kieferart  FAQ: Painting in Public

"I don't like painting in front of other people."

Well, that's not exactly a question, but it's worth investigating. If you're like me, painting in front of other people can be kind of tense under the best of circumstances. I don't know about you, but I have difficulty concentrating, especially if I feel compelled to socialize or teach while I work. If I do manage to get in that "zen" zone, I'm always shocked to come out of it discovering that people have been watching me at my most vulnerable. It's normal. (Like someone opening the stall door while you're on the toilet at the mall.) But it gets easier the more you do it.

I wish I had a dime for every time someone has proudly said to me, "I can't draw a straight line" or "I only draw stick figures ... hahahahhhhhhaahahah". That always makes me cringe - not cringing at them, cringing at a society that has so little understanding of what role art plays in our lives. I would bet the farm that all the people who have spoken those phrases can point to a time in their youth when some anal teacher embarrassed them in front of the class, "You have crayon marks outside the LINES!!!" So then we grow up never having evolved beyond that point thinking we were "wrong" to have made a mistake - or maybe, Miss Hennessey, I FRIGGIN' LIKED IT that way!  (ahem)  On the other end of the spectrum, the teacher might just pat us on the head for whatever we did and had no intention of providing real instruction. Either way, many people out there have been emotionally and artistically wounded. But we can heal.

Creating art is personal, let's face it. Sometimes, even when we work alone, we hear little voices (most likely in the tone of that clueless teacher way back when) criticizing us with every stroke. Consciously remove negative and cynical thoughts. Replace those by taking pride in the fact that you're working at it. Think of your mistakes as being the course being served just before the waiter brings you the deeeeelicious chocolate mousse. Learn to studiously examine those missteps. That process is the catalyst that brings you closer to where you want to be. Find your OWN voice - even in class.

I've offered instruction in oil painting to beginner, intermediate and advanced students since '91. The only thing I have to offer is a set of guidelines that might enable them to get from POINT A to POINT B in a more direct, efficient way. Any instruction should be interpreted through the filter of your own sensibility. If anything you hear in class doesn't make sense, question it until it does. Then give it a good go - practice it sincerely. If after that, you decide it doesn't fit in your world - DITCH IT!  Find another way to get there on your own or ask someone else. Whatever you take in should be translated into your own words - again, YOUR VOICE.

There is effectively no place for competition in the arts, whether it's show competition or casually working at an easel next to a peer in a studio setting. Judging in a competition only exists so that people can make a few bucks (and to exalt the few until the next competition nixes their work altogether). It means NOTHING - NADDA. Trust me, I've been hired as a judge on several occasions and have been on the receiving end more times than I can count - it means nothing unless you're doing it for the money or status. We are individuals and should approach every single work of art with that in mind. You are not wrong in anything you do at that easel. You may not be getting the image you had in mind at any given point, but you're not "wrong". That's the beauty of art. The most powerful tool you can possess is the ability to work through mistakes - whether someone is watching you or not. If you can learn to assess, you can learn to fix. Give it time, experiment and please don't be intimidated. We're all "emerging". Every single artist you encounter is on the same journey as you.


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