Progress, not Perfection…
Some artists seem to quickly master the mechanics of the craft, and produce work of a high quality early on, and consistently through their careers. For others, its a slow process of gaining bits and pieces of technique over time, gradually improving. I put myself squarely in the second group.
I have very little formal training; that’s probably both a curse and a blessing. Painting started off as a hobby for me about 10 years ago, and I figured things out as I went for the next six years. At that point I took about a year’s worth of weekly classes with a local artist, and picked up some of the rudiments of classical realism, French academic style. The influx of new ideas provided a real boost for me, and it was absolutely the right thing to do. While I have a lot of respect for the tradition and the technique, and love many of the paintings that result, I also don’t have a particular desire to be that type of artist. I wanted to be back on my own and absorb what I’d learned, as well as continue to improvise and pick things up “on the street”. This is where I’ve been for the last few years, during my transition to full-time artist.
But… being outside a formal atelier or academic environment does not mean that learning and growth stop… far from it. I set a high standard for myself and exercise self-criticism, but when I’m finished with a painting I generally think it’s pretty good, measured by the yardstick of what I’m capable of. Look back at it a year later, though, and I’m usually embarrassed by what I see. It’s the healthiest sign in the world; it means my abilities and my standards are improving. I hope I always cringe at what I painted the year before.
It also means I usually want to bury my older paintings (a combination of strong pride and lurking insecurity seems to be common among people who are mostly self-taught). A few weeks ago I was thinking I should delete all of my older blog posts, so anybody reading would only see what I’ve been doing recently. I casually mentioned this to a friend, who told me that was ridiculous. Having gone through most of the archives, he said it was interesting precisely because of the evidence of growth and improvement. He’s right, of course. I can keep a trim, neatly manicured portfolio on my static website, but the blog should show my history, warts and all.
So, in that spirit (and also since I won’t have a new painting to show until tomorrow), I picked a few paintings I was proud of at the time from each of the three years I’ve been blogging. Overall I had some early hits, and recent misses, but this particular selection shows the trend. I can only hope it continues!