Friday, 7 October 2011

UnMasterclass 40

“Are you a fine artist and want to become successful and famous?
Would you like to get excellent oil painting and drawing skills?
Would you like to be demanded by fine art galleries, museums and collectors?
Discover the ultimate way to improve your art skills by taking the fine art video course.”

Some may believe these are grand claims for UnMasterclass to make, and those that have seen our previous episodes must surely be smelling a rat. And you would be correct! UnMasterclass has found a (un)rival in the form of The Web Art Academy, an online tutorial video guide on how to paint. Episode one features instructions in to how to create a copy of Jan Van Eyck’s Portrait of Margareta van Eyck. On the promotion for this episode is a statement that we at UnMasterclass cannot but agree with, “Copying from the masterpieces is the best way for you to study and improve your understanding of the secrets of the old masters.” There are 11 further episodes to study over the years subscription for a bargain price of $47 per month and we at UnMasterclass believe that if you would like to truly learn the craft of how to paint properly then you are far better signing up for this than watching our own episodes. However we believe there is a strange paradox in the idea of learning from web based tutorials, in that they do not take you closer to the paintings. The first episode’s claim of learning from the work of past masters is technically correct; though oddly, in our opinion, this tutorial only tells you how to repeat and paint a copied (and furthermore poor web streamed quality) version of the original. Tutees do not go to the gallery, everything is done from the comfort of your own home.
Thomas Crow in his essay Hand-Made Photographs and Homeless Representation offers a further point in relation to how the amateur learns through copying. He discusses how paint-by-numbers kits or practical guides on technique can successfully allow an amateur painter to create a reasonable version of a pre-designed painting. However as Crow argues “When self-taught painters turn to their own subject matter, their commitment to naturalist conventions invariably requires another guide, and that is the photograph. The subjects they are interested in are frequently inaccessible, or simply will not sit still long enough to be captured by an untrained hand. Traced and laboriously rendered portraits of pop stars, athletes, pinups, children, cars, and pets represent the genuine underground of art. What their makers are generally after is a detailed fidelity to appearances that they associate with celebrity illustrators like Andrew Wyeth and the late Salvador Dali” Crow makes many valid and relevant points, but one that draws it back to UnMasterclass and to The Web Art Academy is that increasingly painters are looking to reproductions, or rather the photograph, in order to paint (copy) from. Crow appears derogatory to this approach, perhaps because painters copying from reproductions often take on other expressionistic approaches that take it away from the photograph. It is through the photo realists, and the subject of Crow’s essay, Gerhard Richter, that we, perhaps, see validity in a more critical relationship of painting to photography. I would take one Gerhard Richter (blurred) painting of a photograph over a hundred thousand bedroom paintings of celebrity stars any day.
The lesson here is to learn from painters and paintings, how to use paint, not how to create a set image or composition, once the art of painting is learnt, one can transfer technique to an infinite amount of subjects, without the need to copy. We ask you to take our advice and visit a gallery and see and learn directly from the paintings. The latest episode of UnMasterclass is viewable here

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