Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The "Copy This Painting" Movement

The painting above is called "Liberty", and it is another one of my celebratory paintings.

I got a couple of comments about my last post where I mentioned a place where you can drink and do art. My first exposure to this sort of thing was when I went with my friend to give a demo at an art league outside of Houston. A teacher there was trolling for students, and advertised her upcoming workshop to the group by holding up four paintings. "At the end of my workshop" (she gushed), "you will have four paintings exactly like these!" I was somewhat taken aback. I had seen the results of teachers who created disciples in their classroom, where every student became a clone. But I had never seen copying paintings as the central theme of a painting class, or any other sort of class. Just doesn't seem like art to me.

I got an impassioned email from a dear friend who is a talented artist/photographer/and teacher. She staunchly defended art in any form. I have printed out part of her statement below:

in response to your post.,,,about those places where you make a painting. Yes, there is a main focus on product, vs, process, no room for creativity, no personal expression, etc. etc. However, on the contrary, you could also look at it as a non-threatening way to get someone who has never held a paintbrush since being made fun of in grade school for having no talent or for whatever reason, and labeled themself "not an artist" to be able to simply...paint. Even though the subject, purpose, and instruction sucks, it could serve as an excercise in confidence building, proving the fun of art, and allowing them to learn and appreciate that making your own art (even if it looks like evryone elses) is better than going to the local Kirklands or Hobby Lobby and buying a framed print of some obscure landscape that had no experience to connect with it. It could serve as a catalyst to inspire future works of art with more meaning. With technology being so entertaining in the world today, it seems like the allure to art is less and less. Maybe that is just how I see it in my little bubble. It just seems like the majority of people I know don't care about art. The teachers who pick up their kids from my class couldn't care less about what beautiful painted masterpiece their kids made in my class today. They often tell them to fold it up and put it in their pocket so they can go outside to play. I have NEVER in 8 years received a phone call from a parent who loved the art their kid brought home. I doubt very few pieces of art ever make it to a fridge much more a frame or even a push pin in a wall!! But I do it because I know that the process of making the art was so much more important to them than the paper they take home. Its the experiential knowledge they take with them that is so important. I think no matter what you are painting there is just something about putting paint on a brush and watching it magically transform a white blank space into something beautiful,something terribly ugly, or something that just says something that words cannot. If there were words to express that feeling, I guess there would be no need for paint. I'll get off my soapbox now.
I like your painting, BTW!!

America's disconnect with art is a terrible shame. I wish that this great teacher was getting positive feedback from the parents who have children in her class. I salute all teachers at this time of year.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Celebratory Paintings

For the past two weeks, I have worked on small pieces I call "celebratory paintings". They focus on fun and freedom of expression. I put my inner critic in a closet, and let the good times roll.

This painting's story: My daughter went to an after work get together at one of those places where you drink and are "taught" how to paint a specific painting. The leader/teacher had an art degree from a major west coast university. The image of choice was a sappy abstract landscape: solid black lined trees and faux fauvist dabs of color that were to be the foliage. NO DEVIATING from the original image. My artistic daughter got depressed that no creativity was allowed. She also imagined a younger me as the teacher, and wondered how that young woman settled on this humiliating occupation. She thrust the painting into my hands when she got home and said: "PAINT OVER IT!" I did.