Well. It seems we have had a few quiet days here on A&P, so I thought I’d fill in the silence with a little thunder.
If you could see my face, you’d smile.
First, please enjoy this image of Rembrandt’s portrait of Jan Six. At this level of greatness, one must say, as did mmm, DeKooning? Stella? “He is on one mountain; I am on another.”
So I will not say “The greatest portrait in history,” but certainly an Everest. Sorry about the bad scan. It seems that all the better images on the net had that same irritating line about two-thirds of the way from the left.
A recent comment asked whether any artist today could paint like Rembrandt, Titian, or Raphael.
My answer was that there were many.
But I’d like to add to that. There are not as many as there could be, or should be.
I did not say that I could paint like any of those guys, but I almost did.
Because I can.
But the thought of chorus singing whether politely or impolitely “Prove it, you big mouthed, bragging, arrogant asshole” made me feel a bit ill, so I remained silent.
Also, I knew what would happen next. After I did prove that I could, in fact, paint like Rembrandt, et. al., the next thing would be, “Oh. Well. That’s all well and good and very impressive etc., but can you do anything original?”
So it was rather a no win situation and one of the reasons we artists tend not to emulate previous artists and one of the reasons we artists get so tired of trying to cater to the whims of our clients or the art community and one of the reasons we finally, in the end, learn to ignore all criticism.
Yet after perusing I don’t know how many hundreds of art instruction books, and after gazing at the works of I don’t know how many thousands of pieces by art instructors, I cannot get over the effrontery of all these teachers who cannot paint well at all yet purport to teach.
I know that’s a terribly snotty thing to say, but anything less is just untrue.
This is, as I see it, the single most horrid situation in the art world today. It seems that the skills of our predecessors have been largely lost.
Where I find decent instruction still existing is in private studios here and there. It exists, but it’s just not the common or normal thing.
So I’ve decided to write an art instruction book.
In my last post I quoted Aristotle saying, “Where your skills and the needs of the world meet lies your destiny.”
I can duplicate the techniques of the past with ease. And when I’m in a good mood, I’m a pretty good explainer. It’s not that I’m a better artist. I’m not. Believe me, I have no delusions there.
One particularly insightful book I used to have was written by Harold Speed, a Brit, around the turn of the century. (I lost this book somewhere in some move.) My edition was titled The Art and Science of Drawing, published by Dover. That was not the original title. As I recall, his was better. Mr. Speed makes some occasional sharp comments like, “You can’t stop the ones who have it, and you can’t help the ones who don’t.”
He goes on, however, to suggest that the true artistic spirit needs not much in the way of inspiration; rather, he or she needs solid tools to use to create, and those tools are good solid techniques.
Possibly the reason art instruction is generally so bad is because many schools just try and fill classes without regard to the student’s actual potentials. This is not so in other fields, like engineering or the sciences. If you can’t do advanced math, you’re out.
Well, the techniques of art are often very tough an require a fantastic amount of practice. It takes a lot of patience and discipline to master them.
Like responsibility, another hard sell, that.
But I need make no apology to anyone for demanding excellence.
Setting aside my own artistic ideals, I’ll be taking certain key artists from history, like Monet, Sargent, Rembrandt, Rubens, and Leonardo, and showing, with step by step instructions, how to paint just like that.
Titian doesn’t make my list though. Rather crude, I think, along with the “sack of potato” muscularity of the late Michelangelo, but a Botticelli angel? Yes. Yes. A good chance to demonstrate pure egg tempera too.
And Caravaggio, even though he himself said he derived his technique from the “dark style” of Leonardo nevertheless achieved a speed and dash that old Leo never did. Plus his manner of drawing with paint with no under drawing has got to demonstrated.
Such a work could be useful to other artists who like me never really needed any imaginative stimuli like “how to be creative” but rather needed more practical advice about plain, old fashioned technique.
Here for your reading pleasure, is a clipped version of one of my favorite songs, “Working Class Hero,” By the inimitable John Lennon.
I rather like the idea of this in the frontispiece.
As soon as you’re born they make you feel small
By giving you no time instead of it all
Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all
They hurt you at home and they hit you at school
They hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool
Till you’re so fucking crazy you can’t follow their rules
When they’ve tortured and scared you for twenty odd years
Then they expect you to pick a career
When you can’t really function you’re so full of fear
Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
And you think you’re so clever and classless and free
But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see
There’s room at the top they are telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like the folks on the hill
A working class hero is something to be
I am open to suggestions as to the artists to include. To give you the paradigm I follow, I want the artists who were studied by other artists across generational spans and thus had big down the stream of time effects.