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  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    Hmmm...I don't believe you actually have defined what it is or how it works on the practical, applied level?
    I use "visual memory" in the plain, literal meaning of the words, not some "specialized" meaning that requires definition. As for how it works on a practical, applied level, my suggestion is right there in my post, but as I said:

    Quote Originally Posted by briggsy@ashtons View Post
    The exercise needs to be done, not just appraised.
    I don't want to buy into any nitpicking over whether or not the approach to plein air painting you describe should be classified as involving visual memory, but I suggest you try adapting some of those ideas to drawing the figure as they could help you to solve some of the problems you have with life drawing.

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    With respect to Henri's advice in that snippet: In order to really understand what you see in the first impression of any visual phenomena, you must note and recall how the impression plays over the forms in front of you and in what colors. Essentially this impression is a particular abstract design that plays over the constant elements... all of which are far easier to retain in mind (in a distinct mood) when already appreciated as abstract instruments which have certain relational parameters that limit their possibilities. To put it another way, knowing how to write music on piano makes it infinitely easier to hear a fleeting melody and quickly transpose it accurately to your instrument.

    So what Henri is describing is two kinds of visual memory working in tandem to aid each other in identifying, retaining and expressing the initial impression, plus a visual imagination which would allow you to collect new rendering data from the model and to re-imagine that new data so it conforms to the original impression as you set it down.

    At least Icarus tried!


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  4. #33
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    What if you don't always understand what you're seeing?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Istmin52 View Post
    What if you don't always understand what you're seeing?
    You get up and look at it from another angle until you understand it.

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    What if you don't always understand what you're seeing?
    The purpose of drawing or painting from life is to set down your understanding. In my view, the very nature of art is to set down understanding in visual form.

    Therefore, if you don't understand what you are seeing, then your first order of business is to understand what you are seeing. If this means looking and thinking more than drawing or painting, so be it. If this means copying over an anatomy book or Bridgman's books into your notebooks in between the time you spend in front of a model, then so be it.

    If you don't have understandings which go beyond fact, there is no reason to make art. There is no possibility even, except to fake it.

    If you want to just have a record of the facts you see, then take a photograph. But to learn how to make art, you must learn to visualize things beyond the facts in front of your eyes. (The anatomy that you know must be there, but you can't quite make out, the volumetric shape of the deltoid which looks flat in the light you're in, the flowing gesture of the model that is masked behind all the lumps and bumps of anatomical form, etc.)

    At least Icarus tried!


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    Quote Originally Posted by Istmin52 View Post
    What if you don't always understand what you're seeing?
    1– You will, every time, interpret or interpolate what you see to the best of your understanding at the time. You will become aware that your understanding was incomplete only when you have acquired a better understanding. Simple as that.

    2– Interpolate what you see as though you are familiar with what you are looking at. Make shit up—convincingly.

    3– If you know your understanding about something is relatively incomplete, problem solve and figure it out.

    Or

    4– "You get up and look at it from another angle until you understand it.”—dpanit

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    There’s more to visual memory than memory that’s visual (still visual imagery). Take Jeff’s Memory Portrait of Mom scenario from post# 14. I would be hard pressed to paint a picture of my mother (died 10 years ago) from just thinking about a visual image of her, say from a particular snap shot photo. I can paint her from imagination based on equally important memories; the way she sounded, moved, interacted with people, her personality, etc. When I draw humans or other animals from
    life, photos or imagination, I don’t just cue on static visual data. I try to empathize with the subject on more than just visual elements. The extreme version of this pan-memory, pan-sensory cross-over empathy is called Synesthesia.

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    Thank you all for the different responses. I will take your advice and continue to push myself. This has been a very interesting subject.

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  13. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by briggsy@ashtons View Post
    I use "visual memory" in the plain, literal meaning of the words, not some "specialized" meaning that requires definition. As for how it works on a practical, applied level, my suggestion is right there in my post, but as I said:
    OK, so your usage of the term really is as straight forward and simple as visualizing or recalling the essential information related to your impression of the subject. I certainly agree with that.

