I had the privilege of attending three different colleges/universities for my art education. I did a diploma in Fine Art at a budding university, brought that diploma to another university that was more established to finish off my Bachelor’s in Fine Arts and then jetted off to Ireland to pursue a Master’s degree at a tiny art college by the Atlantic Ocean. I have seen many styles and heard many different opinions on aesthetics and styles etc. Here’s my opinion which I think is the take-away.
You do you babe. At the end of the day all schools have their own aesthetics and style that they try to culture whether intentionally or not and you have to do you. There is no law or bible on aesthetics and style that you must obey (although some professors would probably disagree). At the end of the day, its your work and you have to live with what you made. Being true to yourself is way more important than being part of a style club. Its so ridiculous, because opinions vary across the board. I had some teachers that absolutely loved my gestural style of drawing and mark making and other teachers that criticised it. At the end of the day, while I am graded by them, I still take the work home and have to live with it and myself. So, I always make sure that what I’m doing is me, and not focussing on the style that a school is trying to cultivate. Style and skill are separate. Skill should be the focus, not style.
I used to participate in the well known discussion of painting might be dead. The snob I used to be, but now I’m over shaming artists for the choice of medium because to be honest its really silly and in a world where artists are already struggling we don’t need to add medium/media shame about their practice. Here are some reasons why I think painting isn’t dead.
1- Painting is a visual language that is valid, because it is a language.
Painting takes either a piece of imagery, a subject, a topic, a scene, a fantasy, or emotional waves of colour and powerfully renders it. How is it rendered? Painter’s choice of blurred, partially rendered, photo-realistic whatever they desire. Why? Because they want to convey more than an image, they desire to evoke emotion. There are so many different styles of painting that you could take a single image and produce so much work because of the way paint can be managed and explored.
2- Painting is in our nature
Look back at cave paintings, if some of the most primitive people were painting, and cultures today that tend to still follow more traditional lifestyles paint it bears to wonder what causes us to paint? There must be something within us that propels us to work in such a fashion to depict landscape, animals and mythology.
3- There’s still so much to explore
I really don’t think that people have exploited painting enough as a medium. I’m still seeing way too many rectangular and regular canvasses, hanging canvasses on a wall proper gallery style etc. Painting isn’t dead, if anything, painting became lazy.
Those are just a few of my ideas and arguments for why painting isn’t dead. I would love to hear anything else that you want to add for painting isn’t dead!
Life drawing, its just one of those classes you love or hate. Love it or hate it though life drawing is one of the most important things you can do to sharpen your observation skills.
1- Life drawing forces your brain to make the conversion from three dimensional to two dimensional. This takes a lot of practice and skill. You might find that in life drawing you often feel very tired by the end of it. Its quite taxing, because your brain is working so hard to accomplish this conversion.
2- Life drawing requires your brain to take scale into account. Typically you have a person in front of you modelling and your paper is much smaller. Your eyes and mind need to scale the figure in front of you down to size. This is also a great and necessary skill for drawing, as learning this allows you to begin scaling things up or down with greater ease.
3- Life drawing sharpens your eyes and mind. The body is moving ever so slightly as the model fidgets, readjusts, changes their shape. As you look from the paper to the model and back again you will notice that perhaps the back is too straight on your paper and readjust. You are consistently making tiny adjustments to your drawing because the model is moving. This sharpens your observation skills.
4-Life drawing helps to elongate your concentration and work flow. When you draw from real life your brain needs to readjust to be able to focus and capture the essence of what you’re seeing in real life to the paper. Life drawing is timed and you are required to get as much information down with as much accuracy as possible.
5- Life drawing helps you to develop your rendering skills. When drawing from life the light is often placed a certain way on the body to accentuate it. You draw with a broad range of shadows and highlights. This helps later on when you draw from photos, because if there isn't enough tonal information in the photo then you are skilled enough to add in that information, because you know where it should be.
