Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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04/13/2005: "Secret to Better Painting?"

technorati tags: philosophical

I've ordered a book called The Simple Secret to Better Painting: How to Immediately Improve Your Work with the Golden Rule of Design.

Intro: "Albert's how-to reduces compositional guides to one "master rule": never make any two intervals--of distance, length, spacing, and dimensions of shapes, or the value intervals on a value scale and colors on the color wheel--the same."

Composition is one of the most important elements in my I'm excited for this book to arrive (I don't remember this "golden rule of design" and I sure as hell haven't been following it). My only fear is that studying too many rules might actually further impede my creativity. I know that (supposedly) we have to know the rules in order to break them, but in some ways I think my work was more original *before* I went to art school... back when I was just blissfully making shit up.

After too many art history courses to count I felt the weight of thousands of years of visual art pressing down on me and found it stifling to my own creativity (sorry Holly)...but it seemed suddenly I couldn't do anything without realizing it was derivative. So I ask: do we risk losing anything by becoming *too* academic in our approach to creating art?

Replies: 8 Comments

on Wednesday, April 13th, greg said

I refuse to comment until you tell us you're done with your "government work" due Friday! :P

on Wednesday, April 13th, Elise said

I was trying to do my taxes this afternoon but it's so complicated. I've looked all over the web for tax advice for independent artists but I can't find anything for the US (I did find a great document for Canadian taxes though). I'm afraid it's getting too late to take them into a professional.

Plus it's depressing to see how much my overhead really is. I didn't make nearly as much profits this year as I had thought.

I suppose from a tax liability stand point that's a good thing but it's still demoralizing.

on Wednesday, April 13th, holly said

You know I've had two (studio major/painting) students comment on their evaluations that my classes help them develop their own ideas and talent as artists? It's in the teacher, baby.

If one becomes too academic about *anything* it's bad news: the doctor with brilliant skills, but horrible bedside manner; the scholar who can present a brilliant paper to hundreds of esteemed colleagues but can't express to the girl at the gas station that the pump won't work; the writer whose work is grammatically perfect but lacks any sort of passion. The academic should be there for back up, for fundamental support, particularly in art. It's the skeleton. Your passion to paint and create is the meat and the life, though. Art history should show you how constantly evolving and mutable the human force to create is, not make you feel like everyting is derivative. There is something wonderful in the repetition of artistic conventions hundreds of years apart.

Today, I was lecturing about Gothic cathedrals. I was caught up in the image of Reims and in the midst of all the academic descriptors pertaining to verticality and thrust and 3-dimensionality, I just stopped and stared and said, "Isn't it beautiful?" The kids just sat there and nodded. No need for academics when the piece speaks to your heart.

on Wednesday, April 13th, Elise said

I think art history without a doubt has helped me to *appreciate* art. I'm still not convinced that it has helped me as much as an artist. Sometimes it feels like looking behind the curtain in OZ, shedding too much light on the hows and whys of it, ruining the magic of the moment when you just look at something (as you stated) and think "Isn't it beautiful?" and nothing more.

When I have a great idea I alway feel compelled to do a literature review and see if anyone has already done something similar. If they have, even though my idea probably would have expressed itself differently, I lose interest in it. For example, I wanted to paint portraits of death row inmate's last meal requests. I found a lot of articles about what they had ordered (Honey Buns, Cheeze Doodles, Frosted Flakes, a jar of pickles etc.. Turns out it's already been done (by the way, there is even a Library of Congress Subject Heading for it "Last Meal Before Execution", I shit you not!).

Ah hell, I'm not feeling very articulate tonight. I know how I feel but I'm not explaining it well.
Your thoughts were better said, I do wish I'd had you for art history, I might be a very different artist today. who knows?

on Thursday, April 14th, Mary said

Careful with that business-loss thing. You'll red-flag the IRS if you post a loss on 3 of 5 years.

on Thursday, April 14th, Elise said

Good to know. What's considered a loss by the way, no profit at all?

This is only the second year I've had the business and the first year I did have losses.

This year I made a profit but it was much much smaller than I thought it was going to be. Still, will this year count as a non-loss year?

Ah, I need a tax accountant STAT!

on Thursday, April 14th, fred said

hey all... nice blog. check out my art (I'm selling it on t-shirts now thru zazzle)


Fred in NYC

on Thursday, April 14th, Elise said

Nice work Fred, I have stuff set up on Zazzle too, getting linked to it is one of those things I keep meaning to do.