This article is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
The seafarers of old are not that much different than you, an artist.
One didn’t just wake up one day and decide to sail a ship around the globe. Much learning was required. Depending on the type of vessel and the time in history, a seaman may have learned as an apprentice or may have learned through formal education at a naval academy of some sort. Even those who had more formal studies also learned hands on under the tutelage of a seasoned captain or sailor.
But what did the mentor, teacher, or captain really teach the aspiring sailor? In the end, they gave them him the tools needed to problem solve. That is it. Everything else the young sailor learned was through his own experience.
Whether in the academy, as an apprentice, or as a sailor’s son, the student would have learned the constellations. The seasoned captain would explain how to chart a course by them. But it wasn’t quite that simple. Currents needed to be taken into account. Wind speed and direction also influenced the course to be taken. Weather needed to be understood and even predicted. Obstacles, such as islands, shoals, reefs, etc. needed to be avoided. Situations constantly changed on the open water. Bearings would need to be checked. Adjustments on a regular basis would need to be made to ensure arriving at the desired location. Seldom could a straight course be taken. Depending upon wind and currents, sometimes a zigzag course was necessary. Yes, much learning was required to understand how to navigate the ocean.
But, all of the theory means absolutely nothing to the aspiring sailor until he captains the vessel on his own. He can be told or even shown how to adjust the sails under different situations. He can be told at what angle he must approach the wind. But until he does it, he has learned nothing. He must feel how the vessel moves with or against the wind. He must gain experience through doing. He will have trials and errors. New situations will arise. But the seaman learns by doing. The knowledge accumulated over the years would tell the sailor things he could never learn from a book or teacher. Over time, his intuition will guide many of his choices.
Artists Are Like Sailors – Your Are Self-taught
You are not much different. You may have learned your art from dvds, books, instructors, a mentor, etc. Regardless of how much tutelage you may have had, you are largely self-taught.
A Good Teacher Does Not Teach You How to Create Your Art
Your teacher or mentor is important. He or she serves a crucial role in your development (books, articles, videos, etc. are also beneficial, though they lack the individual attention provided by a teacher). But that role is not to teach you how to create your work. Rather, the role of an instructor is to teach you how to observe, how to question, how to problem solve. You will be taught how to sift through all the stimuli that are the seeds of creativity.
Art Fundamentals Are Like Constellations
Just as the young sailor learns the constellations, you must learn the fundamentals of art; design, color, value, edges, drawing, rhythm, etc., etc., etc. These are guides only. They are tools, not blueprints. They give guidance to reach the end destination. And yes, they must be understood well.
But, the fundamentals do not take into account everything that lies between you and your destination. You must know how to navigate around the multitude of challenges, emotions, stimuli, etc. as you keep your end destination in mind. The fundamentals are there to fall back on or refer to when you need to check your course. They may help you make corrections along the way. But then you must be in the thick of it, making your way through the swells, rains, winds, etc. of each work of art.
Learn All You Can From Your Instructors (or books, etc.)
They will help you understand what tools are available. They will help you learn how to problem solve. But do not expect your teacher to teach you “how”. Again, that is not your instructors’ role. You must learn on your own by doing. Only then will you discover the freedom of expressing yourself through art.
You Choose Your Own Course
Your teacher cannot chart your course. The constellations cannot decide where you want to go. The fundamentals of art will only serve as a guide. You, and only you, must decide where you want to go and how to get there. Everything you learn is merely how to problem solve.
You must have a desire to get to your chosen destination. You should understand why you want to go there. You must see all of the choices and obstacles along the way. You must understand how your choices will affect later stretches of the journey. You must evaluate your progress and make adjustments as necessary. You use the tools you have learned to aid you, but you do not become enslaved by them. This you do with each work of art. This you do with your broader body of work. This you do with your career. Then you will be a master sailor.