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The Way To Happiness The philosophy of these lessons: Look, Learn, Practice

Chapter 17 of "The Way To Happiness" deals with Competence. I've found that too many limit their own progress as an artist with the concept that they "haven't got the talent." 90% of being a good professional artist is about looking for yourself, learning (including good study habits), and practicing what you have learned to become Competent. If you are interested in a free copy of "The Way to Happiness", please email me for one.
Interested in other lessons?

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Lesson 13

1. Thought

"Friends, never ever underestimate the art market. In fact, I would at this point say it is impossible to underestimate what can be sold. But never, ever confuse success in the market with a means for measuring creative worth." Bruce Holly, "The Heart of It" in ArtCalendar, April, 1992

Amen and vice versa. -- Pam Coulter Blehert, ex tempore, 1992

2. Words:
Figure-ground. I discovered students have difficulty finding this word in Dictionaries and I too have not found in my small collection. Until I can again locate a dictionary that includes it, let me attempt an explanation. The word is apparently coined, from Psychology, borrowed by the arts. It refers to the relationship, in a visual field, between "figure", (the object or area of attention) and "ground", (the background). Some figure-ground arrangements are very unambiguous, such as a pot of flowers on a table or a picture of Aunt Mary. Some are not clear, as in an abstract, where no particular form stands out as the point of interest. "Ambiguous figure-ground" means that the eye or mind shifts in its evaluation of what is the figure and what is the background. You may recall puzzles that used that quality: the two profiles facing that became a vase if you shifted your attention. In art, a painting can gain movement and interest if there is some ambiguousness in the figure-ground arrangement. For instance, a pot of flowers on a table is nice but not necessarily very exciting. It's too easily viewed and dismissed. But if we add interest to the background, or shift the position of the flowers from the center of the picture plane so that the shapes formed by sections of the background begin to be more interesting (more cogent, or tighter), the picture gains movement and excitement.

3. Practice: "Learning bears fruit when it is applied."

Exercise: Find or make a small mat. (It helps to have two half mats for this exercise so you can change the size.) Experiment with paintings of your own and others, views that you see in front of you, etc., shifting the mat around. Do some small compositional sketches of "good" or interesting compositions and "bad" or uninteresting compositions. (Note: good and bad are considerations and may differ from person to person. Don't make this a real difficult exercise. I just want you to find compositions you like and don't like.)


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Last updated: July 27, 2004