Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Technical and the Painter

Einstein might have enjoyed the technical side of painting.
But he was busy doing other things.

In my plein air painting workshops, I often have students who are not professional painters.  Painting is, for them, a pleasant pastime yet something they do want to get better at.  Some are thinking of retiring and looking for an endeavor they might pursue in what one might call the “next life”; others have retired and already are deep into that pursuit.  I always enjoy asking them what they do (or did) for a living.

Interestingly, many of them enjoyed technical careers.  It's not unusual for me to have at least one doctor or nurse in my workshops.  (I especially am glad to have on board someone in a medical profession—hiking around outdoors to paint can be a risky business, and you never know when you might need someone like that.)  Over the years, I've had not only doctors and nurses but also architects, engineers, computer programmers, field biologists and even a couple of pilots who helicoptered into Eastport, Maine, for my workshop.

The technical types often ask technical questions.  Sometimes we get into the fat-over-lean rule of oil painting and why it's not applicable to alla prima painting.  Or we discuss what pigments are used in pastel and what PR83 stands for.  Or we talk about how north light temperature averages at 7000°K and why (or why not) that's important.  I do try to limit these discussions so that the non-technical types don't glaze over with boredom.

But I like to tell my students that painting can be as technical as they wish.  If the technical side interests them, they can spend a lifetime learning about it.  And if it doesn't, they can spend a lifetime just enjoying the activity of painting.  Either can provide a very rich experience for many years.  At the very most, all you need to do is learn a few simple concepts.  You don't need to read the technical guide.

Some days, I like to research the technical.  Other days, I just like to pick up a brush and go.

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