Monday, April 07, 2008

Maggie on Online Art Education, Part III

Both tiger and clouds are quick pieces demo'ed in the workshop this weekend -- just two of the references students worked on.

I'm back from my workshop! Stuffing information into willing victims was fun and rewarding as usual, but the best part of it was staying with my friend Marian, who took me riding on her fantastic stallion. I used to ride like a fiend but I haven't had the opportunity in years. It was great to be back on a horse again and he had a gorgeous canter. I don't have enough adjectives to describe him -- or Marian for that matter. Marian, if you're reading this, I had a great time as always!

As promised, I'm going to post the last bit of my online education series tonight and then on Wednesday I'm going to do reader questions -- I specifically didn't plan a series topic for this week so that I wouldn't get distracted. So anything you want to ask, throw it in the comments, because that's all I'm doing this week. Well, anything but the color of my underwear or what my first name was before I changed it to Maggie in my teens. Those are top secret and must remain thus to preserve the integrity of future Trivial Pursuit editions where surely I will be a hot topic.

Long time readers might notice, by the way, that I've cut down the posting on my blog from daily to three times a week. This is part of my rabid attempt to stuff more things into my life and unfortunately is here to stay for the foreseeable future. I've just found out that I have a 90 day deadline to write the sequel to Lament so I'm going to need my evenings for that. Who needs a social life anyway? Moi?

Okay. To finish up the online education series, I wanted to say that no matter what sites you used to get your education (there are some excellent recommendations in the comments to the last education post), the functions they fulfill are the same. What you're looking for in your self-directed study is:

These are sites that are specific to your chosen medium. For me, it's colored pencil, so the WetCanvas colored pencil forum was a great start for me. I also recommend Nicole Caulfield's blog, as she's always experimenting with new techniques, and Ann Kullberg's site. If your medium is a more common one like acrylic or oil, you'll have a huge pool to choose from -- lots of artists practicing the medium means lots of artists sharing their techniques. If you're working in something a bit more rare -- I read about this guy who made sculptures out of cow poo -- you're going to have to look harder for technique and probably have to supplement with real-world workshops.

Learning to color-by-number isn't enough -- you need to learn to interpret and shape your pieces. To do that, you need theory. That's what function sites like James Gurney's blog fills for me. He makes color theory fascinating through plenty of visual examples. Theory can be complicated, snooze-worthy, and overwhelming -- so find a site that speaks your language. For weird bits of theory, I often have to dig deep, like when I was having my great Dynamic Symmetry hunt of 2007 for my Maxfield Parrish project.

This is why I do my artist-of-the-month studies when I can. It's always inspiring to take apart a great artist's work and see why it ticks. For me, looking at the work of John Singer Sargent, Waterhouse, Maxfield Parrish, and other greats always makes me want to pull out my pencils. Find who does it for you and bookmark the pages.

This isn't the same as inspiration! Inspiration is that passionate rush to the canvas. Motivation is what gets you there when the passion's not around. For me, being part of a forum really helped push me, and then having a blog also motivated me to have something to post. Then when I found the daily painting movement, I really got motivated. I wanted to be able to say I'd done more than 300 drawings and paintings in a year. Find someone or something to keep you accountable and stick to it.

You can't work in a vacuum, or else you run the risk of practicing the same mistakes again and again. This is what I think I miss the most about not getting a college art degree -- the idea of someone telling me "lengthen that bit" "intensify that color there" "crop the edge." We all want an Obi Wan to tell us what we're doing wrong, but working out of our home, you're not likely to find a light-saber wielding mentor. I'm part of a small online peer group of artists who chatter about art daily, and they've been invaluable -- I highly recommend finding other artists online at the same level as you and become critique partners. It helps with accountability and also gives you that objective feedback that you can't do for yourself.

And now bring on the questions!


jackie said...

Hi Maggie, I love the posted demos from your workshop. I hope you'll be in the Northeast some day teaching a workshop. thank you for today's post. It was a shot in the arm. I value it as much as the my old favorite of yours about how to juggle and the parlor tricks. And I also wanted to tell you that I made cookies from your recipe to take to work and and everyone is raving about your cookie recipe!!

CookieQueen said...

The workshop was great! I did learn bunches while I was there then had a forehead flattening "duh" moment on the way home. I must be some sort of geek rehashing the lessons while driving, or maybe it is my desire to improve. I'm still hunting for a 'talent' store so I can go buy some, or I'll just keep practicing and get brave enough to post my work on some of the forums fo help. Thanks Maggie, for a wonderful learning experience.

Anonymous said...

Great teaching. Thanks! Question: that painting-a-day movement has fascinated me since I first heard of it. I can see how it would be a huge benefit and learning experience. Did you have trouble completing bigger projects, though? If you only have an hour to paint at night, you aren't left with much time to work on your 4x5' masterpiece or commission...

How do you balance learning & self-teaching experiments with paid work?

Rhonda Bartoe Tucker said...

Great stuff, as usual. Always finding something new when I read your blog. Thanks! (Love James Gurney's blog.)