Saturday, April 10, 2010

An Open Letter To Andrea


Hi Andrea,

Thanks for your email and your request to use one of my paintings as a model. Your request is something that fits well into my artistic philosophy, and for that matter my life philosophy. I have believed, since I can’t remember when, that all knowledge, skills, and ideas should be shared. Otherwise I think there is a great ability for the development of “Prima Donnas” and God knows that I’ve had my share of them in life. So, where do I begin with all of this?

One of the good things that came from art school was being around a variety of people and seeing that they had a variety of ideas and practiced a variety of techniques (unless they were trying to suck up to the teacher). To roughly paraphrase Picasso, “A good artist borrows, a great artist steals.” If you go to Europe it is not uncommon to see people set up easels and painting supplies, in one of the galleries, and proceed to make a copy of a painting. In the USA people consider this to be “Cheating” because you are copying and not being original. One of the important things that I learned in art school is that there is nothing new under the sun. It’s all be done before in various ways and we just haven’t discovered it yet. I always encouraged my students to copy the works of “The Masters.” Copy a Degas drawing and it is like studying with Degas. Copy a Rembrandt and it is like having Rembrandt at your side teaching you.


Many years ago I did a pastel painting, as a gift, for a therapist who was helping my wife and myself. She requested a piece that was thematic of a mother and child in a loving relationship. I immediately thought of the artist, Mary Cassatt. I did not copy one of her pieces. Instead I researched photo references of mothers and children and did a composite sketch. But before I started the painting I surrounded my easel with books and images of Mary Cassatt paintings. I wanted her spirit in my studio so that I could learn from here and be guided by her. At a certain point in the painting these images were put away, because I didn’t want to duplicate her, but I wanted to put my own mark on the painting.

Whenever I’ve taught I’ve always brought in my own materials and would work along with the students. For me, it’s easier to visually show someone how to do something than to try to explain it verbally. I guess that’s why I always did well when I apprenticed out in a building trade (I learn better from watching and doing). I would get comments from others, some artists and some not, that by doing this, showing them my techniques, I was essentially teaching them how to do what I could do. That I could be taking sales away from myself. My response was pretty straightforward and simple.


Unlike so many college art teachers I do not see making art as a mystical and magical thing. I see it as a craft (I come from a blue collar working class family). I have long told students that I can teach them to draw and paint but I cannot teach them to be artists. Drawing and painting are crafts like being a carpenter, plumber, mechanic, doctor, lawyer, or whatever. We learn our craft and then we practice it. If we want to be good we practice it a lot. You have to teach yourself to be an artist because it is an internal expression but that expression is difficult, if not important, if you are not skilled in the craft of what you are doing.

As for someone else making paints just like mine, well they can’t because they are not me. Our art comes from the experiences of our lives. To duplicate my art, the shapes, forms, colors, compositions, intensity, and sensibility, then you would have to duplicate my life, and God only knows why anyone would want to do that. Our life experiences lead us all to different places. We have different encounters and interactions. Because of our personal history we understand the world around us differently. The theologian and scholar, John Dominick Crossan, has taught that you can have 4 people all standing together witnessing the same event at the same time and they will all come away with different memories of it. This is because we all filter the events of life through our own personal lens of history.


So, when I say that no one else can make paintings just like mine I’m not being vain or arrogant. I’m being pragmatic. I’ve taught students that our art is a reflection of our personality. Going again to Picasso and paraphrasing him, every work an artist does is a self-portrait. If I am neat and meticulous by nature, my art will be that way. If I’m a sloppy person my paintings will be sloppy. As for me, my paintings are a reflection of me and my mental illnesses.

They are tightly constructed but I try to disguise it with a feel of being casual (my need to try to hide who I am). They have a certain tension because I am a very tense (and intense) person. Because I am filled with oddities and eccentricities, so are my paintings. What is not seen on the surface is that I may have labored for hours or days to get a color or stroke just right. Now I don’t like to have people around when I paint because I’m afraid they’ll rip me off. Rather it is because, for me, painting is a very intimate activity that requires my full attention. It requires me to get lost to everything but the task at hand. I think by nature most visual artists are solitary creatures.