    Quote Originally Posted by briggsy@ashtons View Post
    I don't want to buy into any nitpicking over whether or not the approach to plein air painting you describe should be classified as involving visual memory, but I suggest you try adapting some of those ideas to drawing the figure as they could help you to solve some of the problems you have with life drawing.
    This I have trouble with. I simply do not understand why you always go there...with the put downs, personal attacks and dismissive statements your comments so often contain. I was simply trying to understand your take on this whole "visual memory" term and definition...now I understand where you've been coming from better. Thought we could have a professional discussion about the topic...you proved me wrong again.

    I also thought I would offer my interpretation of the Henri passage you like to reference, yet because it differs from yours you aren't even capable of a response, no consideration such as "interesting points - I never looked at it that way", nothing even remotely along those lines. Instead you simply resort to some ridiculous dismissive insult which I guess makes you feel better? You seem to only have two modes...one in which you stand on high and pedantically hand down your limited experience and awareness of color and light...and the other is personal attacks stemming from a tremendous inferiority complex in a forum full of professional artists. I will gladly stack up my professional career achievements as a designer, art director, concept artist, painter, graphic designer, illustrator, gallery artist and sculptor against your banal and vacuous flop pose figure paintings any day.

    What I would suggest to you is to get outside of your studio/lab and out into nature, observe and paint under natural light, from life, which will help you solve some of the problems you have with color and how artists use it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kev ferrara View Post
    With respect to Henri's advice in that snippet: In order to really understand what you see in the first impression of any visual phenomena, you must note and recall how the impression plays over the forms in front of you and in what colors. Essentially this impression is a particular abstract design that plays over the constant elements... all of which are far easier to retain in mind (in a distinct mood) when already appreciated as abstract instruments which have certain relational parameters that limit their possibilities. To put it another way, knowing how to write music on piano makes it infinitely easier to hear a fleeting melody and quickly transpose it accurately to your instrument.

    So what Henri is describing is two kinds of visual memory working in tandem to aid each other in identifying, retaining and expressing the initial impression, plus a visual imagination which would allow you to collect new rendering data from the model and to re-imagine that new data so it conforms to the original impression as you set it down.
    Well said kev. I agree...the way I think of it is "impression" and "statement"...you retain the essentials, what you feel and respond to from the impression, then use your knowledge, imagination and intent to craft the statement or expression of your impression. They are definitley tandem, complementary forces.

    Quote Originally Posted by bill618 View Post
    There’s more to visual memory than memory that’s visual (still visual imagery). Take Jeff’s Memory Portrait of Mom scenario from post# 14. I would be hard pressed to paint a picture of my mother (died 10 years ago) from just thinking about a visual image of her, say from a particular snap shot photo. I can paint her from imagination based on equally important memories; the way she sounded, moved, interacted with people, her personality, etc. When I draw humans or other animals from
    life, photos or imagination, I don’t just cue on static visual data. I try to empathize with the subject on more than just visual elements. The extreme version of this pan-memory, pan-sensory cross-over empathy is called Synesthesia.
    Yeah, that's a good point bill. Even though we mainly "replay" our memories visually (like a movie - for most of us I think?*) there is much more sensory information and emotion that accompany that memory - a lover's touch, laugh, sound of the waves, music, scents, wind in the pines, etc. That "gestalt" is just as much a part of the subject and impression as the visual information, and I would daresay the more important aspect of the statement. This is why I think painters like Sargent and Sorolla excel...they capture that sense of life, far beyond the mere recording of visual information. One of the nicer compliments I sometimes receive is when someone makes the observation they can "hear the wind", "feel the chill", "hear the water", "smell the grass", etc. when the see my paintings - that's when I know I nailed one.

    Thanks guys - I appreciate being able to discuss these finer points of our process.



    * I wonder sometimes about other cultures and how they process memory, as well as pre-cinema cultures. I wonder if it is the same? Or maybe like we see ourselves in our dreams?

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    Jeff, I offered what I still consider to be a useful suggestion that could help you to improve in an area of obvious weakness. Sorry if you consider that an insult, but it isn't, and no offence was intended. I'm sure you're a lovely guy, I just think you should learn to draw the figure better before handing out so much advice about it, some of which is 180 degrees in the wrong direction. I certainly don't feel hostile towards you personally.

