This article is by Brian Sherwin, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint and Art Fag City. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
A recent debate inspired me to tackle the tug-of-war concerning the value of technical skill in painting compared to raw skill, if you will. Involve yourself in debates about the process of painting and it will not take long for you to realize that some view mastery of technical skills-- specifically from an academic standpoint-- as the end-all-be-all of what makes a 'good' painting. I for one have a different opinion. A painting can be solid, if you will, without strict adherence to mastery of skills. In my opinion, technical skill as a painter is not everything.
It is often the case that artists become discouraged when they observe works by other artists that exhibit a high level of technical skill. This is due to the fact that said skills can rarely be emulated effectively unless the artist spends years-- perhaps decades-- practicing the art of painting in order to convey the same technical control, so to speak. It can be intimidating-- especially if you surround yourself with peers who value technical skill over all other aspects of what makes a 'good' painting. Thus, I think it is important for artists to critique their own work beyond just the limitations of technical skill.
I realize it is controversial for me to suggest that technical skill in painting is limiting-- but in some situations, based on the individual, it can very well be. Consider this-- an artist who has all the technical skills down to mastery may create paintings that don't really 'say' anything outside of 'this painting was created by a skilled painter'-- while an artist who has yet to reach the same level of technical skill may create a painting that 'speaks' to thousands of viewers. Mastery is important-- but it is not always everything. Sometimes the gut-kick reaction that can be spurred by viewing a painting is of more importance to a viewer than how technically sound the painting is overall.
I would go as far as to say that what makes a painting 'great' is the unique spark that rests within it-- a spark that makes what is being viewed more than just a painting on canvas. Often the deeper you dig within yourself-- who you are-- the more powerful your art will be. So in that sense the mastery of the art of painting is not all about technical mastery of skill-- it is also about mastering yourself. In other words, mastering your authentic voice expressed visually on canvas. That connection-- if 'heard' by viewers-- can be more valuable to a painting than years of dedicated practice.
I've seen works that are solid from a technical standpoint-- but fail to make a lasting impression otherwise. Said works were created by artists who have dedicated years to developing their technical skills as a painter-- but have done little to discovery themselves as individuals. The lack of intuition, if you will, shows in their work-- paintings that are often dull in the sense that they offer very little in respect to self-reflection or fail to capture the essence of the human experience, if you will.
Even in regards to art marketing we can observe that high technical skill does not always sell a painting. I know artists who are masters of painting-- from an academic standpoint-- who rarely sell their original artwork and barely attract the attention of viewers. On the other hand, I know artists who are relatively new to painting who have done well selling art online, have won painting competitions involving other painters who are far more advanced technically, and have a large following of individuals who are inspired by their work. If technical skill in painting was everything, so to speak, that would not happen.
In closing, I do think that learning to be a skillful painter is important. I'm in no way suggesting that artists should avoid learning skills nor am I implying that dedication to mastery of skills is a waste of time. However, I don't think technical skill is the only important factor when deciding if a painting is 'good' or 'bad'-- or how viewers will 'see' the work. Balance is often the key. Solid technical skills and the ability to work beyond them-- beyond what is known as 'the right way to paint'-- can often make a powerful statement when expressed on canvas. In that sense, an individual new to painting can create a work of art that is more 'powerful' than a painting created by an artist who is considered a modern master due to technical prowess alone.
Consider this an open topic on technical skills versus intuition-- raw skill, if you will.
Take care, Stay true,