That doesn’t mean that I think artists shouldn’t share ideas and techniques. Quite the opposite is true. I think that artists need to collaborate more frequently with each other. As artists we are not really competing with each other and we should be helping each other with sales, marketing, exhibitions, materials, techniques, and so on. If you sell a painting it doesn’t mean that I’ve lost a sale. The person who bought your work did so because they liked your style and content as opposed to mine. When one artist succeeds we all succeed because someone bought an original work rather than a reproduction or a poster. Maybe someone sees your work but it just isn’t quite what they had in mind so you suggest they look at my work and I sell a piece. Again, it isn’t that you lost a sale (because you never had it) but that a sale was made. Commercial galleries understand this, which is why major cities have gallery districts. It draws a variety of people, with a variety of tastes into a centralized location where they can see a diverse group of works. The best place to open a new gallery is in an area with existing and established galleries.

Well, my mind is tired. I hope I didn’t ramble on too much and that this was somewhat helpful. Also, if you want to quote anything from this for your blog please, feel free to do so. I think I will be using this as my next blog posting.

Post Script

The French artist Ingress once commented to a young student, "Learn perspective then forget it." The same idea applies to composition and yes, even colors. You learn the theory, the mechanics of it and you practice it over and over again, ad nauseum, until you no longer have to think about it consciously, you're able to "forget it" and just do it. It just becomes part of you. Once you are so disciplined in form, composition, color, etc. that you no longer have to think about how to do them then you are finally free to create (including the emotional aspects). The internal chatter dies away and you have an "AHA!" moment. As a painter I can respond and react to what is in front of me visually without having to over-think it. Because of this I am free to follow the rules or to break them when circumstances call for it. I am free to let the painting tell me what to do and what changes are needed. And yes, Paula, an artist's palette is somewhat of a signature mark, just like we choose styles and colors of clothes because we like them and they fit.


And Andrea, you mentioned thumbnail sketches and I agree with their importance. I have learned, however, that what works at 3” doesn’t always work at 36”. I have to constantly re-evaluate and readjust as circumstances call for it. Again it is learning the rules and then having the freedom to break them when it’s right.

The first piece is titled “In Advance Of Winter” and measures approximately 4.5’ high X 7.5’ wide X 4’ deep and is made of mixed stacked wood. I have been spending a lot of time cutting up dead trees, splitting the wood, and stacking it so I can burn it and heat the house next winter. I’m good for about 2-3 hours a day until my arthritis overwhelms me and I have to stop. The next 3 pieces were done on a recent trip out to San Diego, CA to see our daughter. I learned how to not frustrate myself and use available resources and spaces. Two are part of my “Boundary Barrier Series” and they measure 14.5” X 20.5” and 20.5” X 14.5”. The third is titled “Dark Marsh” and measures 20.5” X 14.5”. All are done with artist crayons on paper. Finally is a thumbnail sketch of one of the Boundary Barrier pieces. It is graphite on paper. I’ve included my color notes.

40 Comments:

Blogger andrea said...

This is what artist sharing looks like! :) I have linked to this on my latest blog post. And by the way, the artwork on this post just reinforces my thoughts on composition. Nice work, Ed.

4:11 PM  
Blogger 有南 said...

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1:27 PM  
Blogger Ed Maskevich said...

有南

嘿,感谢所有的色情更新,但我真的不感兴趣。这将是一件好事,如果你不给他们了。 愿你有一个良好的生活和幸福的生活。

9:29 AM  
Blogger Kathi said...

That therapist, Ed, is still very grateful. The woman and child painting was so much appreciated and added to the atmosphere. What was and still is the most special, however, is knowing the artist and his wife and calling them friends.

4:26 PM  
Blogger 鈺禎 said...

好文!值得一推~~加油哦! ....................................................

5:59 AM  
Blogger 向霖 said...

友誼是人生的調味品,也是人生的止痛藥。 ..................................................

1:38 AM  
Blogger BurtonClary031 said...

謝謝您的分享~感恩唷!!..................................................

2:00 AM  
Blogger 嘉花 said...

pleasure to find such a good artical! please keep update!! ........................................

10:00 AM  
Blogger 韋于倫成 said...

真得很不錯的blog,加油哦........................................