    I couldn't see how your interpretation of the Henri passage was "a very different take" from mine, and assumed it was connected with the misunderstanding about what I meant by visual memory.

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    Fair enough David, as I mentioned, I think that execercise and advice is valid and I do practice it occasionally in other areas of my art. I'm not sure I offer a great deal of advice about figure drawing, certainly nothing that is 180 degrees in the wrong direction. It might not be your direction, but that doesn't mean it isn't valid.

    From my point of view you have an incredibly limited, myopic view on what art is and isn't, and how it should be practiced. And neither do I mean that to offend, it is just an observation. However I don't point out every chance I get how I think you can expand your understanding. I don't go out of my way to publicly offer you "useful suggestions that could help you to improve in an area of obvious weakness". It isn't my place to do so. You do what you do and that's fine, the fact that you don't do much else is actually ok too. The problem comes when you think you have all the answers and there isn't room for any other points of view...points of view and ideas I might add, held by some of the greatest artists in history (like last time, you made a similar disparaging remark after I made my point quoting Sargent).

    If your comments are not intended as slights and dismissive remarks then so be it, they certainly come off that way. In the future I would ask you to thoroughly consider your wording of such remarks in a public forum. I don't feel hostility toward you personally either, and as I've said before, in a face to face personal relationship we would likely find more upon which to agree, and likely learn a great deal from each other. But I hope you can see how your tone of superiority and suggestions to "improve on obvious areas of weakness" don't really sit well. Particularly when the suggestions come from an individual who seems to be focused on only one small area of the larger art experience.

    And likewise, I think you should learn to understand color better, as it applies to nature, before handing out so much advice about it. And that's an honest suggestion as well. You have no real awareness of how light and color actually work, change and shift in the natural world, outside the studio...at least I've never seen evidence of such knowledge. This seems to me an area of obvious weakness and lack of understanding, and again, no offense intended.

    On the Henri passage, just felt it was a worthy and interesting point of discussion.

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    Thanks for all of the examples of what you are asking me to not do on a public forum, but go for it! All I ask is that you at least consider that you may be expending a lot of energy protecting yourself from input that could actually help you.

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    Heavy sigh...

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    Quote Originally Posted by briggsy@ashtons View Post
    I just think you should learn to draw the figure better before handing out so much advice about it, some of which is 180 degrees in the wrong direction.
    I didn't realize you were that good at figure drawing.

    At least Icarus tried!


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  23. #46
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    Good enough to be the life drawing teacher for Disney's Sydney studio for six years, anyway.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    I have a very different take on the Henri page or passage. I don't believe he is talking about "memory" so much as he is talking about "impression" and statement, and the effort to retain that initial impression. Yes you use your memory to recall and attempt to capture that moment - that impression you are after, but I don't really see that as something special. In other words I don't know how it is any different from any other "memory", as virtually all memory tends to be visual.
    Could you elaborate about this impression, Jeff? Even thought I don't know shit, could you see if anything about what I'm saying makes any sense to you? (sorry about the bad english, as always it doesn't help to make things clear)

    What I get from this is that this "impression" is memory. If you can remember more, than you get a better grasp of that impression. For example, you are painting a sunset, trying to capture that initial impression, but then your memory falls short because when you look at the canvas, you remember very little of it. That instant passes and you cannot capture it again. If you had better visual memory (even if its not the best term to use, but its the only one I know) you would capture more information and that impression would turn better and richer.
    Now, it's obvious that by increasing your understanding of art you are also increasing the chances of succeeding on capturing that impression. because you will know what to look for.

    Imagine two artists with the same level of understanding of art. One has a better visual memory, or short term visual memory, or impression memory, or whatever, than the other. When drawing the same landscape, and trying to capture that impression, the first looks at the landscape, retains that initial impression and starts to paint and translate it in his own way. He remembers the colors and their relationships, the combination of forms and how they interact with each other, the strong feel of certain parts of the landscape in relation to the almost non-existent presence of other parts. He remembers a great deal of information and makes choices accordingly, he can do this because that impression is carved on his brain.
    The other looks at the landscape, and only remembers a fraction of the information the first one does, his memory is fractionated, he remembers little, even thought he painted on the canvas with the same level of expertise as the other, its less information. When he tries to remember other parts he feels the need to look again, but its too late, the impression was gone.
    This doesn't make sense? maybe it doesn't, I don't know.

