Thursday, October 4, 2012

Famous Oil Painting

(Taken from an email sent to the Art 3 students on the occasion of their beginning their famous oil painting copy) 

If you've already gotten approval for your oil painting project you don't need to read further.

Thank you, and you're welcome.

For those of you who haven't...yes, keep reading.

I have had several of you come up to me with ideas for artists that you'd like to do that won't work and I would like to explain a little more about what this project is all about.

But in a way, I have to back up, so bear with me.

This project is about becoming a better painter, yes. As I've stated, I want your use of the medium to improve; I want your use of color to improve.
These are all good and noble things, and if you put the diligence into it that I know you are capable of, you will have an impressive end product, trust me.

However, there is something else you should be aware of that you maybe aren't considering.
Tradition. History - if you would rather think of it like this.

The art world is full of people being famous for just being famous just like people in the public eye today. And there are good painters who have fallen through the cracks and not received the kind of notoriety that they may have deserved.
Unfortunately this is life.

Just because you like someone's painting doesn't mean it will work for this project.
Just because someone can handle a paintbrush well doesn't make them a great artist. (The corollary for this being, just because you have a camera doesn't make you a photographer/artist.)

I want you to dig in to the history of painting and the history of art. I want you to have someone that "knows" what they are doing and how it is connected to the history of their medium. I want you to be aware of the fact that painting from other people's paintings is a storied tradition and an invaluable learning process.

This project is not just about making something "pretty". While this is all fine and good, there needs to be more to it than that if I am willing to devote a good chunk of our school year towards this endeavor.

You will have to find some historical facts out about your artist. This is easier when they are recognized by museums and the art world at large, and not just the internet.
The internet can recognize anyone and make anyone famous, and most of those people don't really deserve that recognition.

These "famous painters" are also, largely, famous for much more than just being able to handle a paintbrush. Such as creating works that used the medium in a completely unique manner; or dealing with a philosophy that had some significance behind it; or having a "new" outlook on a subject matter; or dealt with a difficult subject matter and used aesthetics/beauty  in a "different" sort of way.

Yes, I know, you may not like this answer. I'm sorry. Well, not really, but I hope you catch my drift.

"Famous Oil Paintings" is a terrible Google search topic. It doesn't mean anything. You need to get into the subject more than that. Have one artist lead you to another, for example - which is why that list on the class site is there.

For example, the first art book I ever bought when I was in college was on Gustav Klimt. In reading that book - yes, while looking at the pictures just as much - I found out about Egon Schiele and Oscar Kokoschka for the first time. They are great painters from the early 20th century that were of the same time/place as Klimt and have been recognized since that time for very good reason.

But that was just the very beginning of my own personal knowledge.
Now I'm asking for yours to start.

Set. Go.