1:59 AM  
Blogger 昭彥 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:11 PM  
Blogger 韋于倫成 said...

教育無他,愛與榜樣而已......................................................

9:33 AM  
Blogger 紫倫妍勳 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:37 PM  
Blogger NorrisBradwell04張 said...

成熟,就是有能力適應生活中的模糊。..................................................

6:10 AM  
Blogger 王周宏儒 said...

The absent are always in the wrong. ............................................................

10:38 PM  
Blogger 皇雯皇雯 said...

你不能左右天氣,但你可以改變心情..................................................................

11:27 AM  
Blogger 明美 said...

文章雖然普通,但意義卻很大~~^^~~.....................................................................

1:22 PM  
Blogger 陳隆 said...

人不能像動物一樣活著,而應該追求知識和美德....................................................................

6:55 AM  
Blogger 宛真宛真 said...

欣賞是一種美德~回應是最大的支持^^....................................................................

8:57 PM  
Blogger 嘉琬嘉琬 said...

成熟,就是有能力適應生活中的模糊。.................................................................

5:56 AM  
Blogger 江冠彭珮李佳宏陽筠 said...

It takes all kinds to make a world.............................................................

3:49 AM  
Blogger 玉婷良DGFHFJ瑋黃吳 said...

向著星球長驅直進的人,反比踟躕在峽路上的人,更容易達到目的。............................................................

9:40 AM  
Blogger 欣怡 said...

當一個人內心能容納兩樣相互衝突的東西,這個人便開始變得有價值了。............................................................

9:40 AM  
Blogger 芳容222許林堅林芳容儀 said...

文章雖然普通,但意義卻很大~~^^~~ ..................................................................

10:18 AM  
Blogger 添d卉王賴uou珮甄賴賴 said...

第一次來這裡 愛上你的部落格 感謝你的分享............................................................

10:44 PM  
Blogger 芸茂芸茂 said...

休息是為了走更長遠的路,爬個文章休息一下!!............................................................

4:46 AM  
Blogger 李宗蓮李宗蓮 said...

你所貫徹的形象,你喜愛它有多少百分比,你就幸福多少百分比................................................

8:55 PM  
Blogger 江美娟江美娟 said...

生命所經歷的折磨愈多,其所產生的奮鬥力愈大。............................................................

8:55 PM  
Blogger 陳佑發 said...

果然很有意思呀....這當然要頂一頂呀 ̄﹏ ̄......................................................

5:52 AM  
Blogger 許惠吟許惠吟 said...

每天都是新的心情~~希望都是好心情!!!!..................................................................

12:53 AM  
Blogger 欣邱儀 said...

一個人的價值,應該看他貢獻了什麼,而不是他取得了什麼....................................................

2:37 AM  
Blogger 敬周喜 said...

教育的目的,不在應該思考什麼,而是教吾人怎樣思考............................................................

4:56 AM  
Blogger 偉曹琬 said...

生命的意義,是在於活的充實;而不是在於活得長久。......................................................

9:52 PM  
Blogger 怡靜怡靜怡靜怡雯 said...

我在戀愛著?--------是的,因為我在等待著..................................................................

4:45 AM  
Blogger 陳倩江陳倩江陳倩江 said...

當一個人內心能容納兩樣相互衝突的東西,這個人便開始變得有價值了。............................................................

4:48 AM  
Blogger 冠陳儒 said...

精彩的部落格 值得一推再推 支持你..................................................................

4:48 PM  
Blogger 恩宛玲如 said...

人生是故事的創造與遺忘。............................................................

4:48 PM  
Blogger 于庭吳 said...

當最困難的時候,也就是離成功不遠的時候。..................................................

7:54 PM  
Blogger 翊翊翊翊張瑜翊翊翊 said...

一個人的價值,應該看他貢獻了什麼,而不是他取得了什麼............................................................

11:59 PM  
Blogger 林陳欣樺陳欣樺陳欣樺浩天 said...

到處盡心,即為快事;舉步踏實,便是坦途。................. ................................................

5:08 AM  
Blogger 王怡迪 said...

與人相處不妨多用眼睛說話,多用嘴巴思考,..................................................... ............

9:05 PM  

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