Improve Your Paintings!

8 Things An Artist Should Never Do

Cape Buffalo Head Study (collection of the artist)- done in about two hours from an ok photo with constant interruptions at an art festival. You just never know...

1, Don’t be too happy with your work. Too much self-satisfaction will stop your ability to improve and learn.

2. Don’t be too discouraged with your work. Being too down on yourself makes it impossible to evaluate your work objectively.

3. Don’t think that detail=quality. It doesn’t, despite what too many people believe. Less really is more most of the time. It takes much more work and experience to see large shapes and masses than to paint blades of grass. That’s easy. Saying “grass” in two values with a large brush is, by comparison, hard because it requires abstract instead of literal thinking.

4. Don’t excuse bad drawing by saying it’s an “interpretation” or it’s “expressive” or it’s “impressionistic’. You can fool yourself, but you can’t fool others. Use a mirror, show your work to another artist, anything it takes to get the drawing right.

5. Don’t reject criticism by telling yourself that “it’s all subjective”. It’s not, especially if you are a representational painter. There are principles of the craft which have been well-established over time. Professional accomplished artists all share a body of knowledge that is not in dispute.

6. Don’t believe that if it’s in the photo it must be true and you must paint it that way. Photos lie, flatten, distort. Cameras “see” in a particular way which is different than how the human eye sees. Use YOUR eyes.

7. Don’t start a painting without knowing why you are doing it. And there must be one idea only. All other elements must be subordinate to that idea. If you get into trouble, ask yourself if getting away from the idea is the problem. Be ruthless, wipe/scrape/remove anything that distracts no matter how great it is by itself. You have to be willing to kill the thing you love.

8. Don’t “practice”. Do or not do. There is no “practice”. However, one might choose to do “studies” to work on specific things. But the same focus and attention is still desirable. Everything you do is “real”.

Next week: 8 Things An Artist Should Always Do

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