It’s All in the Details !

The children are back in school, my piano studio is in full swing and I’m gearing up to teach art classes in a couple of weeks. All this and in my moments of insomnia a childhood poem comes to mind.

old-poster-of-a-farrier-artist-unknown

An old poster of a farrier at work – artist is unknown

For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For want of a horse the rider was lost,
For want of a rider the battle was lost,
For want of a battle the Kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

I was horse crazy as a child (still am) and anything mentioning horses caught my attention! (It’s the same with Kipling’s “Smuggler’s Song” with it’s chorus of: “Five and twenty ponies, Trotting through the dark …”

But, I digress. The important point is – it’s all in those little, nasty details. I mean, it can make or break a painting or performance. So, I make lists and plow through life, training the brain to be bi-focal – focus on the big picture, focus on the details.

This same element applies to art. Even if the style is loose, there are details in the highlights, correct placement of contrasts. If you’re into art, check my classes or art out in the pages on the left.

APPLICATION: For those piano students, here’s a section from the assignment book I print out for my students about practicing :

Practice at least five (5) days each week, especially with 24 hours after the lesson. Most people settle into a weekday schedule so follow your schedule the best you can.

Practice just makes permanentperfect practice makes perfect!
Good practice means:

  • Make sure there are no distractions. Shut the TV & radio off. Ask people using the telephone if they can use it in another room from the piano.
  • Take all books out from which you will be working. Have a pencil on hand to mark any trouble spots or reminders.
  • Warm-up with 1-2 old pieces like songs, drills or technique pieces (Finger Power for example).
  • Work on your new scales or other drills slowly. Be careful of any fingering and phrasing required. If you can play it correctly through the first time, play it again a bit faster. Increase tempo on each repeat. If you cannot play it correctly the first time through, you are playing too fast! This is most important, you must slow down.
  • After drills are done, work from the method book or the piece you are having the most trouble with or you like the least. Play through the whole song or a section at least one time slowly, then choose a line or phrase, play slowly as described under drills. Method pieces or recital pieces usually require between a third to a half your practice time.
  • Work on your goal for each piece. This is found either in the box labelled “area of concern” or directly on the music. Allow 2-10 minutes. This set is as important as playing slowly. Do at least one goal a day. Do two or more if they are easy to accomplish. Working on goals makes you learn a skill perfectly and you come away from the practice time knowing you have “conquered” an obstacle.

  • Move on to the next pieces. Remember, it is far better to learn two or three measures of a song each day perfectly than to play 1-2 times through the entire piece haphazardly.
  • Learning perfectly means:
    CORRECT NOTES
    CORRECT RHYTHM
    CORRECT TEMPO
    CORRECT EXPRESSION (pedaling, loud/soft, legato/staccato touches)
    CORRECT HAND POSITION and

    CORRECT FINGERING.
  • Ask yourself, “Did I learn the goal well enough to play it perfectly each day of practice? If not, continue to work on it every day until you can play it correctly the first time each practice time.
  • PLAY OLD FAVORITES. Spend at least 2 minutes (for beginner students) to 10 or more minutes for more advanced students. Check for memory, dynamics, smooth and flowing phrasing, clean pedaling. These are the songs you need to know when someone asks to hear you play.
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What IS Art?

The Artist
This has been a very revealing week for me.
Earlier, while reading posts to the Portrait Painters LinkedIn site, I found out some artists trace their work, then paint. I suppose it’s okay as long as the client understands the process. Somehow I have a feeling that I am part of a group of artist whose entries that are based on tried-and-true artistic tradition are competing with those who use projectors or worse – they print out the work on canvas and paint over it!!

“The Discovery” by Norman Rockwell

When this reality hit me, I felt like the boy in Norman Rockwell’s painting “The Discovery.” The truth absolutely shattered my fairytale expectations. Is it really unrealistic to expect an artist to draw his or her artwork? I’m not talking about someone who draws their original layout and then stencils to a final surface or uses a projector to enlarge it for a large-scale mural. The concept is theirs.  Tracing photos is hard to call original. Though I can’t seem to wrap my arms around the practice, I suppose it’s okay as long as the client understands the process.

The Art
Then, bringing up Rockwell’s work refreshed my memory of another revelation. I ran into a woman who said Norman Rockwell was not an artist, he was just an illustrator. Now, this cut me to the quick since that was my artistic thrust at the time. I was young and impressionable, but I asked myself, “Isn’t all art illustration?”  It illustrates places, people, vocation, moods, fantasy, aspirations, social issues.  The list is endless. I’ve heard people like to make such comments to impress others about their knowledge of art. Sure, I wouldn’t want to be remembered for just the painted logo on a van I did, but illustrative art can be very complex and demand high artist skills. Rockwell’s imagination and skill are seen above.

No one questions calling the sculptor an artist. Why, even hair stylists are called artists today. Maybe the word “artist” has lost some of its meaning. If a person renders a creation in or on stone, metal, paper, canvas or whatever, they’re an artist. If they copied a work or photograph, they’re a copyist. How good of an artist they are can depend on the viewer and the artwork. But if Reader’s Digest wanted to use “The Scream” by Edvard Munch for their cover would you have to call Munch an illustrator?

I would love to hear from critics and artists – is copying art? Is Illustration art?

How do You Know You’re Right?

Seeing art from the viewer’s eyes-
So, I’m painting a seascape – rather fun. I feel my blood pressure lowering with each stroke I apply. But I know not to rely on my immediate satisfaction. Sometimes in art I will view it upside down or in front of a mirror to CHANGE my PERSPECTIVE. The technique really is an eye opener and I find myself shortening the nose or moving the tree over. I found a website last week when I was looking for some equine inspiration. Horse Trainer Rick Gore has a page called “My Random Horse Thoughts” and the material in it is so mind compelling! (The link is:http://www.thinklikeahorse.org/Horse_thoughts.html)

I think this cartoon explains what I’m saying perfectly.

Everything is relative depending on who you are, what your background is, what your level of understanding is and what you believe to be true. Perception is reality. In the painting above the Rhino is only painting what he sees from his position. Others see what he is painting differently. Who is right?

Everything is relative depending on who you are, what your background is, what your level of understanding is and what you believe to be true. Perception is reality. In the painting above the Rhino is only painting what he sees from his position. Others see what he is painting differently. Who is right?

So – How Do You Know You’re Right?
What did you think 2013 would bring you? The same job? Same home? Same health? Same health care? So, we were wrong about a few things. You probably worried about what the year 2013 would bring. Did any of the worries come true? Maybe some did – a lost of job or decline of health, but you’re still here. You can let it get you down or surrender to what you think is a downward spiral of fortunes.

 

Perspective changes everything!
We all have been there. We see catastrophe all around us and a true friend will say to you, “It’s not as bad as you think.” Usually we find little comfort in those words, but then when we realize there are other tests to redeem our unpreparedness, other boy/girl friends to prove their faithfulness, and other chances for the body to heal and ways to cope with change – so – ah-ha! Life isn’t so bad after all!

 

There’s a song I use to sing as a child that adults sometimes forget –

 

“Why worry, when you can pray, trust Jesus, He’ll lead the way.
Don’t be a doubting Thomas, rest fully on God’s promise.
Why worry, worry, worry worry – when you can pray!”

 

The cartoon above stated perception is reality. But outside of what the artist renders as reality, that’s not often the case.  (If  it were true, car accidents would be rare, indeed!) Maybe if you and your friends can’t see the glass as half full, trust that God does (He probably sees the glass as FULL!) and He will care for you. Try seeing life from the Great Artist’s viewpoint.

John 10: 9  “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.   27  My sheep hear  my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:   28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”