Thursday, May 13, 2010

On a serious note

Lately I have been feeling slightly stale in terms of my subjects and concepts. I do however feel like I need to finish all my already-started paintings but that may be unrealistic. A couple of these I'm still excited about working on, but the others almost feel like a chore. Is that bad?

Since I moved up to Boston I have been considering going back to school for painting, but when I start to get into the research it's REALLY overwhelming.

First off, I feel like as someone who is self-taught and who doesn't have a super deep existential meaning behind a lot of my work, they would look at my stuff and immediately decline my application. Apparently I'm supposed to have one cohesive body of work and be influenced by all these historic artists. Who made up all these rules about art? I thought the whole point is there are no rules? I painted an eggplant because I don't use purple a lot and I like purple right now. Is that not deep enough for art school?

Second of all, I'm not sure if my work is supposed to have purpose? Is painting for the sake of painting and for the love of painting not meant for art school? Would I become one of those art-school people? I have ZERO knowledge of art history. Maybe if I took an art history class that would change my outlook?

To end this self-questioning post... I do want to say that this post isn't about me wanting you to say "oh julie your work is great!" this doesn't need to be a love-fest. I know most of you follow this blog because you connect with my paintings in some way, and that means more to me than any degree from some artschool ever would. This post is more of an external dialogue... how do you evolve in your craft?? Is there an underlying theme that leads you from one body of work to another?

(photo taken on return drive from the Twist show where we encounter Lemon-head sized hail and this rainbow)


Brad Smith said...

"how do you evolve in your craft??"

As a photographer, a lot of what I do is dictated by clients and demand. At the same time, however, I feel that it's super important to find time to produce art for yourself. There's no rules, no client, no expectations, and so on. It's a way to try new things or examine a new style or way of doing something that never has to be seen by anyone but you if you don't want it to be. I shoot plenty of stuff that never sees the light of day beyond my office. It doesn't exactly fit my commercial 'style' but it's fun for me to shoot, and it's filling that hole.

And every now and again, my commercial work takes cues from that personal work and it starts to morph just a little bit. I think that's helpful in driving forward a style.

Does that make any sense, or was it just a mess of rambling?

Candace X. Moore said...

Hi, Julie. Your post caught my eye, because I've heard this question before. I'm assuming you're talking about university when you say art school. Have you considered an atelier? Not sure what is available in Boston, but you should look around. The benefit is that the training is intensive, all effort can be focused on improving the skill of interest. Admission requirements vary. Good luck.

David Burns Smith said...

Your work is wonderful, has a defined style, & is clearly influenced by historical objects, architecture, & photographs.

David Burns Smith said...

Check out a couple of art history books from the library, flip through & make mental notes about what you like. A few years later, you are likely to come up with an amended list from the same couple of books. That's all there is to it.

Julie Beck said...

Candace - I was actually also looking at the Academy of Realist Art in Boston, and their tuition is not only significantly less than University art school, but I have been leaning more towards that end anyways... you've inspired me to go check it out on monday.

David: thanks for the suggestion. that may be just what the doctor ordered. Off to find my closest library.

Lynn Cyr said...

It's nice to know I'm not the only one feeling this way! I've often contemplated whether or not my art is worthy or "real", because I'm self-taught and don't have much real meaning behind my work.

What I find helps me with this is going to museums and shows, but because I live in the "boonies" and don't have easy access to them, I rely on my many art books and magazines to inspire me (American Art Collector and International Artist, to name a few).

While this doesn't completely solve your problem, it WILL show you that not every artist out there is academy-trained or that their art has this historical or deep meaning to it. Yet most of them are very successful and famous, regardless.

Seek out workshops and classes rather than "real art schools", if it's too intimidating. If it's realism you're looking for, I took drawing classes with Dennis Cheaney in Boston a few years back, and really loved him. I loved his teaching style, and as someone who is self-taught, he really helped me "see" things in a different way.

Hope that helps! Keep painting... we all love your work! (sorry... had to say it!) :D

David Burns Smith said...

Make a list of artists or single pieces of art you like. Write down 5 things you like about each. Do a large number of those artists fit neatly into a movement? If so, google that movement. A focus on what you like is often worth more than an inventory of what you believe you need.

ErinB said...

