Australian Fine Artist

Art Books

Last summer I was given a book to read by artist friend Margo Vigorito. Fortunately she said I could take my time with it, because it took me all year to get through it! I am not a slow reader, that is not the reason. The book was titled:

Alla Prima
Everything I Know About Painting
By Richard Schmid

According to Richard’s web site: “ALLA PRIMA is considered one of the most comprehensive art instruction books on the market and a standard in classical art education both in the United States and abroad. Read about talent, skill, confidence, perception, and control. Find out what values and edges are all about, some sound ways of starting, 19 key ideas about color and color harmony, drawing expertly, simplifying composition, the 40 most common problems in painting – and what to do when a painting crashes. Explore these and many other fascinating things that we all need to know to paint the paintings we dream of.”

Well it was brilliant! Everyone I know who has read this book has loved it and I can only agree. Richard covers anything from colour theory, tone, values and composition to your mental approach to painting, how to fix what looks broken and myths about painting and art. In amongst all this are pages showing his work.

I was sorry to have to hand it back as it is one of those books you need to have in your studio. I will be looking to buy it as soon as funds allow, trust me! I read only one chapter at a time, totally soaking in everything I could. So much common sense and me with so little brain matter to hold on to it!

I highly recommend this book for artists of all levels. It isn’t cheap at over $90 but I have spent over $250 for a good art history book in the past and  not regretted it.

Coaching the Artist Within
Advice for Writers, Actors, Visual Artists and Musicians
By Eric Maisel

Whilst handing back (reluctantly) Alla Prima to Margo, she told me that she is happy to lend me art books to help my career! With that she handed me another book to follow on from Richard’s.

Coaching the Artist Within has less to do with the mechanics of producing artworks and more with the mental and emotional approach to our work and careers. It has taken me a little while to get to it as I have been clearing out the studio and working on other projects, but one night I couldn’t sleep so decided to start on it. Bad move as I found I had trouble putting it down!

I am only half way through this book (Jan 2013) but can pass on some of the subjects covered.

  • Opening up an internal dialogue. Encouraging yourself when you should, chiding yourself when needed and having enough self love so you don’t need it from outside
  • Deciding that you matter. Your dreams and your work matters
  • Making meaning: How you will lead your life. Make that meaning matter. Ask yourself what your life purpose is.
    Making use of your talents. Using your whole being every day. Serving higher values such as truth. Get satisfaction from your life. Work on meaningful projects. Holding meaningful and loving relationships.
  • Get rid of your wrong thinking. Negative thoughts drag us down and stop us from fulfilling potential. Positive self affirmations are important tools to help us grow. Instead of “I can’t do this today, I don’t think I can paint this” try, “I can do this any time I like, today tomorrow, any time, all I have to do is give it a go”
    Here are some examples: I am off to create. I can handle this. I have everything I need. I am ready.
  • Creating positive mental energy. Creating positive obsessions to combat negative ones. Talk about your art with phrases such as “I can’t wait to get started on you” or “I am really looking forward to the fun of doing this project”.
  • Creating in the Middle of Things. Since we do not live in a vacuum, we are always in the middle of things just as many talented and brilliant people before us. Creativity has blossomed in the middle of wars, natural disasters and personal tragedy. Often when isolated from life and the world creativity suffers as we draw on life even if not consciously. Many people allow “things” to take over their lives so they never complete or even start working on their dreams, aspirations or talents. Make the time. If it is important, you have to make it a priority. Set aside definite time in you day or week to fulfil your personal goals.
  • Centring your thoughts, breath and clear your mind.
  • Committing to being goal oriented. Create rituals that help you succeed.
  • Planning and doing. Make sure you follow through.
  • Living a creative life. It isn’t a little box you pull out every now and then. It is you, with you all day every day.
  • Keep a diary of your goals
  • Write lists of what you want to achieve each day.
    For example:
    Wednesday March 1 diary page.
    1. Emails. Check to see if exhibition receipts have come in – half hour
    2. Research on the web for new outlets, opportunities and exhibitions etc – 1 hour
    3. Plan and start a new pastel painting – 1 hour (flexible) I’d like to do a new seascape I have been thinking about.
    4. Complete rewrite of lesson 1 to Keynote application – Half day
    5. Write new blogs (books, plans with drawing course) – 2-3 hours
    Have a plan for the year
    1. Seasonal exhibitions at AGRA and Vic Arts (so I need to have 8 artworks done this year to show).
    2. 9 workshops – monthly on Saturdays with David Chen
    3. Complete Dip.Vis.Art with HDs
    4. Prepare for teaching drawing by upgrading lessons, finishing meeting room etc and promoting at the end of the year
    5. Continue volunteer work with McClelland Gallery
    6. Exhibit in at least 2 other art exhibitions each season.
    7. 2 hours of homework weeknights. Set aside Saturday afternoons as well if required.
    8. Another Artist of the Year award would be a bonus.

There is a lot in this book and I am glad I have decided to write about it in this blog, as it cements the ideas into my head better. Some ideas I am glad to say I have been practising for a while, such as keeping a diary and lists so that I keep on track and get things done. Others concerning having positive dialogue and not being my own worst critic – I am still working on.

I will update as soon as I get on to my next book. Until then happy reading and creating everyone.

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