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  • Writer's pictureChris

Back to Basics...

Updated: Jan 10, 2021

I attended another art workshop on zoom this past weekend. Lalita (@lalitahamillartist) is a wonderful teacher who offers a weekly atelier school in the Vancouver region and like so many - has had to adapt her teaching style to the internet. I found new insight along with the relearning of principles from the previous few years of self-study. I came away with a practice canvas after 6 hours in the workshop that I am still... 4 days later... totally embarrassed by. The main objective was to try to become mindful of every stroke you paint - make it count (make it interesting) and get rid of the noise. The end goal was to create a small study in 40 brush strokes.

Well...I created and created and created...until I am sure I had 400 strokes - not 40 - and my small canvas looked ridiculous! There were so many layers of paint and so many attempts to try and correct a previous try gone wrong...that it ended up looking like I had painted it not only with my eyes closed but also with my left hand - which might as well have had a boxing glove on it!

I agonized all Saturday evening over how badly I had done. I had not been able to get rid of the noise - I was over correcting time and time again trying to create something...anything...and then just painting over it and trying again. I had completely defeated the purpose of making things count - getting rid of the noise.

Sunday - I decided that I needed to get back to basics. Clear my head and retrain on some basic components to begin my self-refresher course. I decided to focus on a few key areas - composition, value, colour, brush strokes, mood and edges. I chose the subject of light and shadow to begin my retraining. I made notes for myself and even though these are principles I am fully aware of ... I did tape up cheat sheets in front of my work area to remind me about light source, value, shadow and contrast. These now are displayed beneath another cheat sheet I use - a self-critique check list.

I feel better now - I won't just let my discomfort over my Saturday art piece take over. Every few days I am going to go back and reread a web article or book and focus on an art component that I want to master. With so much being thrown at you on the internet - from so many art sources - it is extremely easy to become overwhelmed with what a gazillion people have to offer. I need to have a plan that I can follow...a schedule that I create myself. For me - I had to take a step backwards - make a conscious plan to review some basics and get over this overwhelming feeling before I feel I can move forward again.

I wish I were in proximity of someone like Lalita - so that in-person weekly sessions were possible. However - I'm going to do the next best thing - 1) pick and chose a few reliable art mentors to follow 2) stick with the basics of studying composition, value, colour, mood, brushwork and edges and 3) get rid of the noise that comes from having too many sources of information (after all - how many art subscription emails and YouTube Art channels can one person follow!)

I've posted my horrible workshop painting below - (I have no pride!) along with my current self-critique checklist and my Sunday refresher course on shadow and Angle of Incidence.

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I'd love to hear what things you ask yourself when self-critiquing your art or any other type of creative endeavor you may undertake? Do you have a "back to basics checklist" you follow?

(I did go back and redo the workshop task using a different image (apples) and did much better this time around. I refused to let myself get discouraged by my initial mess....just took a breather and started anew.)

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