If you have questions about techniques or just curiosity about the how to of art, drop me a line by way of a comment.  Might make good material for a post, because if you have a question, there’s bound to be others who are wondering the same things!


14 thoughts on “Questions, anyone?

  1. I have always wished I could draw but I am absolutely hopeless for some reason. My only question is how do you draw something so that it looks like the thing you are drawing? I don’t know but I am very glad that there are people like you who are so brilliant at it.

  2. the guy who practices kungfu,

    Yes, I do think that Picasso is over-rated. That said, I also think that Picasso in an amazing artist — though more as a draughtsman than as a painter. Picasso is a complex case, and for a variety of reasons he produced mountains of junk. But has a large body of wonderful works, and he also drew incredibly complex images. As an example I would point to the images of the Vollard Suite. The economy of line in these images is really difficult to draw. There are many passages when forms overlap and yet Picasso in drawing them anticipates the overlaps and draws the lines in a very free and concise way.

    However, his imagery is not to everyone’s taste — including mine. Some of his pictures I love and others not. His fame results I think as much from a deep longing in post-war Europe for civilization and sanity after devastating war as from interest in his art itself. That he was extremely photogenic and had a risque love life added to his journalistic value.

    But the really important question for viewers is not whether his work is “great” in a generic sense, but whether it speaks to you personally. If it’s not your cup of tea, fortunately the world of art is very diverse and rich with images of all kinds — something for everyone.

    My dictum in art is to follow you heart. In so doing you learn about history, but you also learn much about yourself.


  3. Paul,

    Welcome back and thanks for your question. People can learn to draw, but it involves a cognitive “shift” to get started. One has to ignore lots of “ideas” about what things look like and give attention to actual perception — which turns out to be a different animal.

    Probably the easiest way into drawing is to copy something — which is how artists were trained from earliest times. The mechanics of imitating an image when you are copying from 2-dimensions to 2-dimensions is easier than to look at unfiltered “life” and just simply draw it. In copying things you learn to judge questions of size and shape in more straightforward terms.

    Also, to copy a drawing is easier than to copy a photograph, for in the original drawing many visual “choices” and “decisions” have already been made by the artist whose work you copy. Even if your drawing turns out looking very different from the original, you will have learned more than you realize about the visual decision-making process.

    Of course, confidence matters a lot too. Most people give up too soon. Learning to draw is rather like learning to play a musical instrument. So many small things can go wrong that make the final product seem really badly “off.” Yet the sum total of the bad drawing mistakes or bad musical gaffes will also contain much that is right and true — or almost right and almost true. Tweeking can fix much of what needs fixing, but tweeking is also a process that takes time.

    As with writing, the first production might be awful but editing and rewriting can work magic. In that respect art has more to do with writing than music, for the artist can hold a work back until mistakes have been fixed. But a violinist standing in a concert hall can’t goof and then ask the audience if they’d mind hearing her start over ….

    Learning even to think in “line” is a perceptual mode of thought to which most people who are not artists are unaccustomed, but it can be patiently learned. Even doing drawing a little as a hobby can really enliven a person’s sense of what goes on in a work of art — kind of like amateur music making helps one appreciate a performance.


  4. Aletha, a form of truth is in your name and so much more in your work and words. I find your writing on how to learn drawing so perfect i wish i’d written it, or could quote it where it matters. I especially felt comfortable with the idea of seeing w/o preconception and allowing the magic of what is to become more than the embedded image of what it is known to be or how it is identified in personal and collective perception, in some way it raises an idea of education to refine areas of seeing a more universally shared experience and the language extends itself into the richer realm of understanding color with the heart as well as the eyes and mind and tactile senses. So full of life to rejoice! and find meaning in the quiet and say ah yes, vibrant aliveness front and center, a powerful statement with historic and forward reverberations, thankyou so much for taking the time

  5. Bonjour Aletha,

    déjà de penser à une question m’a permis d’organiser et d’exprimer mes pensées sur l’art.

