Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Teaching to learn

Composition with Degas and Bread
30 x 30
I've just come back from teaching a 5 day figurative workshop in White Rock, BC, and, like every workshop that I teach, it taught me a lot.  Rather, it reminded me of the things that I believe are important in paintings, and the things that are secondary.

Paintings are about good paint.  They're also about patterns, repetition, linkages and separations.  The secondary thing is that paintings are about stuff: vases of flowers, apples, bowls, sculptures, and loaves of bread.

What I stressed in the workshop was that it was a wonderful thing to create a rounded, proportional person on the canvas, but, even more wonderful, was to create a composition in which one element was a person.  That meant looking for shapes that enhanced the figure's pose, colours that could be repeated both in the figure and her surroundings, and edges that could be lost or emphasized to move the viewers' eyes through the rectangular world that each painter had created with nothing but paint, brushes and a unique point of view.  The painters in my class created some stunning works during the week, and, best of all, they thought beyond the idea of "a figure and a background", and thought instead about a composition; figure and background became equally important.

So it was with renewed vision and purpose that I came home and tackled this piece that I'd left half finished on the easel.  I took my own advice and thought of the painting as an abstract assortment of shapes that needed to coexist interestingly in a rectangle.  I needed to link them, and separate them, depending on the importance that each shape had in my concept of the final painting.   There had to be harmony, and tension, and a movement of the eye.  Because I'd left it for a week, I could see the painting dispassionately and critique it with greater honesty, and it came together quickly.

Teaching is a great way to figure out what's important to yourself, as you strive to condense information for your students.  I'm always grateful for the opportunity to examine my practise that teaching provides.

Happy painting!

7 comments:

Sheila Schaetzle said...

Ingrid, I love your words (patterns, repetition, linkage and seperations) and your so right; teaching reminds us of what needs to be done in our own work; every art student should read and re-read your blogs!

Ingrid Christensen said...

You're kind, Sheila! Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm pleased that my words spoke to you!

Kate Pearce said...

Both your words and this painting are are also really speaking to me.The painting is so beautiful, it delights the eye and draws it in. And it illustrates the points in your blog perfectly. I just love it.

Ingrid Christensen said...

Many thanks for reading, Kate! I love hearing that my blog has struck a chord in someone.

Kathy Noran said...

I love your blog. Reading it gives me a positive perspective as an artist. I struggle with many of the concepts you write about and learn so much from your thoughts and ideas. Thank you for inspiring me! Kathy

Kathy Noran said...

I love your blog. Reading it gives me a positive perspective as an artist. I struggle with many of the concepts you write about and learn so much from your thoughts and ideas. Thank you for inspiring me! Kathy

Ingrid Christensen said...

It's wonderful to hear that my blog holds some useful thoughts for you, Kathy! Thank you for writing to me.
Happy painting!