Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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01/03/2005: "Learning to Paint"

I've been painting a reeeeaaaaalllly long time. I started formal training at around age nine in private lessons, took classes all through high school, did an AP program in New York, got a BFA, have taken various workshops etc.

Just this weekend it ocurred to me that aside from the watercolor lessons I took as a child, I've never really learned *how* to paint. I find that amazing. Most of my studio classes we talked about composition, color, subject mater, contrast, etc. but we never really got into the techniques very much at all. I'm completely self taught in that regard. And it has begun to dawn on me that aside from "fat over lean" and other basics, I have quite a bit to learn.

I find it humbling but also exciting. I've decided to start doing all my underpainting using colored acrylic paints (that never occured to me before). I've also put in an order for various mediums to experiment with. I want to really get heavily into study and experiment mode again. I need to make up for some serious lost time.

Also, I got a message tonight from the guy who writes the wonderfulArtSceneAK in response to the stupid rant that I wrote on Dec. 15th about him not responding to my request to be added to a link of Alaskan Artists. At the time I felt rejected etc. and now I just feel plain stupid because he did add a link to my site, and is a very nice guy and I am just way too sensitive sometimes... SO to Donald Ricker, I'm sorry!

Replies: 6 Comments

on Tuesday, January 4th, Dio said

Not just me then... No - I've never been taught how to paint. In the best part of 20 years of schooling where art took up a big percentage, no one ever taught me to hold a paintbrush, let alone underpaint, glaze, etc.

Bizarre isn't it? I remember learning about things like tone and colour mixing. Perspective was great fun and the colour-wheel is an oft repeated exercise at many levels.

But painting? No. This occured to me once when a tutor mentioned the brush egde being different depending which side you used - to which I suddenly realised that I knew nothing about painting.

This probably explains why I'm such a lousy painter... :D

on Tuesday, January 4th, Elise said

You are *not* a lousy painter Dio! Just think of how good you are *despite* your education and think of how fantastic you could be with a little more study!

I am actually reading a book right now, one of those "artist material handbook" type books that I got at a used book store; I think it's from the 80s or so. It doesn't mention a lot about current mediums but it does talk a lot about different techniques with illustrations and examples. It also tells you exactly which brushes to use for which techniques depending on the type of painting you're doing, etc.

I think it's going to make my life a whole lot easier.

I wonder if art professors secretly keep important info to themselves so that their students never exceed them and become a threat! Or maybe they aren't that Machiavellian and just never learned it themselves?

on Wednesday, January 5th, Jim L said

I did the MFA thing in drawing and painting with hardly any technique instruction at all. I have thought about the whys and why nots for a long time and I have recently come to the conclusion that the withholding of technique instruction actually helped a lot more artists than they hurt.

I can write a whole lot about the pros and cons of this approach, but I think one of the goals of art schools is to achieve your own vision and develop your own techniques. That certainly happened in my case so I'm biased :cool:. A heavily technique-based instruction rather than "vision-based" (to use a airy-fairy word...) can lead to letting the technique take over your art and the art being in the school of the technique.

But I still wish I had more instruction in the some of the things you mentioned! Like which brushes are good for what and what about this cross hatching thing?

on Wednesday, January 5th, Elise said

Ironically, I got a lot of technical training from my drawing professors, or, one professor anyway, (Hugh McPeck, best drawing professor *ever*) but not much at all in terms of painting.

I was just thinking about that last night though, wondering if I would have experimented as much and come up with my own weird ways of doing things, if someone had shown me the "proper" way in the beginning.

Still, I am a firm believer that it's important to learn some basic fundamentals initially and then to branch off and experiement the more you master the fundamentals.

Now that I have developed my own style and ways of doing things, I think learning new techniques can only be beneficial to me, adding more to my bag of tricks. Ya know?

on Wednesday, January 5th, Jim L said

Yeah, I agree you still need the basic techniques to build on.

I'm actually doing the same thing of going back into books and developing the techniques I wasn't introduced to - like really working intelligently with value and hue, brushwork, cross hatching etc. It's fun, but a lot of it is so "not me" that I feel like a different artist when I'm doing it.

on Wednesday, January 5th, Elise said

I can understand that, I guess once you learn some new techniques it will be up to you if you ever use them in your work again or not.