The best advice I ever received
“If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.” Michelangelo Buonarroti
We asked each of our 2017 instructors to share the best advice they ever received for their art practice and for pursuing a career as an artist. We received such thoughtful and thoroughly inspiring contributions and are excited to put them all together and share them with you - the wisdom that our instructors have to share make a rich resource for any aspiring artist. The advice below is not about short cuts: instead it's a reminder that hard work, persistence, patience, and resilience are required in the pursuit of an artistic career, and that the best art is produced with care and consideration towards both concept and execution, through dedication to practice and technical improvement, and - above all - with love.
The best piece of technical advice I have ever received in relation to sculpture? Easy. Comes from my dad, as assuredly as it has from many fathers to sons: "Measure twice, cut once." My father is a hobbyist woodworker, and when he taught me how to use tools growing up, this was the advice that stuck with me. I often make mistakes in measuring, but I also catch those mistakes because of this advice, and it has saved me lots of time, money, and grief over the years. You may imagine how important this advice might be to a marble carver.
My best advice for the pursuit of a career as an artist – and it's really the only advice I ever give - was given to me by someone from back in my theatre days, but I imagine it holds true across every artistic field, and it is: everyone achieves success in their own way. I know a lot of very successful artists, and they are all successful in completely different ways. No one follows the same path. The one thing that you want to avoid is someone who tells you how to become an artist, because it’s absolutely different for everybody.
The most useful pieces of advice on painting that I have received were from two people who instructed me over the course of my education at the Florence Academy of Art. The first piece of advice was from Daniela Astone in relation to the journey of creating a painting, from conception to execution to finishing. She taught me that if I had an idea, a concept, for a painting, to write down the key word describing that concept and keep it close to my painting, so that I would be constantly reminded of where this painting began and what its core idea was. I have found this really helpful as it’s common to begin a painting with an idea, set it up, and then get distracted by the painting process, ending up in the end with a lukewarm version of the original idea.
The second piece of advice that has stayed with me was from Daniel Graves, the founder of the Florence Academy of Art. He said that your paintings/art are a direct representation of your life experiences. The richer your experiences are as a human, the greater your library of inspiration. I have found his advice of “Go live a little, fall in love a little'’ to be vastly helpful!
In terms of advice for the pursuit of a career as a professional painter, something that has helped me has been to apply to a lot of International Painting Competitions as a platform to present my work to a larger audience. For me personally, another idea that is important is that the integrity and the quality of my work are always my first priority, as opposed to market demands and common trends. I believe this will keep my career on its own unique path and I hope my work will be recognized for the same.
Amy Florence Moseley
The best advice that I have received comes from one of my favourite artists, George Inness, who said that artists should paint their emotional response to their subject, so that viewer might feel the way the artist felt when they were creating the painting. He also talked about honesty in painting – that you could always tell when an artist was being honest or dishonest in their approach because you cannot separate a painting from how you feel about your subject, nor can you fake your emotional response. The best advice I have for a career as an artist is to be inquisitive. Experiment and learn about your materials so that you may attempt to master them, and then try to fully utilise the potential that they have to offer.
To be honest, I've gotten almost no advice ever in my painting career as I'm self taught. I didn't have more than a few friends around at the time to explore paints and art when I started out, and so we did all the possible mistakes. We slowly gained information by reading up online, watching paintings in museums and going through books. The greatest advice I've gotten is probably from a book of Herman Hesse, "Siddartha", where he says everything that you need to know to find your path in life can only be learned through experience, not pure teachings. Everyone who tries to explain their own path to either career or enlightenment will always sound crazy for the person who hasn't experienced and found it. So I try to live by that, not by teachings, but by experiences. Ironically I'm now doing some teaching for this workshop, but I'm very clear on the fact that this is only one route to one path, and not the only way. I'm only there to give the students another tool for their toolbox, and so when they move on from there they have more ways and possibilities to express themselves freely.
On colour: Mix colours from just 3 chosen primaries for fail-safe colour harmony. You can use 3 colours throughout the composition or chose 3 colours for particular passages. That is, the trees might have one combination of 3 primaries and the roof-tops another, or the oranges one combination of 3 primaries and the grapes another.
On composition: Design the pictorial space by creating interesting interlocking shapes based on value families. Bright, medium, and dark shapes should be arranged thoughtfully, keeping the rhythms and shapes simple and organized. Always start out with simplicity, working out the whole composition and the large shapes rather than beginning with details.
On career: Keep trying, and always keep working on improving oneself in the meantime while waiting for a break. If you are working with a gallery and it is selling a lot of your work, don’t stop looking for other markets, because markets do get saturated.
