Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why You (Always?) Need A Teacher / Mentor In Your Artists Life

Seriously, I have been what I consider being an artist for about four years. I have painted on and off my whole life but it was only when I started painting on a regular basis that I suddenly saw myself blossom as an artist. Now I know that defining an "artist" is very subjective and what I define as an artist may be very different than what YOU consider to be artist. That was the clash that has resonated between the Salon and the Impressionists. In fact, it has resonated throughout the ages and that clash is what spawns and has spawned the all great movements in art.

I started being able to paint in oils only after I started going to an artist, Margot Lennertz at the Creative Arts Gallery in Sierra Madre, CA. Even in her 80's at the time, she was a wonderful start and showed us how to use oils. The times I tried I made mud.  However, it was from my first mistake, buying an acrylic magenta paint instead of oil, that led me to what I considered a wonderful way to under paint. I have taken classes from artists who use a solid background, orange, black, deep green whatever to accentuate the colors placed on top. I immediately liked the acrylic base and I didn't have to worry about contaminating the oils and yet was easily able to let that magenta, ala California Impressionism, show through. Near the end of my time with Margot she had come to the same conclusion. I don't know if she ever acted on it. I've never let it go.

However, it was after attending the shows in Vegas, plein air painting and reading books by other artists that my own art started to shift in ways I seemed to have no control over. Margot and I seemed to be moving in different directions when I remembered a teacher I had in Vegas and decided during the summer of 2010 to visit her shop and see what she had to offer. Diane Trierwriler of the Tole Bridge in Norco, CA had been a teacher for 25 years and we hit it off! That fall I started going there and my painting changed forever.

She encouraged me to do whatever I wanted as this was an open workshop Thursday mornings and since I was retired it was easy to go east in the morning and come home in the afternoon against the traffic. It was this collaboration that had my art suddenly shift yet again and it both matured and became a style that people could identify as mine. It was not what I had expected it to be but I seemed unable to stop this progression. Have any of you had this happen? You start with what you style you want to be, as an artist, and then watch, almost detached, it become something else entirely?

Multnomah Falls, First conclusion
Multnomah Falls, Second conclusion

A perfect case in point about having a mentor is shown in these two images, actually, the same painting. The one on the left was finished before Christmas. I looked at that painting throughout the holidays and was not happy with it. It seemed to lack depth. Going back to class last week I again dragged what I had thought was a finished painting and tried to understand what was wrong. Without saying much and never touching a brush to this painting, she suggested that I look at the darks and lights. The background needed to recede a bit, but not too much. The key here were the trees on the upper left and the shear wall behind it. So I applied a wash of color that both darkened it yet left those trees to stand out making it very clear there was distance between that wall and the hill the trees were on.

Then I played with the shear wall itself. Part of it was in the sun but most was in the shade. By darkening one side and lightening the other depth was added. Next came the water. The addition of Prussian blue throughout gave the water more depth...lights and darks that was apparent in the original scene. By manipulating the water where it pooled, and spattering white around it, the water took on oddly enough more power and force, what it had as it roared down!

Each of the banks coming forward had color added, a careful balancing act of not too much but more than the bank behind it. The brightest and richest in detail was the hill just above the water. It gained not only color but texture and detail. You can almost see the rocks yet they were not so detailed that it overrode what could be seen throughout. 

It took only two hours to correct, or should I say, finish? I had a good base but it needed refinement, refinement that mere suggestions helped me see and made it possible for me to finish.

That is why it never hurts to have a teacher and mentor. I have heard from many artists that they have a person they admire and discuss things with. It never hurts to ask for help!

Visit KrugsStudio.etsy.com to see this and other wonderful acrylic and oil paintings.

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