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The Pecking Order of Painting

I learn new stuff about art every day. It surprises me. I mean maybe if I had a degree from art school, I would already know all this stuff, but I doubt it. As a self taught artist, for the most part, I have my suspicions. I have learned so much from classes, workshops, online tutorials and my own experience as an artist, but there are some pieces I don’t know that I would get from Art History 101. Nonetheless, I have my ear to the ground and may even be more in the “school just teaches you how to learn on your own” category. I know that what I want to know is there but I’m not up for translating any tombs from Latin, either. I realize that art school can give a tremendous advantage, but also realize that it’s up to me to figure this art stuff out, now. Structure is my friend!

Time is ticking by and I’ve been at it 25 years, now. I’ve learned a lot. But there is more. Had I attended art school or an atelier, I would have learned important skills much sooner and in a structured environment. Like here, do this, now do that, then this, don’t ask why... and it can take a lifetime to learn and get good at painting. There isn’t enough time to figure it out after you retire or by doing it part time. They say you have to paint 1000 canvases. I did the math, 1 painting a week, 52 paintings a year... 20 years. Picasso had over 60,000 works, not all paintings, but still... wow! How much paint could a woodchuck paint if a woodchuck could paint wood?

I recently saw some teaser art school lesson videos from I was like WTF? I knew how light hits a sphere, the five values... I didn’t know squat. But art school wasn’t in my cards when I was younger... my father wouldn’t support it and like how do you pay the mortgage and college tuition, and food, utilities and car payments, all simultaneously, and work full time. I surrendered. But I still fantasize about spending those $2,000 bucks for that Evolve art school. If I could just sell 10 paintings, I could swing it.

It shocks me sometimes, the stuff I learn after 25 years. Last year it was the four canonical Italian art techniques developed by the Renaissance painters, Cangiante, Chiaroscuro, Sfumato, and Unione. Last month it was the degree % that light falls off of a round object and gradients at transitions (, and the painting of light using the Munsell scale (like I thought I knew, but now I know that I was clueless). I knew that church only allowed nude paintings of women to be standing, reclining or sitting, but two days ago, while googling a response to a FB group post about landscape paintings where I was trying to remember the three types of landscape paintings, the Pastoral, Picturesque, and the Sublime, I come to find out that there is a hierarchy in classical painting genres.

This is exactly what I’m talking about. For 25 years I’ve been out painting landscapes plein air and naked people and still life paintings and had no knowledge, nada, that they were at the bottom of the heap... like crap, copying what you see. No, the lofty stuff was narrative, ideological, battles and religious stories. So it was okay to paint Venus naked coming out of her shell (mythological) or Adam and Eve standing naked in the garden of eden getting the toss (religious allegory), but paint some Rando model posing nude... spffft! Not to disappoint the order is as follows: and this is a direct quote. “

Kate 24x36 oil on canvas (c. 2010), in a private collection

The hierarchy was based on a distinction between art that made an intellectual effort to "render visible the universal essence of things" (imitare in Italian) and that which merely consisted of "mechanical copying of particular appearances" (ritrarre).[2] Idealism was privileged over realism in line with Renaissance Neo-Platonist philosophy.”

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