Persistence

Working through fundamental exercises in any given field, let alone drawing, can test your patience but the key is to remain persistent. After I read through Dr. Betty Edwards' "Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain", I learned not only about why the brain perceives the visual world the way it does, but also strategies for a new way of seeing to improve my drawing. This foundation of knowledge motivated me to continue to work in these areas while sparking my interest to learn more from other sources.

I attempted to enroll in several classes and workshops around the Denver area to further my education but I always seemed to be a day late and a dollar short when it came time to enroll. My search continued and I eventually discovered an excellent resource for artists called Smartflix. This website provided instructional video rental for drawing and painting in addition to many other specialized craftwork. I rented videos from there while checking out more from the library. The videos helped solidify the concepts of what I had read in Dr. Edwards' book in addition to new teachings. Now, I had to take this new information and put it into practice.

After several months of working on my accuracy, I gravitated toward portraiture. My interests were pushed further when I was commissioned to do a portrait series of three siblings. I also began two separate series of self-portraits and burlesque performers around this time.

In the autumn of 2010, JQ and I flew out to Washington D.C. to attend a wedding. We planned to spend sufficient time at the Smithsonian Institution. I was struck by two galleries in particular. As you might suspect, the first was the National Portrait Gallery where I marveled over several works by John Singer Sargent while gaining a better appreciation of American artists in general, such as Childe Hassam and Robert Reid, to name a few. I surprised myself developing a newfound love of work I had long disregarded, ultimately realizing the importance of portraiture in American art as not only documentation of history but as an entity of beauty in and of itself. Interestingly enough, the second gallery was the Feer/Sackler Gallery, typically known for its Asian collection. This time, however, there was a gorgeous exhibit featuring the work of James McNeill Whistler. I absorbed visually what I could from the trip, writing down names of interest with the intent of looking them up when I returned home to find out what I could about the artists and their processes.

Of the artists I wrote down, Sargent and Whistler were the most documented regarding their process. From Sargent, I learned of his strong work ethic and how much time he put into rehearsing his material through sketches; he encouraged at least 100 studies of a particular subject before committing it to canvas. Whistler, on the other hand, was known for his remarkable visual memory. He would study his subject intently for a period of time and then turn his back, facing away from the source to recite verbally what he had seen in order to commit it to memory. These two concepts would eventually become the cornerstone in my continuing development as an artist.

Jared 2.0, Back To The Blog: Part II

“I’m gettin’ old, man. Heard the gun for half-time go off when I turned 40. I’m at half-time in my life. My life is half over. And I played a sloppy first half, man.”

-Billy Gardell


Self-introspection had begun in earnest. I was looking at my paintings through the eyes of a critic and what I saw was work that didn’t match my vision. I simply wasn’t producing the caliber of work I was striving for.

The first problem I identified was my drawing ability. I have been drawing ever since I could pick up a pencil. Throughout my life, I’ve been told by friends and family that I was a good artist and until last year, I believed it too, whole-heartedly. Once I began viewing my work more critically, it became apparent my drawing skills were lacking. In the past, I settled for these inadequacies because I always managed to tell myself that I could do better if I wanted to, if I really tried. The reality was that regardless of whether I could or couldn’t, I never made a concerted effort to improve my drawing skills and thus, I had yet to prove to myself that I was as good as I thought I could be.

As I was driving one day, I listened to a radio interview with an author who had written a book exploring whether talent is something inherent or can be learned. If my memory serves me correctly, I am thinking of David Shenk and his book called The Genius in All of Us: New Insights Into Genetics, Talent, and IQ. The particular subject discussed was “Why many childhood prodigies never fully live up to expectations.” He referred to a study where a grade-school classroom was divided into two groups: Group A was told at the beginning of the grading period that they were straight A students, that their work was exceptional, and they were doing very well in class. Group B, conversely, was told their grades were average to below average, and if they hoped to improve, they would need to work much harder. Riding on infused confidence, Group A proceeded to coast through the semester, turning in very average work while Group B worked substantially harder in order to produce better grades. In the end, Group B outperformed Group A. I could immediately see the lesson and how it applied to me. I’m embarrassed to admit that until my realization, I never worked at becoming a better draftsman because I accepted that I was talented and therefore had no drive to work on my skills.

I needed a resource to help me improve. I looked up possible classes and workshops, but they were either filled up or too expensive for me to attend. During an evening making canvas boards with Tony, I explained my recent revelation and that I was interested in improving my drawing skills. He suggested I pick up a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Dr. Betty Edwards who has a master’s degree in art, a doctorate in psychology and a passion for education. In her book, Dr. Edwards breaks down five levels of visual comprehension, followed by basic brain anatomy, function, and visual cognition to provide an excellent foundation of understanding. She then provides various techniques to help counter those obstacles to obtain objective perception; a new way of seeing. All of these concepts are referenced in one form or another in all drawing training material I have found, such as: utilizing negative shapes, determining a basic unit within the image and using it to compare and measure other, larger shapes within the same composition, determining angles, and several other methods. I therefore believe this book is the best place to begin if you are interested in improving your drawing, whether you are a beginning or advanced artist, because it is the most comprehensive.

Understanding brain anatomy and function piqued my interest and after reading about them, I was prepared not only to utilize different measuring and self-checking techniques to develop better drawings, but to continue learning about how we learn and other concepts that related to and transcended the world of art. I also became aware of how much effort needed to be put into practice. Drawing is a discipline- you can’t merely study it and expect to get better without actually working at it. Again, a discrepancy I noticed between reality and my perceived reality.

I began doing the exercises diligently with an eye on revisiting the fundamentals of composition.

Jared 2.0, Back To The Blog: Part I

Nearly two years ago, I hit a creative wall. I felt my artwork wasn’t progressing the way I wanted it to and blogging about it only served to confirm those feelings so I stopped writing. I needed time to rethink my approach to painting.

I remembered my college professor, Earl Linderman, telling the class the only way to get better at painting was to continue to paint. After graduation, I put those words into practice and noticed gradual improvement in my work, particularly in the five years I was fortunate enough to do it full-time, but in 2010 I plateaued. The uncertainty of how to proceed sent me into depression. I was determined to find a solution. I needed to refine my skills to match the vision that was beginning to form in my mind of what my art should look like.

In an effort to cheer myself up, I began watching a lot of stand-up comedy. As I continued to observe and listen to various comedians and their material, I became interested in the development of their career path (a subject I hope to expand on at a later time). I eventually came back to George Carlin whose work I hadn’t seen since the late ‘80s. After combing through all of his stand-up material, I looked up additional t.v. spots and interviews and found one particular interview where he discussed a turning point in his career which he claim happened at about the age of 40. Incidentally, this was the same age I found myself at the time I watched the interview. Carlin went on to explain the change came about from a book he read titled "Psycho-Cybernetics."

A short time later, I picked up a copy of the book, by Maxwell Maltz, out of curiosity and actually found it to be an interesting read. In fact, I recommend it to anyone who is looking to make some positive changes in their life. The gist is that humans are goal-seeking individuals. Once we determine a goal we work to achieve it through a self-correcting system, directed by our own experiences utilizing positive and negative conditioning, and ultimately moving toward the positive for a successful outcome.

I thought about my own situation and realized regardless of the frequency of which I painted, if I was in fact continuing to employ bad habits or other unnecessary or negative strategies, it would therefore follow that I would continue to produce undesirable results. I needed to look at my work with complete honesty to determine what I liked and what I didn’t like about it. Once I was able to quantify the compositional elements into these categories, I could then make the necessary changes. This wasn’t going to be pretty.

To be continued…