    For me art, and specially visual art, is emotional and not intellectual.
    May be it is why I have a hard time with the boundaries put in the art world like, “art mineur, art majeur, art décoratif…” and the level of appreciation like “oil is the best, than acrylic is 2nd best, then pastel, then watercolor…”
    So I suppose that my question is:
    Art is a reality or an appreciation of the viewer?

    Est-ce-que l’art est une réalité en soi ou n’existe que dans l’oeil du spectateur?

  6. this question is interesting. in some way it attempts to define something while mystifying it just my 2 cents worth on the question of benedictedelachanal because i am hearing this question a lot lately. a leap of faith in a sense it feels like when voiced and most welcome for its sort of eager innocence when you contrast it with the actual work in process as it is becoming during the span you are making those choices as an artist. i guess what i am trying to express is that there are many more than two ways to think about art and appreciate anything you might like saying on this subject.

  7. Bonjour Benedicte,

    C’est une bonne question philosophique. Est-ce-que l’art est une réalité en soi? I think it is, which is why we speak of famous artists and put things in museums, etc. I think there’s a solidity to that — a recognition of something rare and wonderful. But est-ce que l’art existe dans l’oeil du spectateur? That’s true too. Sometimes it’s most true of artists, who being focused on their particular vision “escape” from the pressures of the great art of the past. The artist needs to have a personal focus. And the viewer, for different reasons, has needs and want this but not that.

    I found a wonderful quote, but I need to research some more:

    Quand j’ai fait un beau tableau, je n’ai pas ecrit une pensee. C’est ce qu’ils disent. Qu’ils sont simples! Ils otent a la peinture tous ses avantages. L’ecrivain dit presque tout pour etre compris. Dans la peinture, il s’etablit comme un pont mysterieux entre l’ame des personnages et celle du spectateur. Il voit des figures, de la nature exterieure; mais il pense interieurement, de la vraie pensee qui est commune a tous les hommes: a laquelle quelques-uns donnent un corps en l’ecrivant: mais en alterant son essence deliee. Aussi les esprits grossiers sont plus emus des ecrivains que des musiciens ou des peintres. L’art du peintre est d’autant plus intime au coeur de l’homme qu’il parait plus materiel; car chez lui, comme dans la nature exterieure, la part est faite franchement a ce qui est fini et a ce qui est infini, c’est-a-dire a ce que l’ame trouve qui la remue interieurement dans les objets qui ne frappent que les sens.

    — Eugene Delacroix, Journal, 8 Octobre 1822

    The differences between media that one often hears about oil, acrylic, etc. — I never have quite figured that one out though the distinctions have historical roots of a sort. Turner, for instance, really broke the barriers “against” watercolor. (But then so did Durer as early as the Renaissance.) Any medium can be difficult or can be used with genius. (See Durer’s “Rabbit.”) And any medium can be easy. And any technique can become stale and lifeless. So, I figure the battle of the most difficult media is just a “look at me” kind of thing?? I don’t know.

    Art is both emotional and intellectual. Both sides have validity, necessity. Sometimes an artist is aware of one more than the other. Your art is probably intellectual in ways you are not aware. The forms of awareness or unawareness can be good to — they serve a purpose.

    This is a wonderful question. I really got to think about it more. Je pense (donc je suis!)

  8. I am like you in your recent post, short of time,
    theses days, and I don’t want to write hastily on this subject.

    Thank you for your response, you express so clearly your ideas.

    I have to clarify that when I said art is emotional for me I was referring to the looking at, and not the doing it. Doing it is of course, an intellectual process were emotions and thoughts and reasoning (avoir un raisonnement) are mixed in a subtle cocktail.

    Je vais penser un peu plus…

  9. Bonjour Aletha,
    je n’ai fait que penser a cette question, ou presque.

    So, is art a reality?
    Does it exist by itself?
    And to that, my response is no.

