Things I Learned as an Oil Painter: Thing #8

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maccski's avatar
Great, it looks like you're still reading this I'll keep it up!  Today it's thing #8:

If you want to paint better, you need to know what a better painting looks like - visit galleries often!

Seriously - how can you get better if you don't know what "better" is? I must admit that I don't do this enough and I don't even have the excuse of living in a remote area. Just last week I decided to practice what I was about to preach and visited the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Musée de Beaux-Arts Montréal) Inspiring doesn't quite cover the feeling I got as I wandered around, slack-jawed and wide-eyed. I knew that I would see works by artists that I revere (Lawren Harris, Tom Thomson, Edwin Holgate) and I was looking forward to it very much, but the real benefit was discovering powerful and quality works that I was not familiar with.

Almost every style and era had something I could learn from. I say "almost" because some of it I just didn't "get". Art is subjective by its very nature so, as far as I'm concerned, it's OK not to get everything you see. Somebody somewhere gets it.

Particular artists that kept me lingering longer were Jean Joseph Benjamin Constant, Luigi Loir, Mark Tansey and Serge Lemoyne. Why? Constant had a few scenes from the middle east of the late 19th century. The faces he painted seemed so fresh, contemporary and real. A face painted in shadow contained enough hints of detail that I knew exactly how it would look if the subject were to move into the light. Loir was the master of urban half-light. Again from the late 19th century his work was less detailed, but loaded with atmosphere. More than any photograph from that era he gave an almost tangible idea of city life 100 years ago. Tansey's piece was hilarious (to me). "Action Painting 2" features a shuttle launch.  The onlookers, instead of snapping photographs, are painting the launch "en plein air". Somehow they've all managed to capture the scene in the 8 seconds since the launch (according to the countdown clock included in the painting). Lemoyne's huge painting of Ken Dryden in his hockey goaltender mask (former goalie for the Montreal Canadiens) is bold, graphic, graffiti-like and a little disturbing. I couldn't tear my eyes away. So what did I learn from these diverse painters? Give the impression of detail without painting everything in detail; use light and colour to create atmosphere; a statement, back-story and/or humour can draw in the viewer and get them asking questions; and be audacious.  How about that...4 bonus "things". You lucky people.

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Thing #9 looms...
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glunac's avatar
I love this advice & I agree whole heartily "Visit Art Galleries often" & encourage your family & friends to go with you.
Ristia's avatar
Wow. Have you ever considered teaching? I'm learning more from this series than I did in in 4 months at my community college 'Painting' class (which was a serious course, transferable to many art schools around the country).
maccski's avatar
Thanks! Teaching would be fun, but I still have a boat-load of learning to do. I'm glad you find the series helpful!
21stCenturyDamocles's avatar
i look at art every day its how i start my day's. i could not agree more with you as the reverend mother said to Maria find a saint and amulet. so find and artist and do what they did then let your self grow beyond that. i started with Monet then Van Gogh and Rembrandt then on to the modern super realist so on and so forth then let my self grow always finding new artist that i liked and trying some of there techniques out until my own style started to surface i think we are all kind of a combination of all the artist we love blended in with are own unique way of feeling and thinking abut what we do i just be vary dark in side LOL i love dark paintings i'm sure that is Rembrandt channeling threw me LOL and i love the intensity of color and finally the great details of life that is my style and all do to my love of other artist
citypainter's avatar
I'd not heard of Luigi Loir before, so I just googled him and found some of his cityscapes. Very inspiring again.
JennyMoedKorpela's avatar
Oh yes, there isn't much that beat watching art you like in 'real life'!! To be able to study the actual colours, and the brushstrokes, to get ideas, to be inspired.... :nod:
maccski's avatar
I believe that art in real life has a presence that cannot be experienced in a photo or print.
TomOliverArt's avatar
Once again, you reminded me of a favorite thing I love to do. Thanks!
maccski's avatar
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