Saturday, May 18, 2013

Respect for the medium

Long time, no post. 
So a quick sum up of what's been going on, and then I need to rant.  First, the Images Exhibition was.. just okay.  I really appreciated all the nice comments on my work, although even that partly added to my frustration because I know I deserved better recognition, considering the ridiculous, mediocre-at-best piece, not even worth showing on here, that inexplicably won Best of Show.  There is no way that anyone could, with all honesty and pure sincerity, tell me that this was actually the best thing in the entire show, and the death nail cannot come any sooner for this crude, unsophisticated, and fruitless style of work.  But, for as long as bad taste and a tolerance for mediocrity in art exist, things like this will continue to happen. 
Okay, so I guess I had a pre-rant before my actual rant.  So on the upside with the Images show, I was awarded with a secondary, local business-sponsored prize from an art supply store that I had never heard of until now called Creative Coldsnow.  I was quite appreciative of it, and in this past month since the exhibition's opening reception, I have shopped at this store three times.  It has quickly become my new favorite place to purchase materials, both raw and ready-made.  I have purchased paints, brushes, canvases, and some oil ground.  I am very excited to use these materials, particularly a couple of the colors - lapis lazuli and vermilion - both magnificent historical colors.  And I am also excited to work on linen canvas for the first time... I want to see what the fuss is.  The great thing about Creative Coldsnow is the insane, artist-friendly discounts that they have.  So I've gotten several large-scale canvases recently at 75% off their regular price.  Pretty awesome.  My next big project which will go on one of my 30x40 canvases is a Crucifixion.  So anyway, the good thing that came out of the Images show was that I discovered a great store specializing in some really awesome materials.
Now, on with my actual rant.  And actually, it kind of ties in with some of the other things I just mentioned because I have been thinking about what it means for artists to truly respect their medium, whatever it may be.  For instance, as a painter, it absolutely disgusts me when I see anyone daring to call himself an artist working from a palette that looks like this:

What got me to thinking about this was my recent purchase of the lapis lazuli paint, the linen canvases, and pretty much everything else for that matter.  I was also reminded of an art history special that aired on BBC a few years back called "Titian: The Artist's Studio."  The program used to be viewable on Youtube, but sadly is nowhere to be found anymore.  I absolutely loved this special because it showed, in fascinating detail, the methods and processes that Titian would have used not only to paint a picture, but also to prepare his raw materials such as his paints and his canvas.  And of course, one of the things they showed was how this historical pigment lapis lazuli was made from raw stone, and then mixed with oil to form the paint itself. 
The host of the program said something quite profound as he worked with an artist in mixing these paints.  The tedious process of making the pigment and then making the paint, not to mention how expensive this particular precious pigment is, should give the artist a better understanding and appreciation for their medium.  Today, we are so used to squeezing paint out of a tube and slapping it on the canvas like it's nothing.  And for some, we are so undisciplined and unappreciative of our medium that we won't even bother conserving our materials and cleaning up after ourselves.  We'll simply leave our palette and studio looking like the picture above.  This would have been unfathomable in the 16th and 17th centuries given just how valuable and precious the materials were.  Discipline in the craft would have simply come naturally in some respects. 
So what happened to this discipline?  Why are there so many artists out there today who simply don't give a damn about how much of their materials go to waste by letting paint get caked onto their palette or their brushes?  And for that matter, why is there also little appreciation or desire to become better at one's craft?  Recently I had the idea of teaching a short-term class at a local gallery in the art of classical drawing.  Let's face it, a lot of artists need such a lesson, especially in my local art community.  Yet, no one chose to step up their game and sign up for this opportunity, so the class never happened.  On more than one occasion since then, I've seen surprised looks on a couple of artist friends' faces when I tell them that the class didn't happen.  They know, and are as outspoken as I am about the fact that the discipline of proper drawing skills is strongly lacking in our art community. 
So it's not just that we often don't respect our medium, but in a way we also don't respect our own potential to become better.  This isn't just an art/artist problem.  It is one of the greatest problems of the entire culture of today.  We have been so bombarded with a fast-paced life, with fast-paced food, fast-paced media, fast-paced everything that is all accessible 24/7... that we've evolved into a species that no longer knows how to slow down and take long, tedious, however necessary steps to improving ourselves.
So if you're a painter and your palette or work space looks like that picture, stop it.  These things deserve better care and should not be handled as though they are dispensible.  Take care of and respect your materials as if they cost a lot of money or something, and make the most out of every bit of medium and material that you have.  In the same way, make the most out of your skill, and do not ignore the potential to become better.  Because I cannot stand seeing bad art win major awards.  Okay, rant over.  Be on the lookout for new work that I'll be posting soon.

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