Life drawing is taxing, but extremely fruitful in terms of what it gives back. If you aren’t able to access life drawing at your university because of department funding problems or if you’re learning to draw at home usually artist run galleries or centres will have life drawing on about once a month or so for a small fee which is usually to cover model costs. If you don’t have an artist run gallery in your area you can always do life drawing with a bunch of friends wanting to do the same thing, you don’t have to take your clothes off, (unless you don’t care then by all means).
With all of this COVID-19 stuff going on I have been seeing many tutorials for making masks. Before COVID-19 I read that people were sewing and knitting for the animals affected by the Australian bushfires. Its been really interesting to watch the power of craft begin to show itself as vital again. All that being said, I was reminded of what is craft’s role in the art institute? How does it get a space and a voice. I feel that art institutions kind of look down their nose when it comes to craft. I think that this is a leftover patriarchal attitude that craft isn’t an art form. (Unfortunately there are many leftover patriarchal attitudes in the art world that we need to keep questioning.) What defines art? If an upside down toilet can be revered as an art piece why can’t work that has been crafted also be called art? For the sake of clarity, when I talk about craft I’m referring to sewing, embroidery, knitting and crocheting for the purpose of this post. I really believe that craft is art and I’ll tell you why below.
Craft requires a certain amount of skill and knowledge in order to create something. I can weld, paint, sculpt, build with power tools, but the baby sweater that I started 2 years ago? I finally unravelled it and rolled up the wool. I cannot read those knitting patterns to save my life. I don’t have the skill or the patience required to knit something. Those who work in craft such as sewing, knitting or crocheting in order to make art have to make something either without a pattern, or make a pattern. This requires spatial knowledge of how the medium will take form. It takes understanding of how the stitch will be constructed in order to make forms.
Knitting, crocheting and sewing can be used as mediums to build three dimensional forms, and therefore can be used as a way to make sculptures. These mediums are not limited and can make both organic and geometric structured forms.
What defines a line or a mark? Do we make lines with only pencil, paint or markers? Or those the only valid mediums for making a line or a mark? Absolutely not, a stitch in thread or wool by machine or hand, anything that can be used to make a mark on something is valid as a drawing method and tool. Every time a stitch is made in either sewing, crocheting or knitting this is a form of mark making. The stitch in sewing can be zigzagged, thick or thin, long or short, and can be built up to show tonal value and contours. The stitch in crochet and knitting can be altered to make a new kind of mark. You can make almost any kind of mark with crochet and knitting.
Craft has history, in the same way that art has been used through the past centuries, craft has as well. Not only has craft been used for domestic uses, but it has been used for both political and narrative uses, ie: quilts used in political campaigns, tapestries with narrative woven into them.
If you want to explore craft as an option in your work go right ahead, if your professor or classmates is a little unsure then feel free to print this post up and distribute it.
It was just one of those days where I knew if I made it into school I would be wrecked even more for the rest of the week mentally and emotionally. Its not that anything had happened in particular, but sometimes at some point during the semester a full course load in a studio heavy program takes its toll. I pressed send on the email, having written to my teachers I would not be present for today’s classes, because I was taking a mental health day. I then proceeded to just relax for the day and not worry about what I was missing out on, because my mental health had become a priority.
Mental health is becoming this new fad thing that we all talk about, but our institutions, systems and infrastructures don’t take note. Its fine to talk about mental health and admit we have problems as long as we all keep functioning at the same break-neck speed that is expected of us. As with most things, we need to take responsibility for our own bodies and health. We cannot expect institutions to regulate these things for us. So, if you’re feeling like you cannot possibly go on today, take a break, send off a quick email to your professors stating that you need a day off in order to take care of your mental health. I guarantee you’ll probably get more work done for the rest of the week because you listened to your body and gave it the rest it requires.
Building an art practice whether through school or on your own is not the easiest of things. It takes time and energy, and the action of discarding and keeping habits and practices that keep you going. I like to build my practice in a way that each step informs the next and then brings it back to a circular way. I have built my art practice on three building blocks: research, exploration and discovery.
