Study the Artist’s Craft

I am seduced by the premise behind Francine Prose’s book “Reading Like a Writer,” reviewed in The New York Times by Emily Barton.

My seduction comes from this paragraph in the review:

Another difficulty faced by writing teachers is, paradoxically, the lack of interest many students show in reading. And those who do read often lack the training to observe subtle writerly clues. There’s a real need, then, for “Reading Like a Writer” — a primer both for aspiring writers and for readers who’d like to increase their sensitivity to the elements of the writer’s craft.”

I can see the words being changed slightly to apply to artists:

Another difficulty faced by art instructors is, paradoxically, the lack of interest many students show in works by other artists. And those who do look at a lot of art often lack the training to observe subtle artistic clues. There’s a real need, then, for “Creating Like an Artist” — a primer both for aspiring artists and for art viewers who’d like to increase their sensitivity to the elements of the artist’s craft.

What do you think?

This is by no means a generalization. However, many artists I have come across are clueless about the history of art or even what their contemporaries are doing. They don’t look at art and they don’t read about it. They haven’t taken time to get to know their own art and how it fits in the larger artworld. I think this is wreckless (YIKES! Edited: Thanks, Louise!). What is their standard? How do you know if your art is any good if you don't know what makes the best art rise to the top?

Take the time to study your proud tradition. Many artists dig deeper as they write their artist statement. But you can also set aside weekly artist dates, study time, and attend lectures and films. Become a perpetual student of your craft.

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3 thoughts on “Study the Artist’s Craft”

  1. Alyson, I’m so glad that you’ve written about this observation. I’m always amazed that some of my peers seem oblivious to what’s happening in the artworld both locally and internationally. They struggle with their art without utilizing the infinite information and reference material available. In addition to studying techniques from other artists, living or otherwise, they could get some direction by reading what the critics are saying about our contemporaries in trade magazines such as Art in America, etc. As a painter of horses, I scour e-bay, flea markets and antique shops searching out books about Delacroix, Gericault, Rubens, Bonheur and Kemp-Welch. Technically, I can paint a horse very well – it’s the depiction of power, passion and story that will ALWAYS keep me studying these painters.

  2. I found this to be true of my peers in both college and grad school. It always surprised me that other artists were so reluctant to learn about what came before them – many would ask why we “had” to take art history classes! I was told by one such artist that she did not want to have her artwork influenced by what she had seen. But it is exactly that – those artists who have influenced me that I feel makes my work stronger. The more work I see and learn about, the stronger my own work has become.

  3. Guess who used the correctly spelled, incorrect word today……… wreckless instead of the more appropriate reckless…. Louise in SW Saskatchewan

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