Friday, August 14, 2009

One quality needed to become a great artist.

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Sense of Place

One quality needed to become a great artist.

I painted “Silence at Siskiyou Lake” on location during the May painting workshop at The Grand View Ranch. This romantic scene captures the essence of the feeling of Mt Shasta and the ethereal quality that surrounds her majestic slopes. The low angle of the light and the colors from the cool haze lightly covering Mt Shasta and the foothills contrasted with the warm highlights of the morning sun just breaching over the high alpine tree line give this painting a “sense of place.” Creating a “sense of place” requires an understanding of nature that one acquires by closely observing nature and sketching what you see, combined with a good sense of design and composition that one learns with practice and effective instruction by a competent instructor. When I learned these skills, I read the works of early poets and scholars to understand the old methods of depicting a “sense of place,” a romantic vision that seems lost in painting lately.

One such poet and observer of nature that I found particularly fascinating was John Ruskin. Ruskin was a formidable voice during the 1850s and 1860s when early artists like Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran established the direction and instructive influence of art. Ruskin promoted “direct imitation of nature’s vital facts” as the path to “truth.” He advised students to begin by studying a single leaf, and expand their range of vision gradually, avoiding any view that would make a “pretty” picture. He recommended that in preparation for study “in the field,” the serious art student should select one photograph of a natural place like a riverbank or a corner of a park, then hold the image up to a window, and trace the outline as accurately as possible. He wrote that by doing this, it might improve the artist's ability to simulate nature more accurately. I recommend it as an exercise for beginning students who want to create a realistic portrayal of nature in their paintings.

Artists who make a career in art share one quality that makes them successful. This quality separates great artists from the meek. All successful artists have the ability to persevere and do not quit. Quitting is contagious. In our 21st century, kids are encouraged to quit when the going gets tough, or when they are bored with a hobby or interest. We have dreams of becoming a great a pianist, a writer, a soccer player, a singer, or an artist. Quitting guarantees that you will not become anything great. Students come to my studio and they have stories about how they dreamed of becoming something but quit because it was too difficult, too risky, or not attainable. All artists encounter aberrations of failure, and they can be consumed with negative conversations in their heads about why their art does not sell, or even worse, why it is not liked. Artists quit when they are convinced that their next work is doomed to fail.

Those who continue to create art have learned how not to quit. What would you do if I could guarantee that you would not fail, and that the next piece of art that you create will be the masterpiece the world is waiting for? What if you already have everything that you need to complete an extraordinary painting, and that all you need to do is to pick up a brush and paint it? Unfortunately, I can only guarantee that if you do not create art, your dream of painting a masterpiece will never happen. If you wish to become an artist- step up, find a subject that you feel excited about sharing, and paint. The world is waiting to see what you have to offer.

At our workshops, we explore and disarm many of the limiting and judgmental ideas that people have believed to be true since childhood and introduce new possibilities for creativity and artistic expression through the excitement of outdoor painting.

Come and join us in October for a life-altering experience!

If you are interested in experiencing a breakthrough weekend that will take your art to the next level, visit our new website at You can download my FREE BOOK where I share “Everything I know About Painting.” At my website

I hope that we can build a community of artists that can share information with each other.If you know of any artists that might appreciate being included, let them know about this blog.
I hope to offer more painting tips as this conversation continues.

If you have questions that you can email me anytime, please don’t hesitate to email me anytime. I welcome your feedback