Gages (A4 acrylic and mixed media 2016)
Recently, in response to my post, Inspiration, I was asked
Whatever happened to the motto practice makes perfect? Don’t you believe someone can self learn when it comes to art and painting? After all art is a form of expression there [is] only so much of it to be taught.
I would never argue against practice. For years, as a child and then a teenager, I drew every day in order books that my Father brought home from work (one page was lined, the next blank – that alternating blank page was such a luxury). All through my twenties I continued to draw, less often than before but still a couple of evenings a week – overly influenced by illustrators such as Edward Gorey and Aubrey Beardsley – and tried to get to grips with watercolour.
I didn’t bother with lessons during this time (even at school my art teacher would set us a task and then disappear into his stock room to smoke) and eventually I grew frustrated with my lack of progress, turning instead to photography when I moved to the Netherlands and later Germany.
Returning to the UK I began drawing and painting again with renewed passion. I took classes with professional artists such as Sarah Baddon Price, Helen Gilbart, Annie Rice and Ed Cooper.
With each I made some sort of leap forward. Thanks to Sarah, I tried acrylics; after several years in Helen’s classes, I observe my subjects better, use bigger paper and experiment with charcoal and pastels; Annie taught me to draw and paint more freely; without Ed’s tuition I would never have tried oils or experienced life drawing.
So while I agree that practice is essential, to advance on a technical level I maintain that one needs help unless you’re Vincent van Gogh. A good teacher will stretch you and coax you out of your comfort zone, something that is difficult without help.
Art as a form of expression is something else: I think you can always tell if someone really has something to say. That’s where the magic lies. Without it you may as well be painting by numbers.
The image above was produced by painting the gages as a mass of colour and then adding the background ‘over’ them, so to speak, to produce a sort of negative space composition. The individual gages emerged from a multi-coloured blob, allowing a more accidental colour mix.