What does research look like? Research as an artist takes on many forms. Sketches, collages, photography, surveys, articles, can all be research. Essentially research is something that informs your practice, but may or may not make it into the final cut. In my practice I use Pinterest as a way to research visual material for texture and form, none of the visual material derived from there makes it into the final work, but I use it for inspiration. The main purpose is to give me, “permission”. What do I mean by that? Sometimes you might not pursue work because you aren’t sure that its a) acceptable to you as art and b) acceptable to professors as art. Visual material gives permission and acts as art history for what you’re making and building. Research also acts as a spring board. While you aren’t making the exact thing you are researching, the material you look at and record gives you a launching point for new work.
My second step is exploration. I really don’t think that art schools give enough credence to playing and exploring. If we aren’t exploring and playing then we reduce art making to the work of a factory. We should be sketching, sewing, collaging, exploring new materials, questioning how we can use new materials and such. When we begin to get outcomes that we are happy with we replicate those and then vary the ways that we can display them. I like to look at design for new and interesting ways to display work. Exploring should really be an opportunity to play around and get different variations of things even if they don’t make it into the final outcome. Final pieces that are really good often have so many crappy ideas behind them. Don't be afraid of the bad ideas, it’s part of the process often a bad idea is a starting point. Start with the bad idea, set something in motion, you’re much more likely to get an outcome, because it was set in motion.
The third step is the discovery. I like to see this as a final outcomes from your research and exploration. The discovery is the “ah ha” moment from the exploration, the crux of the idea being expressed in a way that works well both aesthetically and conceptually. Usually the discovery is one or two pieces that begin the launch of an exhibition or a body of work. Eventually, the discovery after it is finished finds its way back into the research pile most likely informing the next thing that you will make. Its the life cycle of work.
How about you? Do you have any pillars that you build your art practice on? Let me know in the comments below!
Does environmental art change people? Does every artist need to make a political statement or challenge something with their work? I really don’t think so. I’ve seen a lot of political or challenging art, and unless someone is there to unpack it with you it tends to have the opposite effect of what we want it to have. Most people aren’t equipped with critical thinking skills, its not something that’s taught in high school or in most academic degrees. Lets look at what some questions we can ask about making environmental art.
Does art have the power to change people?
Well that depends on the a few things: the person and the cause.
Some people are easily influenced in making changes, they want a better future, they want to have a better place, they find it easy to incorporate life changes. Others are overwhelmed simply thinking about it, the problem feels so massive and they feel like life is complicated enough.
As unfortunate as it may be, some people simply don’t care about the same things we care about or rather should care about. Those things can change depending on life situations, stories, time, age, financial situation, etc. As much as we want every single person on board for a certain thing like the environment, some people simply won’t care.
What can we do so that our art makes a lasting impact?
I think that one of the best ways that someone can try and make changes with their art is a call to action or a take home project. A major theme in work right now is the topic of the anthropocene. How we as humans are affecting the planet significantly. Most people don’t know how to make changes in their thinking or in their actions. Can you make a brochure or a take home project for people to use in their homes to enable better recycling or less waste? Make it simple, people are busy and we need to give them solutions that are fun or easy to help impact the environment. One step at a time, once one thing is conquered its easier to start making changes elsewhere.
Often times lots of us are busy trying to survive, we need simple steps to follow if we want to make an impact. We need small bite-size chunks and we need solutions not shame. We need encouragement even for the small things we do, because at the end of the day they do make a difference and we need to have recognition for the small things. So, now the challenge is to you, how can you make art that impacts, while including solutions for your audience?
One of the things I feel like schools often fail in teaching is how to navigate the creative process. Creation is a bumpy process, because transferring from mind to creation involves difficulties and problems along the way. What starts off as a really good idea in your mind will travel through different iterations and needs to be edited due to a few different things. I like to split the creative process in three points in order for you to understand it a bit better. Bear in mind many people have spoken about the creative process and my opinion is just another one to add to the pile to better understand our thought processes.
