The learning curve for most artists generally takes a similar path, which I see consisting of 2 parts. The first part is mastering technique. Not all techniques in all mediums, but the ones that will best suit the artists needs. The technique is mastered when the artist has enough tools to say what they want to say. Then comes part 2. This is a key point where the artist rises above technique, and the message or content or voice of the artist takes precedent. Here it gets tricky because a successful work of art contains not only the voice of the artist but the voice of the medium as well. The artist must create a balance between mastery and surrender. Mastery of the technique, while surrendering to the materials and message, as well as being a conduit to the collective energies/concerns of the times.
As a teacher I often see a tough spot happening between parts 1 and 2. This is the “leaping off” step. Sometimes students will keep taking class after class long after they have enough technique, but it’s a bit scary at that point to realize you have enough technique and then to use those techniques to say what you want to say. My suggestion is that students take a few technique classes, then take a year off with no classes and no teachers to just paint on their own. From then on sign up for a short workshop once a year to add something new, get reinspired.
I recently received a comment regarding my book, Acrylic Revolution, wishing that more of the examples in the book were finished paintings, and here is a good opportunity to add some clarity to my intent. This book is a collection of techniques. My intent in writing this book was to inspire artists to make that leap from part 1 to part 2, and to create their own unique style by combining techniques. To do this I decided to give final examples for each of the techniques but only going as far as a technique can go without becoming a painting. I put finished paintings at the gallery at the end of the book to show that powerful paintings are a combination of many techniques. It is this combining that encourages creating your own style. The techniques are purposefully left in a state full of potential, just for those purposes, to get your own creative juices flowing – not to imitate.