Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why Studies vs. Paintings?

"Early Warm Up", 18 x 24", oil on linen

"Winter Cattails" (below) is a small study of last seasons intermingled grasses and cattails and is a good example of how valuable a "from life" reference can be during painting sessions in the studio. I create and keep many such references and use them frequently. This particular study gives me all I need to know of the natural angles of the stems and leaves and the transitional edges at snow level. I referred to this study often when painting "Early Warm Up" (above), a painting in progress (notice the lower left uncompleted corner). Without this from life study experience in the field I would have no knowledge or understanding for portrayal of grasses in the studio.

"Winter Cattails", 12x12" study, plein air oil on panel

Inexperienced artists are often confused over the differences between studies and paintings. To me, a painting is a performance. In other words it must express all the elements of painting that an artist has perfected at the time of the performance. Therefore, as a general rule of thumb, which makes perfect sense to me, one should not tackle elements in a painting that are unfamiliar or unknown to the artist.

Studies on the other hand, are executed as an examination, a lesson, if you will, of subject matter, light, texture, technique, etc. A study supports experimentation, the option of trying new things, perfecting a technique, or gaining experience with a process. There is a heightened sense of freedom for the artist in creating a study that is not evident in a painting where one is expected to perform.

It is this learning process that develops artistic acuity in observation, knowledge, understanding, and mastery of medium technique. These four elements must be thoroughly developed on the road to excellence. The only way I know of how to do this is to work often, study hard, and create miles and miles of studies. I tell my students to practice ninety percent of the time and perform ten percent. Those who take this advice advance their skills much faster than those who continually belabor over creating paintings.

Watch this blog for a one day workshop on "The How and Why of Studies" to be announced for Spring, 2010 at my Williamston Studio.

1 comment:

Beth Niquette said...

I adore this painting--it's elegant simplicity are more than wonderful.