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    Whoosh.

    At least Icarus tried!


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  28. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by pegasi View Post
    Could you elaborate about this impression, Jeff? Even thought I don't know shit, could you see if anything about what I'm saying makes any sense to you? (sorry about the bad english, as always it doesn't help to make things clear)

    What I get from this is that this "impression" is memory. If you can remember more, than you get a better grasp of that impression. For example, you are painting a sunset, trying to capture that initial impression, but then your memory falls short because when you look at the canvas, you remember very little of it. That instant passes and you cannot capture it again. If you had better visual memory (even if its not the best term to use, but its the only one I know) you would capture more information and that impression would turn better and richer.
    Now, it's obvious that by increasing your understanding of art you are also increasing the chances of succeeding on capturing that impression. because you will know what to look for.
    Yeah - you have it Pegasi (and your english is fine man). Keep in mind art is more about your own impression, what inspires you in the scene or subject, and then the intent and execution of the statement you want to make. Also be aware that in your example with landscape painting, people who do landscape painting work mainly from life, in the field to observe and gather information. In other words they don't try to "remember their impression" and later try to recreate that impression on canvas. When we work in the studio we rely on studies and yes, our memory and experience, but the major effort is toward making or crafting a statement. Kev's comments in posts 32 and 35 are so right on the money it would be difficult to say it any better. In particular his analogy of the piano player, understanding music structure and what particular aspect of music one might relate to will make it much easier to interpret or express that fleeting melody.

    Quote Originally Posted by pegasi View Post
    Imagine two artists with the same level of understanding of art. One has a better visual memory, or short term visual memory, or impression memory, or whatever, than the other. When drawing the same landscape, and trying to capture that impression, the first looks at the landscape, retains that initial impression and starts to paint and translate it in his own way. He remembers the colors and their relationships, the combination of forms and how they interact with each other, the strong feel of certain parts of the landscape in relation to the almost non-existent presence of other parts. He remembers a great deal of information and makes choices accordingly, he can do this because that impression is carved on his brain.
    The other looks at the landscape, and only remembers a fraction of the information the first one does, his memory is fractionated, he remembers little, even thought he painted on the canvas with the same level of expertise as the other, its less information. When he tries to remember other parts he feels the need to look again, but its too late, the impression was gone.
    This doesn't make sense? maybe it doesn't, I don't know.
    Your example misses the mark a bit for a couple reasons I'll try to explain:
    The main problem is the example you set up doesn't really work (and I know you were trying to set up an example comparison analogy to better understand the idea). Two artists with the "same level of understanding of art" wouldn't have this problem..they simply wouldn't paint with "the same level of expertise".
    The second part of the problem is thinking in terms of some kind of "absolute impression"...the impression is unique to each of us. So our expression is unique as well. Painting (and drawing) are at their core about having something to say - it doesn't have to be some deep philosophical statement always, but there really isn't any point if you aren't making some sort of statement - your take on something.

    Anyway, hope that helps.

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    I always have the feeling that when drawing I am trying to build a bridge between what I already know and what I am actually seeing. It always feels as if the drawing never is capable of grasping that relation between the subject and itself. This relation sort of dies at the end of the process.
    It seems to me that the drawing we are left with has more in common with our visual memory than with the subject observed. Which makes me wonder, do we actually observe? Or are we just filling in the gaps between the things we have already visualized in our mind.

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    Quote Originally Posted by D.Labruyere View Post
    I always have the feeling that when drawing I am trying to build a bridge between what I already know and what I am actually seeing. It always feels as if the drawing never is capable of grasping that relation between the subject and itself. This relation sort of dies at the end of the process.
    It seems to me that the drawing we are left with has more in common with our visual memory than with the subject observed. Which makes me wonder, do we actually observe? Or are we just filling in the gaps between the things we have already visualized in our mind.
    You don’t draw what you see. You draw the idea of what you see.

    The goal of art should be to produce something greater than the mere sum of it’s bits and pieces.

