As I continue to share with you the parts of Ben Shahn's Book ("The Shape of Content") that interest me, I'm reminded that this is only one man's perspective of art and artists. There are so many other opinions and many of you have shared yours on this blog. I'm grateful. The sharing of ideas and opinions is important to expanding one's horizons and maturing as an artist.
Today's blog is about this statement by Shahn: "If a painting is to be at all interesting, it is the very absence of formula that will help make it so. Paintings must emerge from a personal vision." I spent many years teaching college students who frequently sought a formulaic approach to problem-solving rather than engage in the struggle of independent thought. I called this "cook-booking." They wanted a recipe; someone to tell them step-by-step how to get from A to Z. I refused to provide such a crutch because it prevents students from engaging in creative thinking and in developing analytical skills that enhance understanding and give birth to creative solutions.
How many painting workshops have you attended where the instructor provides a "formula" for creating a work of art? How many times has an instructor asked you to imitate his/her approach? How many of us prefer to learn this way? It's hard work to think independently - t0 break away from the crowd and make a work of art that's uniquely personal. Yes, we still have to learn the traditional techniques so that the quality of our work doesn't suffer, but we then must use those techniques to make our work interesting by making it uniquely personal. Over the past few years, I've learned of others who decided to try to paint eggshells the way I do. Some tell me that this is a form of flattery. I don't see it that way. I think it's sad, because the imitators don't have enough confidence or belief in their own ideas to express them. It's like refusing to speak because what you say can never be as good or as important as what someone else has to say. This is becoming invisible. Shan also wrote "If there is value it rests upon the human ability to have idea, and indeed upon the stature of the idea itself. For me, there would be little reason for painting if idea were not to emerge from the work."
Embrace your ideas - express you ideas - share your ideas!