Posts Tagged ‘art technique’

The Morning Visitation

December 19, 2019


The outward work will never be puny if the inward work is great.

Meister Eckhart

My blog has been on hiatus for about a week, due to travel and working on commission projects that I don’t wish to post publicly till they are complete. The Christmas season is closing in fast, and I still have preparations and more travel before me. But this morning’s reading was accompanied by a spiritual visitation that has given me pause to write.

The opening quote from a 13th-century divine lingers, adding a sweetness to the atmosphere that embraces me as I attempt to express what is happening . . . Working through the past three days on four separate watercolors at the same time has scrambled my mind and imagination in unusual ways. The four separate genres have kept my attention shifting as I continually lay aside a wet one and resume work on one of the other dry ones. Rotating the pieces frequently throughout the mornings and afternoons of the past three days has kept me on my toes. The four genres are unrelated, so I feel that I am changing the subject several times on the hour throughout the working day.

While viewing the four in-progress paintings, my mind has continually gone back and forth between the techniques and theories involved in making art. In previous posts, I have shared how this reltationship continues to drive my thinking, and recent forays into the writings of Robert Henri have added more fuel to the fire.

To put it succinctly: as a college art major long ago, I focused only on mechanics to making art. Underlying theories had no place in my thinking. Once the Bachelors degree was completed, I dove headlong into graduate school, studying theology, and a Renaissance of thought bloomed. The next ten years were devoted to academic pursuits, and almost no art was made. Upon completion of my doctorate I immediately entered the classroom, and once I settled in to the rhythm of study and class delivery, I returned to making art. So much had changed over the years. For the first time in my life, there was this multi-layered foundation beneath my art. Formerly, I had considered only technique. Then I devoted a decade to theory. Now I find myself lost in the relationship that binds the two: ideas and mechanics, theory and practice, aesthetics and craftsmanship. I am still lost in the wilderness of this relationship, and I love the effort of finding my way.

Long intervals open up between my projects, but I am almost never blocked. Rather, I am consumed with reading and listening to media, feeding my creative fire. And though I am all-too-capable of turning out a bad piece of art, I never feel that the art is “puny” to borrow the translation from Meister Eckhart. A less-than-favorable piece of art might issue from a fumble, a stumble, or bad choices, but I never feel the work is enemic. Rather, the decades of study, growth and odyssey can only enrich these expressions. And I lean forward to the next endeavor.

Meanwile, I have four watercolors I need to finish by Christmas, so the time has come to close this blog and get back into the studio.

Thanks for reading.

Shultz reduced

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.



Personal Questions about Style and Technique

March 3, 2014
Recent 8 x 10" commission completed

Recent 8 x 10″ commission nearing completion

The man who is forever acquiring technique with the idea that sometime he may have something to express, will never have the technique of the thing he wishes to express. . . . The technique learned without a purpose is a formula which when used, knocks the life out of any ideas to which it is applied.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

A considerable stretch of days has elided since my last blog post.  Art history has held my focus for nearly a week now, as I’ve sought to strengthen my Advanced Placement classes during this stretch of Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical units.  A Vincent Van Gogh biography has also kept me engaged, with attempts to rewrite stronger Post Impressionist units for my regular art history students.  All of this has been most enjoyable and restorative for me personally.

In addition to the classroom preparations, I have spent quality time in my watercolor studio.  I have posted above the last picture I took of a commission I finished last week (but forgot to photograph the completed work, which has already been delivered).  The larger 20 x 20″ composition of Hermann, Missouri I have also resumed, but so far have only some vague “blocking” to show for my efforts–large washes that don’t photograph too well at this point.

For several weeks now, I have been focussing on matters of style vs. technique.  Last week, while teaching a watercolor workshop to art educators, I realized that my objective was to help them load their “technique toolbox” so they would have a number of options to explore while experimenting with the watercolor media.  As it turned out by a show of hands, none of them considered themselves watercolorists, and they were present to give it their first serious stab.  I am always more than happy to demonstrate various techniques I have picked up over the years from my own reading, attending of workshops, and serendipitous moments.

Style is another thing.  I don’t want to say I am obsessing over this, because I don’t believe that I am.  But at this point in my life, after years of enjoying the watercolor experience, I still have no clear sense of identity, or style.  For awhile I worried that I was just illustrating, but thankfully I read enough about Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth to learn that critics accused them of being mere illustrators, and they themselves worried about that.  So, I no longer wonder or fret about illustrating and whether or not it labels my style.  But still, I would like to obtain a notion of what I actually am accomplishing in my watercolor output.  I want to be able to talk about it, to understand it, to be able to share some sense of vision.  For years, friends have told me that they recognize my “signature style” and that makes me laugh, because I myself cannot see it.

I love this statement from Friedrich:

The artist should not only paint what he sees before him, but also what he sees within him.  If he does not see anything within him, he should give up painting what he sees before him.

Caspar David Friedrich

I honestly cannot say that I “get” this, but I do know that I have a passion to make art, and that I want to explore watercolor further, that after all these years, I feel that I have gotten nowhere near the bottom of it, and that indeed I never will.  But I still want to dig deeper.  And as I dig, I hope to find out more about myself and what I am trying to accomplish in this enterprise.  There is no doubt something “within me” that pushes me to paint what is before me.  But that inner life, or style, is what I am still trying to understand and articulate.  In this past year, I have become much more interested in reading art history, biography and interviews with the great artists throughout history.  When I read their words, I feel that I am entering into a Great Conversation over the arts, and cannot wait to hear more.  And what makes the experience so lovely is the reality that I am not doing this to earn a grade, or another degree, or even to earn accolades as some sort of Super Teacher–I am doing this for my own enrichment and personal growth.  And I hold out hope that these great creative spirits will aid me in my own personal quest for a sense of style.

Thanks for reading.  Sorry if this meditation is wandering and incoherent.  I am still searching . . .

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.