10 July 2024

Inside and out

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads 24 June 2024 oil on canvas board 
30 X 25 cm

Magnificent skies over these weeks! Seas are lovely too! I didn't initially like this study from two weeks ago when I had finished it at the beach but since then I've warmed up to it. As everyone knows, it's never easy to assess one's work just after it's been finished. Best to just stay in the flow, and later see where the river takes us.

It feels like I've spent my entire life trying to adapt myself to what's on the 'paper'; What's in the 'instruction manuel'. What I mean is that I've always been trying to learn certain things in life from the outside, as if looking in, like I need to plug myself into an external power source to charge my learning ability.

Of course, that's how many of us have learned, yet for some reason some of us never found our way back to into that intuitive space held deeply inside us after all our stints at schools and universities.

For example, when I studied piano many, many years ago (as an adult) I spent too much time trying to sort out keys and chords 'on paper', and ditto for the inversions that I dutifully copied out endlessly in order to understand them. Now, yes it's great to do this work up to a certain point, but not if it's at the expense of actually 'playing' the chords and keys to sort out what's going on for the most important audience: My ear! In Jazz, I eventually understood that 'real study' comes from learning hand positions on the piano keys not from figuring them out on 'paper'. In fact most kids have always learned from just playing in a group while driving their neighbours and family crazy until they left home to become rich and famous.

But for the rest us who studied Classical music, we are condemned to a great degree, to learn sheet music the old fashioned way. And yet in previous centuries, what we think of as 'Classical' music today, was usually just always taught orally through improvisation. Lutes, and early guitars, like a Capella, and in cultures like India, where everything was transmitted one to one, either through instruments or like stories and poems, as oral history. 

But anyway, learning to paint cannot be approached any other way than to just paint. One can study colour theory till they're blue in the face, but unless they get messy with colour on a palette they probably won't get very far. 

I recently told my friend, Daniela, who has started painting this year, to make a copy of a Van Gogh to see what she could learn. In today's world, copying a Van Gogh is one of the best ways to learn about colour. 

But Non-Figurative Abstract Painters will hate even just the idea of this because it means getting their hands dirty! Ha Ha. But also, because it will prove to be really difficult, and it might disclose to them just how inept they really are when confronted with the basic craft that makes up Painting; that of colour and drawing. 

So one needs an inside, and outside, to be an artist. Here, for fun, is a magnificent early portrait by Van Gogh, who is a great example of an artist who held onto his intuitive skills whilst at the same time learning the exacting craft of Painting. 

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