    Actually, most of the information from your retina being processed in your brain right now is going to become a synthesis composed mostly of past visual data. In a way, we see in historical context. You will never see the world like a newborn, again, but as an historian using metaphor from past experience to describe the ‘new’.

    Last edited by bill618; December 14th, 2012 at 03:32 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post

    Anyway, hope that helps.
    Thanks for taking the time Jeff, it helped!

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    But if we are just busy with translating the idea of what we see what is the purpose of the object in front of us? Wouldn't it be more effective to just focus on analyzing the way we produce those ideas and try to shape and change that? I don't really know how to phrase this... but to focus more on what we think instead of focusing on what we see. Like a kid who goes to a playground and doesn't see the playground but a heavy armed battleship ready to go on a treasure hunt. He or she will focus on being a pirate and not on being the kid on a playground. Shouldn't the artist focus more on the attributes of the heavy armed battleship and less on the playground? I'm sorry if this is a bit vague.

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    Quote Originally Posted by D.Labruyere View Post
    But if we are just busy with translating the idea of what we see what is the purpose of the object in front of us? Wouldn't it be more effective to just focus on analyzing the way we produce those ideas and try to shape and change that? I don't really know how to phrase this... but to focus more on what we think instead of focusing on what we see. Like a kid who goes to a playground and doesn't see the playground but a heavy armed battleship ready to go on a treasure hunt. He or she will focus on being a pirate and not on being the kid on a playground. Shouldn't the artist focus more on the attributes of the heavy armed battleship and less on the playground? I'm sorry if this is a bit vague.
    Really interesting analogy D.Labruyere...

    For me the focus is on both things...observation to understand and imagination or intent to say something. And I was definitely the kid who saw the battleship and would rather play with my friends who were robots as opposed to the kids who only saw a playground.

    At first the artist, when starting out, is better served by doing a lot of observational study as well as theory, art history, etc. so that they have solid foundation upon which to build. The aim should be to understand the technical side of media and its application in order to serve the ultimate goal of expressing your own personal vision as best you can...and that of course takes as many forms as there are individuals. Some people have interesting things to say, others say the same things over and over.

    So...regarding what we think vs. what we see...light, color, value, edges, surfaces, depth, form, etc. are all extremely complex and interact in infinite variety...so we really stand no chance of simply "creating" those interactions and truth without observation.

    What is required is balance. So to follow on your analogy...a focus on the heavy armed battleship, without a solid understanding based on observation will yield a more stylized statement that may be a real mess. Likewise a focus on the playground will yield a boring, hackneyed expression that says very little.

    In the end I think it depends on the type of work that inspires you and the kinds of expression you want to share (what kind of artist you want to be). I like to think of it as a sliding scale...with truth (realism/accuracy) at one end and heavy stylization at the other. Toward the truth/accuracy end of the scale observation will be dominant...toward the heavy stylization end imagination and construction/design will dominate. This is one of the reasons I enjoy doing a wide variety of art...I really like various aspects of the entire spectrum.

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    kev ferrara is offline Registered User Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    The object in front of you is a visual instrument on which you learn to play visual music. The more objects you learn how to draw, the more visual instruments you will know how to play. So when it comes time to orchestrate some pictorial idea you have, you will have an entire orchestra to compose with. In the act of drawing, in the practice of it over the long term, you may find that it becomes second nature to you. And you will be able to feel the object as you draw it. This will be the evidence of your level of talent. Imagine: At some point Mozart played the piano perfunctorily. His genius began to shine when he learned to play with feeling and compose with feeling... the piano becoming an extension of himself.

    Drawing is an absolute necessity to doing work that goes beyond the literal. Because you must be able to use the literal for all its worth in order to give some appreciation of what lies beyond. Put more bluntly, it will be impossible for you to realize a dream like a playground=battleship image unless you can draw like a baddass. (If you just try to photoshop the two elements together, you will end up with cheap photo montage junk.) Too many artists who become engrossed in the abstract aspect of art lose touch with nature and reality and they end up throwing paint at a canvas and hoping for transcendent accidents. In other words, they use the abstract as an excuse to slough off the hard hard work of learning to paint and draw. And this leads to an art talker who uses the mouth to legitimize the art.

