Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Resources and Reference

It's Tippy Tuesday! A collection of tips I've gained through experience or stolen learned from other artists.

What's the best way to learn to paint? Not everyone can get an MFA or enroll in a great studio arts program. That leaves workshops, videos, and books.

I'll bet a lot of self-taught painters began by watching Joy of Painting—I mean, who doesn't love Bob Ross? Nothing wrong with that, it's a way to start. But after not too long, you want to learn the real methods and techniques.

For me, I learn a lot more from a real human instructor in a workshop than from watching a video; and more from a video than reading a book. But they all have their place, and different learning styles suit different people.

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Workshops

A lot of places offer workshops open to the public, so check around: the local university, museums, art galleries, rec centers, art supply stores (around here it's Jerry's Artarama, who also organize Art of the Carolinas).

It's worth your while to do a little research to find out whether the workshop is geared toward complete beginners or students with some experience—you want to match your skill level with the class.

Some workshops focus on everyone going home with a finished painting; others on developing knowledge and techniques that you can apply to your work at home. I find that the "finished painting" classes are mostly beginner-focused, so that's a clue in choosing which one to take. Another clue is workshops where all materials are provided. There are some exceptions, but that generally means the students don't have their own materials, meaning they've never painted before or have only painted rarely—not enough to accumulate the necessary supplies. (Although I'll make the caveat that I have sometimes taken supplies-included workshops to try out a new medium without making a big investment). The best thing is to contact the workshop coordinator and ask her/him for details about the classes. They will love to discuss it.

Of course, the instructor is the most important factor. There are great painters, there are great teachers, and they're not always the same person. I've been pretty lucky so far with the classes I've taken.

Videos

Watching someone else paint is always useful and instructive. The television shows on PBS run the gamut, but I think they tend more toward the beginner level. There's a lot more to choose from in purchasing DVDs and watching instruction online. I'm just going to list a few of my favorites:

  • Tom Brown Art Notes - Most are only a few minutes long, but a lot of information is packed in there. I like Painting Colorful Grays. He also had a local TV show in Irvine, CA - the one-hour videos are still online. They take forever to load, but they're well worth the wait.

And, I don't know if you guys have seen Artists Network TV.  They've got an enormous amount of videos to watch online or download. I've watched three or four and liked them all. Make sure to watch the preview before you decide to purchase.

There are also some fantastic demos—they're not exactly providing instruction, but there's a great deal to be learned watching them. The phenomenal Carol Marine paints a pepper and some teacups; unbelievable work by Qiang Huang.

This post has become lengthy already. I'm going to save Photo Demos and Books for next time! In the meantime, if anyone wants to link to favorites in the comments, please go ahead.


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