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Rebellious student by Robert Genn

Rebellious student
by Robert Genn

Yesterday, Richard Alm of Vancouver, B.C. wrote, "I recently completed 151 of the 300 11" x 14"s you requested as part of the "Genn School of Go-To-Your-Room." I'm getting very itchy to do some larger ones. Do you permit making larger ones from the better of your smaller ones before the 300 have been completed?"

Thanks, Richard. When we last spoke I also suggested you follow your nose and don't pay too much attention to any instructor, including me. I thought I also implied that those small paintings might be done concomitantly with any other work you might have in mind. If I missed this point, I apologize. We've put a selection of Richard's sketches at the top of the current clickback.

As an artist I believe in free will--but I also believe in preparatory exercises. Whether a series of exploratory roughs, comps, a-painting-a-day, or thumbnails before a more ambitious project, sketches pave the way to professionalism. Here's a reminder of what sketches can do for you:

+ Make your mistakes smaller, not larger.

+ By including "notan" sketches (simple black and white patterns) you learn to find better compositions.

+ Discover the best angles, aspects and forms of a subject.

+ Learn to work fresher and looser so you'll have less investment and obligation.

+ Ask yourself, "What could be?" and have more fun wherever you go.

+ Make more sense of your visual world and its manifestation in your art. Preparatory sketches help you understand what you are trying to do while helping you to feel less precious about your work.

Small works tend to be automatically stronger. For one thing they seem to more easily take up the whole picture plane. Further, you need not make your smaller works too comprehensive (This may be a problem with your sketches, Richard--they look like they're trying to burst their britches and become larger paintings). Being a basically contrary person myself, I find it useful to ask, "What do I want to do today?" A sketch in the cold grey light of dawn often takes just a few minutes to find the way. Big, small, difficult, easy--the day's karma appears like a genie. Then there's nothing to it but to do it.

Best regards,


PS: "Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory." (Miguel de Cervantes) "Failure to prepare is preparing to fail." (Benjamin Franklin)

Esoterica: Life is an exercise, but it's not a rehearsal. Many artists find that the sketch stage is just as vital and rewarding as the magnum opus that comes later. Sketches, to the dismay of many artists, may even be superior in quality. Particularly in rough form, it's important to cave in to your most expedient inclinations, happiest pathways and most endearing sensibilities. "Preparation does not take away any of the enthusiasm of the final painting. In fact, the preliminaries in color and tonal studies free up the artist for an unbridled yet focused trip to the finish." (Harley Brown)


Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to post from his twice-weekly newsletter. For more of his artistic insights, visit his blog at www.painterspost.com.

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