Observation 4: Always a Student & a Teacher

“I am going on with my researches…I am continually making observations from nature, and I feel I am making some slight progress.” Paul Cezanne at age 67, a month before his death
“Whoever ceases to be a student has never been a student.” George Iles

I’ve noticed a few consistent traits of artists: they live a long time; they’re always learning; and willing to share what they know freely. The master’s I’ve met have stressed that they’re still discovering new things and pushing themselves, always studying. They have great humility. You’re either the type of person that loves a constant challenge or one who wants an “end point” to your artist journey. If you’re reading this post, you’re likely the former.

I think accepting risk and change is critical to learning. You need to work out of your comfort zone. No painting should be so precious that you’re unwilling to trying something new and push it to the point of failure. If you feel you’ve painted someting wonderful that you don’t want to ruin, remember: if you did it once, you can repeat it. Take that personal masterpiece and be bold. Add that color you think is too far afield, or that bold stroke that says more than a dozen smaller. Be fearless! It’s the best way to learn.

I noticed this fearlessness in Kevin Macpherson. The first time I watched him paint was at Catalina Island at one of the PAPA events. He was easy to find as he had quite a crowd around him. I recall he was painting the Catalina Yacht Club, struggling with the American flag over the harbor. He painted a few bold, fearless strokes that simply didn’t work out. He got out his palette knife and scraped off the flag and did it again. Twice I think.

Remember it’s simply oil on canvas. Whatever you do can be removed and recreated.


Verde Artist Guild Paint-out (Stanford University campus)

Are you mentoring someone? This is something you can do online (through blogs like this, certainly) and there are sites like Hello Creativity, where you can mentor a child or sites like VolunteerMatch where you can find people searching for mentors. Paint-outs are a great opportunity to mentor. When I paint with the Verde Artist Guild, I’ll almost always take a break and walk around, offering critiques and bringing my own painting with me to ask for the same.

Did you have a great mentor, or are you mentoring someone now? How do you learn? Chime in with comments, let us know.

5 thoughts on “Observation 4: Always a Student & a Teacher”

  1. Hi Ed, I just read your thoughts on learning and mentoring. Perfect timing as I just signed up for Ovanes Berberians workshop next June. In part due to your account of the workshop. I have heard that he can be quite tough, but you come out in the end a better painter, which is my goal. If you have any advice on prepreation to be able to glean the most from Mr. Berberian I would really appreciate it. Meanwhile I have been mentoring stone carvers for the last 15 plus years, and the more I give the more I receive. Thanks, Laura

  2. Boy, do I have a mentor! Ann Templeton of New Mexico. Ann has been teaching and painting for 35 years now. She is gracious with her time to those who are committed, serious students of painting. We got along so well I wrote her book. (The Art of Ann Templeton: A Step Beyond.)

    One comment from her is sufficient. She speaks volumes in just a few words. What’s most interesting, I think, is that our styles are worlds apart, yet she is able to leap over that difference and to make salient, helpful comments on what I do.

    http://www.anntempleton.com is her web site.

  3. I’m on of those people who enjoys continuing to learn and to be challenged by pushing the boundaries of both knowledge and skill

    I find my ‘buddy group’ to be a more effective way of continuing to learn than I anticipated it might be at the beginning – and I always knew it was going to supportive in a constructively critical way. On-line but not always in public is a great way to share what you really think!

  4. Katherine, I know what you mean…I think. That is, i find it difficult to give constructive criticism to other bloggers on the blog. It is analogous to their home, and not a shared schoolroom environment. Would you give criticism to someone in their studio, while “broadcasting” to thousands of people in a format that will last forever?

    Perhaps that’s why one sees more pointed constructive criticism on sites like Painters Keys?

    I have to say that one dissapointment I have in blogging is the lack of constructive feedback. Guess I should ask foe it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *