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, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY and Art Fag City. Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
A recent comment on a FineArtViews article written by Karen Cooper reminded me of one key lesson that all artists should consider. A comment by Phil Kendall hit on the idea that artists should unlearn what they have learned. Kendall suggested that artists should forsake "all those art courses, videos and books" if they desire to discover an unmistakable style of their own. In other words, if you -- the artist -- want to create art that is unmistakably yours you must be willing to work, work and work some more AND throw caution to the wind by finding your own path regardless of what you have been taught from other artists. I tend to agree with that attitude. It never hurts to unlearn what you have learned as an artist.
What we have learned can become an obstacle. Artists often allow themselves to be caged in by what they have learned from mentors, art professors, art critics... you name it -- most are bombarded with the influence of art education. The influence of knowledge that we have obtained can sometimes hamper our personal quest for further knowledge -- specifically the knowledge of our own artwork. In that sense -- at least from a philosophical standpoint --, art education can have a negative impact on growth. It all depends on how the artist takes it in the influence of art education... and if he or she is willing to unlearn what he or she has learned from it.
Obviously the artist will retain the knowledge of what he or she has learned. It is not like an artist can snap his or her fingers in order to forget what he or she has been taught. This is not about forgetting -- this is about crucial choices that dictate whether or not some of what the artist has learned should be applied or not. Unfortunately, it does seem that some artists forget that it is acceptable to stray from what has been learned. They have been taught the 'right ways'... and stick to them without question -- cutting off any chance of discovering 'right ways' for themselves. In my opinion, both the artist and his or her art suffer from that lack of discovery. A bird never forgets how to fly -- but can be kept from flying.
I am of the position that creative discovery in regard to use of materials and style is a key aspect of placing yourself apart from millions of other artists. Without that discovery -- without taking those unique paths -- your art is burdened by the very lessons one would hope were meant to help you to find your way. The lessons of art education are meant to help you learn to fly on your own. The lessons of art education should never become bars that seal you -- a bird of flight -- within a confined cage. You -- the artist -- were meant to soar above what you have learned... it is in your design to discover your own territory. Don't cage yourself in.
In closing, my opinions on this matter are not meant to spur anti-art education attitudes. Art education is needed -- and if done correctly it can be a wonderful and beneficial experience. However, it can also be a negative experience -- either due to the overwhelming wrath of the teacher OR the inability of the student to move beyond what he or she has learned. If in doubt -- learn to unlearn what you have learned. You will learn more from doing that... and the lesson will be about your artwork and your development as an artist.
Take care, Stay true,