Thursday, March 3, 2011
Teaching An Old Dog
Pretty soon now, and before I care to admit it, I'll hit my fiftieth year on this planet. Not this year though. I think one way we assess our age is by doubling how old we are now. While fifty to a twenty-five year old is considered hopelessly geriatric, they don't have a doubt they'll make it that far. Sixty to a thirty year-old isn't so bad. When you're forty, eighty seems attainable. 100? I think I'll hold off planning the birthday celebration, because I'm not making that one for sure. The way I figure it, looking at my family's health history, and with the miracles of modern medicine included, I'll be lucky to break eighty. So really, thirty years are all I may have left-- if I take excellent care of myself (something I haven't tried yet...) I can easily recall events of thirty years ago, and everything since then has gone by in a nano-second. I can only imagine the warp-speed the next thirty will feel like.
I mention this not because I'm thinking of my own mortality, but because lately I've seen some videos for Art Ateliers posted on the internet, and it's brought back some long forgotten ambitions. Back when I first started to paint, my folks always wished they could afford to send me to Art School. What they were thinking of was really an Atelier. What they didn't know was that by the mid 1970's schools teaching fundamental, traditional realist art were as scarce as unicorns in the desert. Back in those days, Art schools were all about abstract "art". Realism was fini as far as they were concerned. It's been a long time coming, but change is in the air, and traditional Ateliers are becoming more common. So, yeah, after years of teaching myself, I wish I could attend one to learn how it's supposed to be done. But here's the thing; when a young graduate of one of those schools starts out on his or her art career, they can have forty to fifty years of productive art ahead of them. How much time would I have? Fifteen, maybe twenty good years? Hey, one good year is better than none, but do I really want to spend close to a quarter of whatever good years I have left starting from scratch?
So instead of attending one of those excellent institutions, where I could spend a year just drawing spheres, cones and squares, I might sign up for some work-shops to get some more instruction. Work-shops are kind of like the Cliff Notes of painting. They are great for overviews of painting techniques. Granted, I've only attended one, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm not adverse to going back for another from this same knowledgeable, wicked nice painter. I might sign up for someone else, who knows? I think the important consideration is to learn from an artist that seems to have the same sensibility as I. If I want to learn more about using, say, wild color schemes, I don't think it would do me much good to attend a work-shop held by a tonalist painter.
But this leads me back to the age thing. After awhile, I am going to be as good as I'm going to be, good or bad, and no Atelier or work-shop is gonna improve me. It's a sad but true fact that no one keeps getting better 'til the day they die. We all max out, and start the inevitable decline. Can't I just be that happy old dog that has his collection of tricks? Do I really have to learn more? But we all know that artists are not dogs (so to speak...). The one thing that all the painters who have ever lived have in common is that we have all felt our best painting is waiting to be done. All we need to make it happen is one more trick.
Alright, I'll keep trying to learn. But do I get a MilkBone?...