321: The Privilege to Experiment

–WHEN you learn about the techniques of fellow artists, you come across suggestions that have the ring of truth, such as painting is nothing more than putting the right color in the right spot. Which is true–except when it isn’t. Or if you get the value right the color will be right. Which I generally agree with–except when it doesn’t work that way. Or represent a change in form by a change in value (that one actually holds up pretty well).

The point is there are lots of rules for artists, but very few of them hold true in all cases. Another related behavior of artists is to read about the favorite brush or color of an esteemed peer and adopt it as if that were equally valid for them as well. I read that purple was never to be used as an underpainting (not true), or that cobalt blue in a particular brand was vastly superior (not true for me). The list could go on. Another trap is to create rules for oneself that are equally absurd as the ones we randomly adopt from other artists. I mentioned in a previous blog about my aversion to using the palette knife, an idea that stemmed from observing other artists using it poorly, or using it well and not feeling I could find my own niche with the tool.

All such self-imposed rules can be damaging if you don’t allow yourself the privilege to experiment outside such parameters. If a favorite artist says to only use bristle flats, perhaps you should look for exotic brushes the next time you’re at the art store. I stumbled into a store having a sale and bought a set of ceramic tools simply because they were super cheap. They ended up being some of my favorite tools for scratching into paint.

The digital ink was barely dry on my last post when I realized that my supposed aversion to repetition was overly exaggerated. I frequently paint a small painting only to do a larger version, often many months or years later. If I consciously decided to never repeat myself, that would be a classic example of the dangers of making rules, even if subconsciously, and following them too strictly. Despite my earlier claim, my intolerance for repetition has some flexibility.

Such realizations are good reminders that as artists we need to follow very few rules. And those we do follow should be challenged frequently.

Brad Teare –April 2017

View from Rocky Point (above), 24″ x 24″, oil on canvas, available at Anthony’s Fine Art

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Updated: 12th July 2024
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