Illumination: Usually the creative cycle starts off with a really good idea, you begin said idea and then realise very quickly that what you thought was a brilliant idea is not as easy to pull off as it was in your mind. Often when creating conflict arises and we find that we lack the resources, skills, or magic in order to make what we want happen. When that conflict arises we must work to find a resolution that is both conceptually and aesthetically resolved.
Deterioration: Another point in the cycle is that what you felt was a masterpiece in the beginning often starts feeling like a disaster at some point in which there is no turning back to get it back to a good idea. The idea at this point feels like the worst thing you’ve ever made. (This is usually not true, its just the feeling.) You then usually collapse in a moment of defeat and hopefully don’t throw the whole thing away, but its good to walk away at this point.
Resolution: The next day you walk in and see what you can salvage from the original idea and you have two choices. Keep pushing through or admit defeat and start over, but in starting over do realise that you begin the process all over again. Here comes the pivot point, you realise that you don’t have what it takes to succeed in achieving your original idea, but you can resolve it another way that is feasible. While it doesn’t look like the original idea in your mind, it actually has blossomed into something much more interesting.
Keep making art, keep pushing through that crazy creative process. xoxo
In my undergrad we had a session from a psychologist on how to deal with stress as art students. I have to confess that I literally did not take one single thing away from the session that she said, rather the most impactful piece of advice was from one of the professors as he introduced the psychologist. He said, “My best piece of advice for stress is that be where you are. If you’re printmaking, then focus on printmaking, don’t be thinking of painting. When you’re painting, focus on painting and be there in the moment. Don’t get ahead of yourself and be where you aren’t.” The best advice ever. Be present where you are in the moment. Train your brain to be in the moment and focus where you are at, instead of where you aren’t. xoxo
First day of art school, fresh faces, sharpened pencils from 4H-6B, the smell of rag paper, and new aluminium tubes of paint waiting to be squeezed. Look to your left, that classmate probably won’t be with you by the end of the year. Look across the room, that classmate probably won’t be there by the winter semester. In my last post I wrote about why you should go to art school, well here are my reasons why you shouldn’t go to art school.
1- Art is more of a hobby and past time than a job
When you go to art school, it becomes like a job. Show up to class, do the work, hand in the project, get feedback and grade, next project. Also, you’ll be juggling art projects from different classes which will most likely all be due around the same time. The reason people often drop out is because they realise that although they like art, perhaps they didn’t like it as much as they thought they would as a job. While you might sell a painting or two, you can’t imagine surrounding yourself with as much art as you do in the first year.
2- You don’t really want to change or expand your practice
If you want to paint and draw cats all day long then go for it, just don’t expect it to be accepted at the school. In art school their job is to teach you and help you develop critical thinking skills, conceptual and visual relationships and to expand your visual and abstract vocabulary. If you really don’t want to expand that or work with any other subject matter thats totally fine, its just that art school is probably not for you.
3- You’re not interested in the why
Art school includes within every year art history classes. The first year or two will consist of more formal training such as recognition of art periods, artists and historical contexts while the following years branch off into more abstract and modern art classes. All of these classes contain writing components and are essential to understanding the why and what about different art periods and how art has grown throughout the ages and how art has been used throughout the ages.
4- You don’t know the difference between art school and art class
Everyone loves the high school art teacher. Why? Because they are usually fun, understanding, let you be yourself, etc. Art school is not like art class. Art school is a formal training to educate you as an art professional. That’s why you usually will spend the first year learning about design elements, doing projects like a colour wheel and drawing spheres and cubes. For the most part you don’t even get to touch any subject matter that you are interested in until sometime in your second year. Most high school art teachers don’t receive the same extent of art education as you do in art school, because their degree is based on learning about pedagogy as well as art.
I hope this gives you a better insight into why art school may or may not be for you. Let me know in the comments!