Ten Secrets for the Painter (Short and To the Point)

Philip Koch, Sunset at Eagle Ridge, oil on panel
13 x 19 1/2",  2009

Why do we have art? I think for the same reasons we have music, dance, and even sports. Ostensibly not "practical" activities, they nonetheless fill a gap in our lives that our rational understanding isn't able to bridge. Art is something of a magic lantern to illuminate our path. Without its light, we'd stumble a lot more than we do. 

I often tell my students we artists are called upon to be magicians, but also to be practical magicians. For over 40 years I've been painting daily. From such a regimen, one learns of habits that routinely make the art better.  Make no mistake- art is profound and also profoundly elusive. It is usually good to talk at length about painting- exploring all the ins and outs that lead to understanding our vision.

Other times it's best to just cut to the chase.

Here's the list- it applies equally to drawing. All the advice comes with a 100% money-back guarantee. You'll notice that for a list of ten items, it runs a little long.

1. Look more than think.

2. Squint your eyes. 

3. Work standing up (unless the painting is less than 10" wide, only then can you work sitting 

4. Spend longer than you want to on the initial drawing. 

5. Walk away from a work in progress to see it from a great distance.

6. Look at your work upside down.

7. Look at your work in a big mirror.

8. Look at your work in the near dark.

9. Paint with brushes that are a little too large.

10. Love the surface you are working on. If you don't, find a better surface.

11. When you're really stuck on a piece, put it away for three days (no peeking). Work on 
a different painting instead.

12. Find a friend with a good eye and ask them about a painting you're unsure of. Listen to what they say. If it sounds convincing, try their advice. 

13. Even when you're mad at your work, treat it with tender respect.

14. Don't spend your energy beating yourself up.


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