Monday, June 8, 2015

From teacher to student: Advice from the professionals

By Wendy Wagner
Level Two Student

I am halfway through the full-time program, and am sure the remaining half will pass by quickly. So, I asked teachers here for any advice for one transitioning from student to professional painter.

Many suggestions overlap, but here is a compilation:

- You have to carve out a lifestyle to support being an artist; have space ready and make time to go into your studio regularly. Time is what you need to practice your craft.
- Independence from the "scheduled" studio life of four years in school can be overwhelming for some who have gotten used to the constant guidance of an instructor.  After completing the program, an artist still has much to learn, and the independent time is a great opportunity to re-evaluate all that has been picked up over the years and personalize it to one's own aesthetic.
Time is what you need to practice.

- Work towards a project so you get right to the easel. Pretend you have a show in a year and work towards that.
- Plan to do a series of paintings. Pick a number and work towards those working on specific skills. Tell people about it to be accountable.

- Don't lock down your methods too quickly.
- Set one- and five-year goals.
- Make time to explore concepts, ideas and styles. Give yourself four to five years or so until you've explored enough. Selling paintings is fine in that time but it isn't the goal.
Keep a still life always available
 for when the model is not.
- Start a series of painting assuming that no one else will ever get to see them and see what you come up with.
- Keep a still life always set up so, if you can't get a model, you have something to work on.
- Smaller is better. Paint up to about 16 x 20 inches, at most.
- Do one painting a week.
- Know your strengths.
Explore concepts and styles

- Study master paintings and paintings that inspire you to see how they were set up, lighting, methods, etc. How do different painting methods and finishes convey the correct feeling you want?
- Explore the things you liked before you started school.
- Socialize with artists...  Go to gallery openings. Take workshops with good artists.
- Start looking at other artists who's work that you like. See what they are doing for their careers.
- Gather a group to get together and have group critiques regularly; get feedback from your artist friends
- Stay the most vigilant six months after graduating - this is when most people stop painting. You are setting up for a lifetime of painting.
- Just keep on painting, no matter what. Don't worry about commissions, sales, etc; just keep painting and it will happen.
Just keep painting!

Finally, for those, like me, who are currently in the program, I received this:

- When you are still in school, do independent projects/paintings on your own, without guidance/advice/feedback from anyone. Then, it's just a continuation of that "exercise" when you leave.
- It is okay to struggle, because it will definitely be part of the experience.
- Soak up all you can and appreciate that you can just learn for six hours/day.
You won't have this opportunity again. Once you leave here, it's a business.

Words that I will take seriously. Thanks to all for sharing.

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