When a tree grows each year, it adds some twigs and branches, but it also increases the girth of its trunk.
As artists we grow the same way. Our outer growth includes the practical skills of the hand: things like smooth calligraphy, accurate drawing, efficient color mixing, or an intuitive digital interface. We develop these skills from daily practice.
Our inner growth as artists has more to do with what we’re doing when we’re not actually painting. It includes our art historical awareness, our scientific understanding, our observational sensitivity, and our aesthetic taste.
That inner growth—the trunk of the tree—takes a lifetime to develop. If our roots are drawing inspiration throughout our lives, we can add a growth ring to our inner artistic selves, even if we are not practicing art daily.
This is encouraging news for people who are out of the habit with daily skills. You can keep growing as an artist even if you’re a busy parent with your art supplies languishing in the closet or a college student wrapped up in other concerns for a few years. As long as we keep seeing and thinking as artists every day, the trunk of the tree keeps growing.
On May 28, 2007, The New Yorker published the following about playwright Tennessee Williams:
"When, in late 1948, his play 'Summer and Smoke' failed on Broadway, Williams’ confidence dipped still further; he felt, he said, like a 'discredited old conjurer.' To his champion Brook Atkinson, the drama critic of the Times, he wrote in June 1949:All of which leads to a philosophical question that I’d like to pose to those of you who are teachers or students of art: What can or should an art school nurture? The inner or outer artist? Is it possible for a school to nurture both?
'The trouble is that you can’t make any real philosophical progress in a couple of years. The scope of understanding enlarges quite slowly, if it enlarges at all, and the scope of interest seems to wait upon understanding. . . . All artists who work from the inside out have all the same problem: they cannot make sudden, arbitrary changes of matter and treatment until the inner man is ripe for it.'"
Painting above by Peder Mork Monsted (1859-1941), Link.
Thanks for the quote, Dave S.
Tomorrow: Stroke Module