Friday, August 7, 2009

The Road to Mastery

Gravity Feed - Avon River
Graphite and Conte on toned paper

I'm coming to place tremendous value on feedback offered by fellow artists who have seen my work on this blog. As I don't exhibit my work and have not reached the point at which I'm offering it for sale, it's my only source of constructive criticism and is therefore of enormous value. A couple of people have even been generous enough to email me privately with a detailed and honest assessment of my recent work and have suggested ways in which they feel my paintings could be improved. Often, they've clarified what I vaguely suspected in my own mind, but sometimes their insights have been more revealing. Either way, their comments offer me a way forward.

On that note, I liked an anonymous quote I read recently which relates to our progression towards mastery - if such a thing exists. I wonder how many of us will arrive at the final destination?
  1. Unconscious incompetence
  2. Conscious incompetence
  3. Conscious competence
  4. Unconscious competence
If you're reading this, the chances are we're on the same journey of artistic discovery. I know which level I'm at - do you know where you sit on the scale? If you're not fortunate enough to be undertaking formal studies, where do you go to seek a candid assessment of your latest painting or drawing? What practical measures are you putting in place to address your shortcomings in order to improve your art? Whose standards are you striving to meet anyway - fellow artists, the art-buying public, your teacher, art critics or purely your own? As an artist, what defines success in your eyes?



April Jarocka said...

Good post Peter. I think we should all be asking ourselves these questions from time to time. When I thought about your question: "whose standards are you striving to meet?" I found it a very hard question to answer. It's so individual depending on where we are on our artistic journey and how comfortable we are within ourselves. Also what our motives for painting are. I personally believe that you should strive to please yourself. People will buy your work if they like what you paint and your style appeals to them. If it doesn't they won't.
But paint what you feel passionately about because it will come through in the painting and reach out to the viewer. Without passion it's just paint on the canvas.
(I hope that wasn't too long a reply).

Peter Brown said...

April, there's no such thing as too long a reply! Now that you mention it, why do most of us think that comments should be brief?

Actually, I think the answer to the question you address reveals as much about who we are at our core as it does about our artistic standards.

Tracey Clarke said...

Great thoughts, Peter.
I have asked myself these questions many times. I did a five week exhibit in Washington, D.C. this summer and was thrilled at the comments I received in my guestbook. I appreciate all the nice ones, but the ones containing input and advice, though a bit painful, have helped me confirm weak areas in my painting. Key is, don't ask friends and family what they think. Get on out there and let the world see your work so you can get the blessing of feedback from people who aren't invested in you. If we wait until we think "we are ready" we can get caught up in perfection mode. There is no perfection in art and shouldn't be. Technique can be the death of a work of art because in and of itself, it does not create a connection, a life. How many beatifully painted images have you seen that left you cold?
And I aree with April. We should strive to bring forth our own personal vision as artists, and the viewer will catch that magic.

I am glad you said there is no such thing as a long reply!!!:)

Peter Brown said...

Tracey, thank you for such an interesting and thought-provoking response.

Where the issue of feedback is concerned, I'm reminded of the tale about the emperors new clothes! At some point we have to be brave enough to subject our work to unbiased public scrutiny. This is all ahead of me so I'm just speculating, but I imagine it's then how we choose to make use of any constructive criticism that sees us either growing or stagnating as artists.

Gary Keimig said...

I really appreciate your comments and the others on this post Peter. Well said and thought out. I find with interest all the nice things said by everyone on blogs and am tempted at times [as I am sure others are about my own work]to give some advice about what I find. Deep down I think we all know what needs to be said about our own work but doing it is another matter. We all love hearing nice things. Maybe by private e-mail is the way to go?? ?
As far as you stating that you are not yet showing your work or offering it up for sale. I don't know what your expectations are for yourself but I think you are ready. YOu are doing some wonderful pieces and even not up to your idea of perfection-are nokt galleries looking for good work and then building on that as an artist matures? Or are you trying to hit the big time right off?

Peter Brown said...

Gary, thanks for stopping by and for the kind comments. Yes, I suspect many people prefer to offer criticism by email rather than appearing to give unsolicited advice by way of comments here on my blog. Perhaps they feel there's a danger that anyone who didn't read my earlier open invitation to criticise constructively could misinterpret their good intentions.

Where sale of my work is concerned, I have very few completed pieces at present, but I'm very close to launching a web site with the intention of offering them for sale there. The internet is the new marketplace as far as I'm concerned and I'd much prefer to avoid the galleries if possible.

April Jarocka said...

If I can add another comment Peter. I am picking up a lot of unease from artists about going with commercial galleries, myself included. I think the internet and blogospere is the direction a lot of artists are going, and if it works don't fix it, as they say. I wish you all the best with your website and sales.

Peter Brown said...

Thanks April - your comments always add value and are greatly appreciated. In fact, the point you make is probably worthy of a new post. I'll sleep on it and offer the cynical observations of an old man very soon!