The best piece of technical advice I've ever received is to "get the big stuff first." At Grand Central Atelier I learned that no matter how great that eye is that I just spent 4 hours drawing, it's going to have to be erased if it's in the wrong place. So figure out the big stuff: big gesture, big proportion, placement and light effect, before starting to worry about the smaller details, it'll save a lot of time...and heart-ache.
The best career advice I've received is probably from my mother. As a professional artist herself, she's always been able to say the right thing at the right time - the most important of which probably being: "Be patient." This is always good advice, but especially for someone starting their career. Another gem was gleaned from Jacob Collins when he said, "Its better to paint a bad painting than no painting at all" - which I took as “Don't worry how it's going to turn out, just keep painting!”
The best advice I ever received on painting (and which I often quote) was from my first year painting tutor, Peter Collins, at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art. Because I'd gone straight from high school to art school at the tender age of 17, I'd never used oil paints before and was very nervous about my first oil painting class, but his opening words completely relaxed me. He said that no one should feel intimidated by oil paints; the reason that all the great masters used oil was that it was simply the easiest medium to use, so lets get on with it!
The best advice I have for how to approach an art career is a bit of a universal truth and I couldn't pinpoint a particular person who gave it to me, I think it's just become obvious over the years. It is: don't try to create work to please others or paint what you think others might want to see - it always falls flat. Only paint what inspires and excites YOU and others will see your vision in the work you create.
Painting is an attempt to find the right frequency - the frequency of nature around us. Follow the thoughts that you cannot put words to, because the process of painting, done properly, puts you in touch with your higher self. Painting can stop time, illuminate your soul, and show you the meaning of existence. If you practice and dedicate yourself to developing your skills, you might be lucky enough to hear that whisper and transform it into a painting.
Approach your canvas with an open heart and free of negative emotions. Don’t overthink things and get frustrated worrying about how and what, and don’t doubt yourself. If you get rid of negativity and doubt, you will find that you can paint much better than you ever imagined.
Lastly, if you want to truly capture life in your paintings, cultivate empathy for every form that life takes.
The best advice that I ever received with regards to painting was: don't draw back from anything you feel is important.
The best advice I have for approaching a career as an artist is to be patient yet determined and consistent. Continue to take small steps in the direction of your dreams and goals, and if it doesn't work out right away consider the saying "disappointment is an appointment not yet met." Also, the feeling of fear and the feeling of excitement are very similar, so try to reinterpret the feeling of fear as being excited!
You can read more of Kristy’s advice on how to navigate the art world in her articles for the Artist's Network here:
Advice for painting: Once I discovered how to effectively use color and temperature shifts, it really elevated my paintings to the next level. The use of warm against cool colors helps to create the illusion of light and distance. The warm colors come forward and the cool colors recede. This is especially helpful when painting landscapes. Whether you are painting a sunset or a still life painting, the proper use of warm and cool temperature shifts will make your paintings glow. Read more about temperature shifts and use of values in Lori’s blog post on the subject here: www.finearttips.com/2015/07/using-temperature-tone-and-value-in-painting/
Business advice: When building your career as an artist it is important to understand how business works in the art world. Thinking like a small business owner and understanding the entrepreneurial aspects of making a living as an artist will help elevate your art career. This includes building valuable relationships, networking in person and through social media, and blogging.
The best advice I have ever received in relation to painting is to always think about what you will do before you put your brush to the canvas and do not be afraid to change what you have done if you think it could be done in a better way. In terms of a career as an artist, my best advice is to be ready to work hard and to believe in yourself and your work, even when times are tough.
My best advice with regards to painting is to paint with passion and to do it well so that it can inspire others.
In terms of advice for a career as an artist, I received three key pieces of advice all coming from people who weren't artists but had a passion for life. Of course, they were all Italian!!
1. The life of an artist is about running a marathon and not a sprint.
2. Be true to yourself and let your uniqueness shine through.
3. Don't listen to what anybody has to say about what the life of an artist "should" be and carve out your own path.
Randall Scott Harden
My favorite piece of advice that I have received in relation to painting is to paint the values and don't pay as much attention to lines - they will fall into place if values are correct.
In terms of a career as an artist, my advice is to grow it like a strong oak tree: slow and steady.
Places are still available in the following 2017 workshops with the artists featured above:
Kathryn Engberg: Portrait Drawing: Exploring Light & Form | September 3-8
Kathryn Engberg: Figure Drawing: Constructing the Figure | September 10-15
Vladimir Jovicevic: Painting the Figure in Costume | September 18-22
Maureen Hyde: Still Life Painting | September 18-24
Carl Ahlman: Plein Air Painting in Chianti Rufina | September 25-October 1
Jennifer Anderson: Portrait Painting with a Limited Palette | October 3-9