Paint Schoodic

We had another successful painting workshop at the Schoodic Institute in beautiful Acadia National Park. Join us in 2018!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

What does one artist teach another, in person, that cannot be learned off the internet? Sometimes it's about accountability.

Dish of butter, by Carol L. Douglas
Yesterday an alert reader sent me a blog post purporting to show how to draw “the top of the flower pot, the lid on a jar, the base of the barn silo,” in perspective. I don’t want to start a flame war, so I’m not going to give you the link, but the instructions were flat-out wrong. The post started off well. Then the writer tried to apply two-point perspective, not realizing that round shapes have no perspective, at least in that sense.

This is a case where knowing a little math would have helped. A column is just an extruded circle. Any point on a circle is the same as any other point. Seen in space, the top of a column is always symmetrical on the vertical and horizontal axes.

That was wild blueberries, yogurt, milk, oatmeal, cinnamon and ginger, in case you're wondering.
I demonstrated this to my reader by sending her the photo of my breakfast drink, above. If you doubt me, walk around a glass or vase on a table and tell me if the shape changes. I have an explanation of how to draw this, here.

Not that I haven’t said some amazingly stupid things in my time. I remember once trying to explain the art concept of color temperature in relation to the physical temperature of light. My class included a person I think is terribly smart. I grew nervous. I got lost in a hopeless mishmash of misstatements before I was done. At least I hadn’t committed it to paper.

Wineglasses and opossum, by Carol L. Douglas
Sometimes people will repeat the canard that “teaching beginners is easy.” That’s only true in the sense that they don’t know if you’re right or not. Painting technology is almost unchanged since Jan van Eyck created his system for oil painting at the beginning of the fifteenth century. Watercolor and acrylic are newer, but equally methodical. There are rules for painting and drawing, and that is what a teacher should know and teach.

Unpicking bad teaching is some of the most painful work I do. This is why I like and practice the atelier model in my own studio, which I benefitted from so much at the Art Students League of New York. I don’t think in terms of levels of competence; there are just people who each bring their own experience and I try to help them move forward.

Acrylic paint jars, by Carol L. Douglas
Even old dogs can learn new tricks. I’m about to take my workshop in many, many years. I’ve painted with Poppy Balser enough to know that she’s a stellar technician. In May I’m traveling to Cornwallis Park, Nova Scotia to take a two-day watercolor workshop with her. I’m hoping to up my game in watercolor.

I’m glad it’s not this week. While the National Weather Service coyly predicts “plowable snow” for Maine, the Canadian Maritimes are looking at significant weather again.

“If it doesn’t start melting soon, I’ll have to shovel for my first class on Tuesday,” I whined to my husband. That snow pile in our driveway has consolidated to concrete. Ouch.

There is, by the way, one opening left for this session, so if you’re interested, contact me.

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