of an artist

‘Nowhere in the world of art education has technique been so foolishly substituted for true meaning, self expression, and knowledge as in the field of watercolor’
Edward Reep, 1983 (from the book Content of Watercolor)

Harsh words from Mr. Reep, but he has a point. Students often don’t seem to move on from materials and technique. Part of the problem is that people seem to think they learn how to paint by attending workshops. I don’t mean to downplay that a workshop can help. Some just take so many or even worse, some actually only paint in workshop settings, never anywhere else! The art of painting is learned by painting!

Well, it all depends on what goals we have, doesn’t it? I guess it’s ok to just paint as a pastime. However, I think that someone who paints three times a year should not have the right to call themselves an artist, any more so than someone who thinks they’re a musician when they only play their instrument every leap year and otherwise just listen to music.
To think and talk about painting doesn’t count. To look at painting images on facebook doesn’t either. We actually have to do it.

The more we paint, the closer we get to the real reason of why we paint. We no longer focus on the ‘how’ but more on the ‘why’.

When we start it’s quite normal that we’re preoccupied with technique and materials. We inhale ‘how to paint this and that’-books and attend workshops. We have to start somewhere. After a while, the focus starts shifting. At least in theory.

As the years go by I started thinking more and more about why I paint. In the beginning I even had problems articulating it, or finding a good reason at all! Sure, I used to be a professional illustrator. Sure, I painted since I was a child on and off. Sure, I studied painting with an Italian master painter, etc. etc. But are those real reasons? Motivation enough to keep at it today, after all these years? Do I love it that much?

Everyone should ask themselves the question why they paint, I think. Painting ultimately should be about expression. A painter, even a representational painter, needs to have a vision that goes beyond copying shapes that we encounter in nature or take pictures of. We need to have something to say with our art. It’s a different path for each and everyone of us. It’s a different life for each and every one of us. Therefore our art and what we express should be highly personal and intimate. Despite social media, painting will remain a solitary pursuit where only the end product is shared with others and even that is not for certain.

Keep it that way.

10 thoughts on “Aspirations of an artist

  1. aHorseForElinor

    Surely unintentionally, you’ve managed to write an entire post that could easily be applied to the classical training of dressage as well.
    Wonderful read!
    Practicing an age old, some 500 years, tradition of exercises, all to create harmony between horse and rider, is both as precise and diffuse as trying to capture the essence of art.
    Taking many decades to master, the students find them selves first grasping for an understanding of how.
    Then, it turns muddier the longer we go. In the end, continuing to wonder, why?

    1. frankeber Post author

      Thank you! Yes, you are right. This applies to your work also, isn’t that interesting? I love how it’s all connected..
      I think in the end it comes down to ‘pure love’. Your activity gives you purpose in your life and there really can’t be a better reason to do it!

  2. Judith

    As a newcomer to the world of art, I’m still in the process of finding myself. I can’t yet express what I want to say because it’s not yet clear for me who I am — or who I want to become — as an artist. At this point, all I can say is that I paint in order to find myself and discover my voice. Perhaps then I’ll know what it is I’m trying to express.

  3. lesliepaints

    I like what Lucien Freud said about why he painted. He insisted it was because he had not yet rendered that perfect painting, the one to end it all that said everything. I differ, though, about the title of artist. I think everyone who engages in the activity of mark making is exhibiting their artistry and that everyone has a hidden artist within them. I agree that one must paint and paint and paint in order to find and bring that expression out. Beautiful portraiture, Frank. Excellent posts about topics I am always conscious of.

    1. frankeber Post author

      I actually heard that too about Freud! It’s a good reason! So you think everyone could be an artist? I am not sure. Everyone may have the potential to be one, maybe…yes. That would be a good topic to discuss over a drink! Thanks as always for taking the time to leave a kind reply, Leslie! I respect your opinion, of course!

  4. Pingback: Why paint? Easy question, not quite so easily answered. Thinking.

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