Life Long Learning


    This post is by guest author, William A. Schneider. This article has been edited and published with the author's permission.  We've promoted this post to feature status because it provides great value to the FineArtViews community.  If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 70,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites.  This author's views are entirely his own and may not always reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.





    "Eighteen" Oil on Linen on Panel



    Updated version


    Athletes lose strength, speed, and agility as they age…there are no 60-year-old pro-bowl quarterbacks. Artists, however, can (and should) keep learning and growing their entire lives! Leonardo da Vinci on his deathbed said, “I have offended God and mankind because my work didn’t reach the quality it should have!” He was still intent on learning.



    Given that the quest for mastery is never-ending, it’s probably a good idea to find the most efficient way to learn. Bryan Mark Taylor calls it chunking. The idea is to isolate and master one “chunk” of information at a time before moving on to the next.


    For example, if you have trouble seeing and mixing color, immerse yourself in that for a while; don’t worry about drawing or value or edges. You could read the color section in Richard Schmid’s Alla Prima, take a “Color Boot Camp” workshop (I periodically teach them and Camille Przewodek teaches several per year), trying the Henry Hensche block exercise. (Google him,) and make color charts (mixtures of every color on your palette done in five values). In short- Work that chunk!  Here’s a chart of the “Zorn Palette” – ivory black, permanent red medium, yellow ochre, and white). 




    It’s all in our heads

    This leads to another issue: the way we think about each painting. If we view each attempt as a potential “masterpiece,” the painting becomes too precious…and we become too timid. Better to think of it as a study…a way to practice and improve our skill set.



    If you steal ideas from one person, it’s plagiarism; if you take from many, it’s research. I encourage students to try any approach or technique that seems in the least bit intriguing. The worst thing that can happen is you’ll ruin a piece of paper or canvas. For example, I read an article about “dayturnes” – daytime pieces that were altered to make them look like they were done at night. Hollywood routinely shoots night sequences in broad daylight then lowers the value, changes the overall color to blue-green, reduces the saturation, and increases the contrast…voila, a night scene. Another arrow in the quiver! Here’s my experiment dayturne, “Midnight on the Bayou.” Another arrow in the quiver! Never be afraid to try new things!





    No Limits

    Try subjects, media, or techniques that are out of your comfort zone. I often speak to artists who are only comfortable in one lane: They only do portraits, they only do landscapes, they only do pastels, they only do get the picture. I feel for these artists because so often, it's really a fear of the unknown that is holding us back. As Nietzsche said, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." When asked how to become a great portrait painter, John Singer Sargent replied (and I paraphrase), "First, become a great painter, then worry about portraits." The great masters painted everything: figures, landscape, and still lifes…maybe that’s why they became Masters.



    This brings us to my final point. The 10,000-hour rule. To master anything, it takes that many hours of practice.  So paint or draw the same way the Chicago machine votes – “Early and often!”





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