Ok so I am not an artist. Like if there was an opposite of artist, that's what I am. BUT I will say that I do not think these feelings are unique to artists...I am going through a very similar thought process myself in terms of if I am a REAL x, y, z (researcher, academic, pain in the ass - well that last one I am sure of). I think those doubts are good because they mean you are self-reflecting and not just coasting ya know? The thing that I keep trying to remind myself is that life actually is long if you take advantage, and if one thing doesn't work out, it's ok to change paths - it doesn't make you a makes you happy. So yeah it is overwhelming to think about going back to school - it would mean a significant change for you and Tim...BUT it is also a decision that is not irreversible and does not need to tie you down for the rest of your life. You've been thinking about this for a while now...and I really think that the biggest thing standing in your way (other than ya know, money) has been a little bit of (albeit unfounded) insecurity. But remember, insecurity is normal and only bad when you let it dictate your decisions. We're all insecure...the thing that often separates successful (however you want to define that) people from the rest is their ability to recognize their insecurity, face it, and then kick its ass. You kick ass at everything else...why not this too?

Harmony said...

I second the atelier route! And I totally know what you are going through - I had the same dilemma a few years ago. I was debating go to art school and got all the applications, and was like "I have to explain myself?"

In my experience, you can definitely learn a ton in an atelier program. Their admissions requirements are usually a bit more flexible, and I think you have the potential to learn just as much, if not more, than you would learn in art school!

Looking at art history books is a good suggestion; also - museums! Gary used to visit this one all the time:

Just use your eyeballs and let yourself be inspired!

-Don said...

Hi Julie, Your first paragraph is something every artist deals with. It's not bad at all. To me it always means I need to challenge myself - find something I haven't done and give it a try.

I agree with the other commenters that a little grasp of art history would help you as you ask these questions. It's good to understand the "rules" of art - and even better to enjoy breaking them. You'll find that throughout art history the ones who made the largest impact were usually breaking the established rules while creating new ones that upcoming artists would then break. (we artists seem to be a bit rebellious).

I've got a feeling that if you really dug deep about your work you'd find you have much deeper meaning behind it than you give yourself credit for. There is a cohesive feel to your work that makes each piece specifically a "Julie Beck" - ie, your color choices, your subject choices, and your lighting choices.

Finally, evolution is a big part of our existence as artists. Being creative types, we have a tendency to get bored easily after having successfully captured an image or idea into our respective medium. We then find ourselves looking for something new to challenge us. Personally, I always find myself looking for new ways to express myself in my work through experimentation - as I create, I'm always thinking "what if...?", and I let those 'what ifs' ferment into ideas or concepts which I may refer back to in later works.

I hope I've been helpful. Good luck!


Julie Beck said...

I'm going to the Gardner Museum when my parents come visit... also I have been looking at the Boston Academy of Realist art ... which is more of this atelier route. going to take the tour on monday. thanks for everyones feedback... i feel a bit more confident in my direction now!

Angela said...

Hi Julie, I found your blog through some random linkages....I think from Diana Brennan's blog to Arts in RI to yours? Either way, I read your post and was compelled to respond. I don't know what your background is in, but if you are currently painting and want to pursue it further, an arts education is truly valuable! I first did a double major at RI College in art history and film studies, and minored in studio art. I wanted to become an art educator (for high school) but felt it was important to really expand my art making, rather than art history. I then went to the Art Institute of Boston and received my BFA. I personally took an abstract art route, but AIB is filled with teachers painting realistically. The people I've met and connections I made have been fantastic. I can't speak to ateliers or to the Realism Academy you are speaking of, but I can say that an arts education from an accredited college is really an incredible experience. As for having meaning behind art....I have a hard time with that as well. I paint abstract art and have always been moved by the abstract expressionists from the first half/mid 20th century. I'm finding more contemporary artists that I can connect to. But, I don't have a meaning for the work i make. I make it because I want to. I find inspiration in weird little things, but mostly the inspiration is because that thing caught my attention or I find it to be really beautiful. A lot of times my paintings are experiments. I found myself working with a particular color palette and to challenge myself I aimed towards something different. Landscapes, architecture, art history, they are all things that inform my work. But my work isn't about some deep social issue or anything. Really, the best thing you can do right now is to look look look. Write down the names of artists whose work you are drawn to and learn more about them! A couple great art history survey books are:
1. Art History by Marilyn Stokstad (Prentice Hall/Abrams)
2. The Oxford History of Western Art by Martin Kemp (Oxford Press)
3. History of Modern Art by H.H. Arnason & Marla F. Prather (Prentice Hall/Abrams)

Good Luck!