    The greatest use of the imagination in art is to imagine a reality in your mind. And to keep it in memory long enough to set it down on canvas. To do this, you must experience reality, and spend a great amount of time setting it down. Until nature becomes second nature to you. This is a hard, wonderful road that none of us come to the end of.

    Last edited by kev ferrara; December 14th, 2012 at 04:59 PM.
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    so the beginner should discard all of this until he is able to play the instrument?

    Edit:
    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    At first the artist, when starting out, is better served by doing a lot of observational study as well as theory, art history, etc. so that they have solid foundation upon which to build. The aim should be to understand the technical side of media and its application
    What I understand is that when starting out you should work on the technical aspects of art, and don't bother with the more advanced we are talking here.

    Last edited by pegasi; December 14th, 2012 at 06:42 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by pegasi View Post
    so the beginner should discard all of this until he is able to play the instrument?
    Assuming I understand your question correctly... hell no. I did that for about a year back in school and had to painfully retrain my brain to make pictures even as interesting as the badly drawn ones I'd done before, at the end of it. Too many ateliers focus on teaching you the instrument at the expense of doing anything personal for several years, and end up beating the vision out of their students in the process. Study nature, learn the academic stuff, but never lose sight of what you loved in the first place.

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    kev ferrara is offline Registered User Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    so the beginner should discard all of this until he is able to play the instrument?
    No no no... ABC: Always Be Composing! Always be pushing both sides of the equation. They will come up together in prowess. And it will be awkward at first. But over time you learn to think and speak simultaneously.

    Think of any musical band... they get together, they're struggling to learn their instruments... what do they always do? They run through some song they're trying to learn. Better yet they write a song that plays to their strengths. They start achieving right away with whatever they've got. So draw pictures that play to your strengths. And keep pushing against your weaknesses and finding ways to make your weaknesses necessary to the completion of your pictures. And this will force you to confront your weaknesses and bring them up to the level of your strengths in order to get the picture to hold together.

    A very important side point; one of the most important things you can possibly learn is how to start, work on, and finish artwork. You learn how to do this by starting, working on, and finishing artwork.

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    kev ferrara is offline Registered User Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    Sid,

    There is actually a different view of this I've read that stems from the Golden Age of Illustration; That if rigorous training kills an artist's talent, it was worth killing because it wasn't all that strong in the first place.

    The real problem is that ateliers are generally run by artists who have utterly lost sight of the purpose of training. And therefore don't provide good training. (Imagine if you were training for the Olympics but didn't know for which sport.) And being lost themselves, they becomes zealots for the few ideas they are sure of, obsessing on them, and they often unconsciously seek after a cult of personality to surround themselves with in order to shield themselves from recognizing the vast world that is beyond technique and craftsmanship as ends in themselves; The vast world of expression and conception and self-revelation. This is why Harvey Dunn would often admonish his students to, "Quit thinking how to paint, and start thinking what to paint!" Dunn prodded his students to get them into the habit of working as artists all the time. Find out what you want to draw and draw it, and eventually you will see what you really believe is true. Which is the corollary to that old line, "How do I know what I think until I see what I write." Until you really start to write, you won't know how to think because you won't be forced to think. And until you learn how to think in your chosen medium, you won't be able to say anything interesting.

    Last edited by kev ferrara; December 14th, 2012 at 07:09 PM.
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    Kev,

    Fair enough, and I think I remember reading the same point in one of Speed's books. I didn't attend one of those ateliers, but I've definitely seen the obsessive mentality you're talking about. It's striking because the same people are perfectly aware that there are a million other ways to do the same things they're talking about, technique wise, but still insist that black oil is the only medium worth using.

    As far as being shielded from the world beyond technique, that's certainly there, but I've also seen a fair amount of artists from these places (some of them teachers) who have some very beautiful compositions in their sketchbooks that they never show anyone... but who still only put out the 2 or 3 very involved head and figure studies in a year. Even when the drive is there, it seems like it's being strangled by the fear of putting out anything less than 'old master' work, whatever that means. The meat camera studies are a very safe alternative at that point, I guess.

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