Doesn’t it fascinate you when you see a piece of art that seems so simple, so easy, so effortless? Or maybe the opposite, a piece of art that is so detailed, so textured, with so much going on and you break your brain trying to figure out how they did it?
I am guilty of obsessing over techniques. Somehow I get the feeling that if I learn THAT technique then I will have learned everything, that is, until I see something else and I become obsessed again.
No wonder YouTubers who share their techniques have such a large following. I’m not alone in the quest of finding that magical way of making my art outstanding.
If you’ve ever seen the work of Rene Gruau you’ll think about my first example. His line work seems that it took him as long as wiping the sweat off his brow. One line, one expressive, beautiful, flowy line and his work is brilliant. Or Tracey Emin’s drawings too. (Her work is erotic so NSFW)
How long did it take them to perfect that hand movement?
And if we go all the way to the other spectrum, when you look at the work of hyperrealist artists, do you wonder how they managed to do it? I must confess that when I see hyperrealist work, I usually ask myself why they didn’t just take a picture.
I have been scouring the art instruction world to learn “technique” but it’s the wrong approach. Much like expensive or cheap materials, the technique does not make you an artist.
This past week, I had an episode of…let’s call it ‘discouragement’, that elegant word that describes basically a fit of sorts. That “why god why” state of despair. I attempted to give a watercolor treatment to one of my drawings* and it turned out muddy and ugly.
Sometimes I believe that I must have a certain technique “down” to be a legitimate “whatever”, but maybe, that technique isn’t the one for me. The beautiful flowy, watery technique in which watercolor blooms in all directions in perfect harmony is not happening. My most successful watercolors have been those where I don’t use much water and I dab a bit of color here and there.
I can struggle with a technique I can’t master, but it’s a waste of energy.
Of course, there is always that counter-argument: “I’m always doing that what I cannot do in order to learn how to do it.” supposedly said by Picasso. But I’ve seen over and over in the last few months that my stubbornness is holding me back.
At one point I started making ink drawings with a brush pen. I remember that it felt like a breakthrough. They were so effortless to do. I churned a few and the more I did the more I thought: this can’t be so easy. So I stopped and went back to battle watercolors.
You see what I do here? It’s like I want to fail.
I think this has to do a bit with the impostor syndrome and how one refuses to call themselves an artist, a writer, a musician, until you feel you ‘KNOW’ what you’re supposed to know.
So in my little ‘episode’ of discouragement, I reached for my brush pen and I thought of someone I admire: Oscar Wilde.
One day I will talk more extensively how the British culture has a grip on me, but for now, I’ll just share this: One of my aunts read Oscar Wilde stories to me when I was very young, he’s like my patron saint. When I draw, I listen to De Profundis on YouTube, when I feel sad, I hit my Oscar quotations book and I always find the right one.
I took my brush pen and in five minutes I made this portrait. There is no technique here, it was only impulse.