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Can Art be taught?

Originally posted on April, 26, 2007

In the old atelier systems years where spent simply learning technique: genius, the problem of becoming an artist, was not addressed. Conventional opinion was that art could not be taught. It wasn’t until very recent times that this began to change. Today, it is not really clear how to go about teaching art.

Is it best to stick to the art cannot be taught doctrine? Do the questions of design and composition become important? Do we attempt to help the student find their personal style? The questions go on and on.

However we may feel about it, evolution is leading to more and more importance being placed on individuality. Having a healthy sense of self is vital for the artist. But the insecurity that usually goes along with being an individualist can be great. Finding the balance is often difficult.

The question of how art should be taught is an important one. If we are going to teach art it needs to be taught well. A big responsibility. I am going to toast this drink to all the good art teachers.


Published in french as Peut-on enseigner l’art ?


On life and art

Originally posted on April, 10, 2007

I am of the opinion that we are not able to teach anyone art. But, having said that, we are not absolved from spending our life learning.

In my younger years I studied classical literature and philosophy. Then, for the last 30 years I’ve been obsessed with 19th century art and literature in my attempt to better understand how we got ourselves into this mess. Many years were spent in Portland, Oregon in the United States perusing Powell’s Book Store, one of the largest bookstores on the planet, as well as the Portland City Library. I lived between the two which were just 3 blocks
apart and was transporting piles of books back and forth to my apartment.

In the 80’s I began to concentrate on painting. I certainly waited far too long. Not that I hadn’t been painting. It seems I’ve always had a pencil or brush in my hand. Was I lacking self-confidence? In my mind it was tied up with wanting to communicate something worthwhile.

I had problems buying into the postmodernist trip. But then I had trouble buying into the modernist one also. It takes time to wade through all the spin and hype that writers and critics have put on things. It is interesting to see how, in the mid-nineteenth century, French Art critics became more and more polarized. In future articles, perhaps, I’ll take a closer look at this. The long and short of it is that sometimes the intellectual capacity of society is advancing and sometimes we have a decline.

Anyhow, I finally did really get down to painting as they say. As luck would have it, at that time I had a painter from New York, Kay Heally, living next door to me. A fascinating woman, lived in Shanghai during the 30’s. That is another story. She was a close friend and painted with New York artist Anna Meltzer who gained considerable notoriety considering that she was a woman artist in 1940’s New York. She has work hanging in many museums. My friendship with Kay helped me a lot. Living next door to each other we saw each other daily; Every evening for 3 or 4 years we got together for a glass and talked about life. We lost Kay the year I moved to France in 1994. She had reached the respectable age of 89. A wonderful woman.

I learnt something: for the artist both are important, the theory and the application. More than that though, when you give each its due they work as compliments and amazing things happen. Other paradoxes reconcile themselves: representation and invention, the now moment and all of eternity, the opposition of the subjective and the objective, the intellect and the emotions and so on. I can now see light at the end of the tunnel. Each day the light gets a little stronger. All of this to have something both personally satisfying as well as worthwhile to communicate.

Have fun. If you are not having fun doing what you do the price is too high.

Published in french as Sur la vie et sur l’art


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