Monday, March 28, 2011

He Never took a Lesson in his Life

He never took a lesson in his life. We are told this over and over by his (or her) proud relatives, co-worker or parents. This person who simply can draw anything with no effort at all (no effort they have seen anyways). At every show or opening or even when I simply mention I am an artist, out comes the relative who “never took a lesson in his life”. Now, there is a real artist! And that should show you!

Why are we so in love with the self-taught artist? And so suspicious of the art student/ art graduate? As if somehow the very fact that they studied art nullifies their talent? Some how, the person who studied art is a the dilettante? And not a serious artist? We do not expect even the most precious or precocious musical prodigy to be able to play the piano without lessons or some kind of guidance and lots and lots of practice, but for some reason, visual artists are not according the same respect and allowances.

We should just be able to draw, paint, sculpt, with nary a misstep. Each work should be the perfect culmination of artistic genius, and if it is not, well, we must be fakes.

And this is often they way it is taught. Middle school students are taught that they all ready know what they need to know to be artists by “instinct”. Heaven forbid that any art teacher should “inhibit” them with drawing lessons! Or instruct them in craftsmanship. More and more students come out of college with their fine art degrees, expressing themselves all over the place, but the quality of work is poor. The ideas are undeveloped and raw, and they are clueless. Most of their instruction is in the peer critique. So their ideas and beliefs far from being challenges are simply reinforced by people as inexperienced as they are. They come out of school shouting at the top of their lungs before they have anything to say.

Well, it ain’t so babe. Art is hard work! It takes years of painting, sculpting and drawing etc. to master any medium. Yes, art is about self-expression, but there is a place for manners too. So stop, and listen. Learn to develop those ideas before regurgitating all over that canvas.


  1. Great post! I is most certainly hard work.

  2. Thanks, don't you find it true, though. People expect visual arts, especially drawing to simply by done by magic?

  3. Art has room for every one...but there really are such beasts as "born artists". There really are "prodigies" in music, art, literature, all forms of creativity. If calling it "magic" makes the viewer more comfortable with what he or she cannot understand or connect with....then the viewer's behavior becomes akin to that of a primitive, shaking a rattle at the cockpit of a crashed airplane, trying to ward off a reality beyond their comprehension. All the "magical thinking" and "wishing" in their head makes no difference at all to what simply "is".

  4. True. But they don't bother me!

    What concerns me it they way so many simply believe, and thus discourage or disparage art, something they clearly don't understand.


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