Painting instruction

Creativity is a conversation, and do we really want to be “loose”? by Shauna Shane

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Creating is communication, communication is sharing, and the best, most effective message is a brief message. How many times have you, the artist or art student, said or heard this: "I just want to be able to loosen up." It is my belief that "loosen up" is the wrong phrase. If you've heard me in a demo or class you've heard me equate painting with poetry. Poetry is not "loose" writing, poetry is essential, condensed, and efficient; the exact opposite of "loose." As with writing poetry or any other creative discipline, the entire process of painting is a journey, beginning with hours extending into years of skill building — learning how to draw, paint, design, and handle your medium. At the beginning we are tight, careful, and afraid of "doing it wrong." With practice comes expertise – with practice comes confidence. With exposure to the masters' works comes the appreciation of the power that a single, perfect brushstroke has. Poetry.

And there it is. The painter's goal is not to say everything, to render all so perfectly that it reads like a photograph. "That's amazing," they say. In fact, if it's a photographic wonderment, if every tiny detail is rendered with absolute precision, it is the artist turning the painting into a monologue. Only the beginner needs to say everything. The experienced painter has the efficiency, skill and confidence to edit, to condense, to say much, much more with the briefest paint stroke. Poetry.

One only has to look at John Singer Sergeant, Joaquin Sorolla, or Edgar Paine — think of any master. No matter what style, the experienced painter has learned to edit. The goal — communication; interaction.  A give and take conversation with that most important person, the one who views, and perhaps, in your thoughtful, skillful, edited impression of your subject, finds room for the heart to be moved.

That is what completes the circle. That is what a painter lives for, I believe. Not to show off how accurate we are, but to touch the emotion and the heart of the viewer with the idea and the reaction that was the reason for painting what we saw and felt that day. If we can do that, what they call in academia, "to emit a response in the viewer," we are at the heart of what it is to be an artist: To communicate through what we create. Poetry!