    Art exists as an invention of human. It is validated by the opinion of individuals and societies.
    If art, or Art I should say, existed as a fact, there would be no discussion, and a masterpiece would be universal, with no need of education, or explanation and would be a masterpiece, like a tree is a tree for everyone. It is.

    I do believe that all humans have a need for creativity, and creativity is expressed in many different ways in a convergence of different factors: thoughts, emotions, and also skills.
    Because of that human individuality and that subjectiveness, art is different for everyone and is not a constant.

    So, I think that art exists because we are creating it and always renewing it, reinventing it. It is an abstraction of our minds.

    The example that I keep thinking of is Marcel Duchamp “fountain-urinal”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fountain_(Duchamp).
    If you don’t have an explanation, a guide you wonder what it is doing in museum.

  10. Bonjour,

    That’s very interesting view, though for me art has been pretty much the opposite in that it is the thing that doesn’t require an explanation. People have various explanations, but I have always felt that a great painting offers up it’s own explanation of itself. That’s what I understand Delacroix to be saying in reference to “un pont mysterieux entre l’ame des personnages et celle du spectateur.” And the great painting offers a standard against which artists can measure themselves and to which they can aspire while at the same time being still themselves. When I did a painting of shoes like Van Gogh, I thought for a while (with a little guilt, too) that I was “copying” Van Gogh — but it was a longish while before I realized I hadn’t copied him at all. My painting is obviously related to his, and yet it is also thoroughly mine.

    I wasn’t trying to say that being in a museum of itself qualifies something to be “great,” because people and institutions both go through fads and trends even about old masters and other “blue chip” items. It is complicated, but I still think that it is possible for an object to contain all its own rules. That’s how I feel when I look at for example Asian art — about which, sadly, I know almost nothing — yet I can still feel what the work is saying even though I miss all kinds of meanings that are certainly part of it, symbolism, literary and cultural references, etc., yet a core “something” gets through — beauty, forms, abstraction — even when art is purely “abstract” and surprisingly abstract art is quite old, not exclusively a modern phenomenon at all.

    Thinking about what I think you’re saying though, if I understand correctly, about art being reinvented I wonder if we aren’t feeling something very similar though describing it in different ways. You said you felt you must make art, and that necessity is what I mean too about the picture having its own structure inside it, its message and immediacy. That necessity comes from the person and reaches toward a core human experience that transcends cultures.

    I don’t know! It is very complicated!

    Does it help you in making your own pictures? I think that is the kind of theory that counts, in any case, is whatever helps to push one along in seeing and making, in experiencing, feeling and having art inside your life.

    You asked a very thought provoking question! I thought when I first posted asking if people had questions that they might be technical — like what kinds of paint for this or that — I had no idea what I was getting into! But I love your answer, it really shows the depths here. As you can see, I could never have even attempted to answer en francais! I would have to know a whole lot more French!

    A bientot.

  11. Hi Aletha,
    thank you for your answer, interesting as always and so well documented.

    When you asked for questions, I could find a thousands about how you do this and that, hoping it would improve magically my abilities. And then, that one, is art universal, just kept coming…and I have been wondering why.

    In a way, it would be very reassuring to have a firm answer that enable us to know for sure, this is art, this is not. A world with out doubts. A world in black and white…
    A boring world with a definite place for every one and everything.
    I think you are wright in saying that we agree but we express it differently.
    I do relate to Delacroix “pont mysterieux entre l’ame des personnages et celle du spectateur”.
    It is what I called emotional versus intellectual.
    It is what I like in art, that mysterious bridge that one’s cross or not.
    And I certainly feel that I am crossing that bridge every time I paint or draw.

    I enjoy very much exchanging views with you. You never have that condescending tone that I have encountered in the art world.

    As you say, it is complicated question and have deep roots in our souls…
    I am sure that you could answer in French, sometimes its opening new ways to use an other language.

    Si on a le droit a une 2e question, ce sera une “comment on fait “

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