The Portal” _ oil painting on canvas _ 2004 _ sold
by Robert Conway
Once I have my finished my layout for my next painting its a done deal, i’m sticking with the plan. I am going to try my best to not only recreate that image into a painting, but make it better. If you have already started your painting and say go to a museum and get inspired with the way a certain artist renders clouds for example, maybe this is something you might want to experiment with down the road, but not with the project you are currently working on.
The post modern notion that everything has been done already can be a blight on your creativity. In this culture of continuously recycled ideas, I refuse to adhere to this notion, vehemently. As someone who grew up at the during the tail end of this country’s golden age, where there seemed to an abundance fresh ideas and this thing called ‘optimism’, it pains me to see how America has panned out. Even the stupid people are saying the movies are stupid. This focus group mentality that permeates our society is the enemy of individual expression and all that is special and fun and spontaneous. I am tired of everything being a remake, so as a rule, I never study anyone else’s art when I’m developing an oil painting, never want to emulate anyone else. All those great artists of the past, the Florentines, the Venetians, close the book on those guys, that is all so intimidating it will make your head spin right off your shoulders. This is a journey you will be walking alone, so why follow someone else’s path, when you can make your own? You really don’t want anyone describing your paintings to someone else as “Oh yeah his work is a lot like Miro’s, but with day-glow” or “Her stuff is kind of Gauguin-esque”. Anytime you get that suffix ‘esque” describing your work, its like the Scarlet Letter.
Reasons why you should not to emulate other artists:
1) They did it first and better, it’s a battle you will never win
2) Make up your own rules and you won’t have to answer to anyone.
I learned to let go of a lot of these ‘tricks’ in my technique, that I used to obsess over, that would always lead me to the same brick wall, where I would end up eventually destroying the piece. Getting hung up on technique can lead you away from the emotional quality of your work, and it is this quality that separates you from everyone else in this land of remakes. One thing that you should understand is the fact that there is always going to be people out there with better technical skills than you, why fuss over it? Some of these photo realists out there have unbelievable skills, that should be marveled over, but as far as an emotional impact they can be a lot of the time quite sterile, and where is the fun in that?
I used to cling to my detailing trick, because I knew going into one of those ‘critiques’ in college, I always had the detail going on my side and no matter how much a professor ripped into one of my works, I would get a star for detail. Well, I was on my way to taking my first painting classes the next semester with some of the same professors, I mean it was intimidating knowing that I was going to be learning this serious craft from these judgmental people who only saw things their way and no one elses. Don’t get me wrong, these were good teachers and I did learn quiet a bit from them, but everything changed when I went to the faculty art show at the college and saw what those guys painted, I was really taken back at how bad their work was. I mean one professor’s work was all blatant rip-offs of Mark Rothko’s, even the titles of the paintings were not his. And there was this other professor’s paintings that were exaggerated, cartoon-like pictures of himself in his underwear with his tongue hanging out, chasing young under dressed women around this room. I mean this guy gets paid to teach young girls all day! red flag! I’m sure the tuition-paying parents might have been a little concerned about this good time charlie. The third professor’s paintings were so all so boring they were hard to look at, he would paint a wall, a plant, a window, a wall socket, some wall molding all very flat and shockingly uninteresting. I overheard him talking about one of his works, “Aren’t you interested to know that the wall socket is exactly 8 inches from the houseplant and the wall moulding is only 4 inches from the same plant? . . . .” maybe if I was at Home Depot this would have some relevancy to me, but at that moment I was deciding on what to change my major to.
Anyway, what I am saying here is that people can lead you astray sometimes, and you will pick up on this more and more as you get older. Especially in the art world where everything is so subjective, its all up in the air really. there is no way to ‘measure’ it, or have statistics printed out about it, it deals with individual tastes. So nobody is really right and nobody is really wrong, and in this type of environment a lot of ‘experts’ can thrive. I am not saying bad people necessarily, but people who may not have your best interests at heart, every one has their own agenda now, don’t they?
February 15, 2014