Lesson #1 – Horizontal Marks


I’ve been thinking about the process of learning art. So I thought I’d go back to the very beginning and as a self imposed assignment paint a picture using only horizontal brush strokes. Somewhere I read a theory that people progress through developmental stages. First you have fun making marks on paper. Then you try various types of marks – horizontal, vertical, circular, diagonal. Then comes differentiation of shape – square, circle, triangle. Next is recognition of edge and volume, then size, and finally space and depth. So, by limiting myself to using just horizontal marks I thought I might trigger an early experience.

Additionally, I placed my iPad in a wire book stand so that it stood up by itself almost vertically on the table as if it were a canvas on an easel and I held my homemade stylus straight up and down between thumb and fingers palm facing me with the tip pointing up. Normally I hold my iPad in my lap and I paint with my finger or hold my stylus like a writing instrument.

It worked. The situation was odd enough that I became aware of the process and realized the many choices and decisions that must make it confusing and overwhelming to someone just starting. What brush size do you use? Where do you start and how do you proceed? What colors do you use and how do you pick them? How much paint thinner do you use? What happens when you work one color into another? How do you blend to a different value or another color? When do you stop? There’s really a lot going on. Much of this is tacit knowledge as opposed to explicit knowledge. It’s the stuff you don’t know you know; likely the stuff you learned early on and is so engrained that it no longer raises to a level of consciousness. It’s stuff that’s hard wired and when pointed out to you, you say, “Oh yeah, you do that, but it’s so obvious I didn’t think it was worth mentioning”.

This must be what makes learning art so challenging and why it can only be done by doing through observation, imitation, and practice. You can’t really learn by reading about it or by following a prescribed step-by-step process. Jim

Sent from my iPad

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