Forty five plus years of painting have opened my eyes to so much. Yet I have only touched the tiniest tip of the iceberg when it comes to art, and painting, but yet there are a few lessons that stand out above all the others! There are days when everything goes well and the paint flows from the brush like warm honey onto freshly baked bread. Then there are days, you’ll find me standing in front of the easel like a beginning artist yet to understand the workings of it all. I rather think those are the usual technical challenges we all face throughout our careers as artists. With artistic maturity comes a deeper understanding what the really important lessons are…the ones that matter to us the most!
- Understand my Limitations: I have learned that regardless of painting skill or experience, insight and understanding of current limitations is the most important guide to setting painting goals. Any attempt at painting a new subject out of the normal range of my comfort zone will remind me of the challenges faced by the beginning artist. I see it as a way to set goals but also as a reality check, a way to stay grounded and to maintain a connection with those just starting out in the field. Not because we paint flowers with skill will we render the snow-capped mountain with the same passion and accuracy. Each new genre will require study, practice and patience to learn.
- Learn to Paint: I have learned that my knowledge and understanding of the concept of value (light versus dark) is without doubt the most important technical insight I have acquired since I learned to paint. Seeing value in everything has allowed me to describe what I see with greater ease. Learning to ‘see’ objects in grey scale was perhaps the greatest aha moment of my painting career!
- Giving a Critique: As a teacher, mentor or painting friend I have learned that we never know the impact our words might have on a student or fellow artist. I have learned to cherish and respect my role. Kind and compassionate words can reach deeper into someone’s being…they can and will reach beyond the canvas regardless of skill or age. We never know when the paint brush is a heavy ‘cross’, unseen to anyone but they who carry it.
- Learn to Squint: I have learned that ‘squinting’ is my most common facial expression! I have earned the wrinkles around my eyes! Being a passionate artist comes with a price. Continually squinting and peeking through eyelashes…looking for pleasing arrangements of shapes, values and intensities have left the tiny footprints of crow’s feet! These treasured lines are artistic beauty marks I wear with pride. They are my badge of honour for learning to see with an artistic perspective!
- Learning to Paint: I have learned we must be taught to ‘see’. We can only ‘see’ what we understand, and we can only paint when we understand what we ‘see’.
These lessons I have learned have changed the way I look at my journey, changed the way I look at painting in general and changed the way I respond to those who want to learn to Paint. Hind sight is always 20/20!