Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Blast From My Past...

 There are photos circulating on the internet of before and after shots of artist's work from ten and twenty years ago, and this amazing transformation to their work today. The problem is that the drawings of the before shots are horrible, and most of the after shots look either traced or made with a grid. In almost all of the examples, there isn't much difference in the knowledge, just the skill.

I did the drawing to the right about fifteen years ago, roughly three or four years before I began working with Daniel Greene. Although it has many flaws, I think it shows a certain amount of knowledge and skill. It isn't downright awful (if I do say so myself). It was drawn from life in a three hour session at The National Arts Club in  NYC. I clearly remember the day. Still in art school at the time, and somewhat nervous about even being there, I was minding my own business and drawing. A very famous pastel painter happened to be there. He walked by me and said "It looks like you swallowed a Dean Cornwell book." I think he meant it as an insult but I just looked up and said thank you. To me it was a compliment!

 When I was young I tried a lot of different mediums and styles. I did several cartoon drawings in colored pencil like this one to the left. I miss doing these sometimes. I really enjoy working out of my head once in a while. I could easily have posted hundreds of terrible drawings from that time and say "look how much better I am now!"

I don't think there are many cases where artists have absolutely no skill when they are young. Most working artists today that I know personally, actually had a tremendous amount of skill when they were young.

I am not posting this to discourage young people who want to be painters, I am posting this because I believe the article to be a misrepresentation. Basically, all the article says is "If you copy enough photos, eventually you will get better at it"

Most people in a career, whether it be singers, dancers, athletes, etc, display an aptitude for these gifts at a very young age. Now I am certainly not saying that you are born with it and that's it. The same artists I mentioned above that displayed skill at a young age, also paint for ten to twelve hours a day if not more, myself included. But they had something there to begin with.

Before I began painting in oil, I worked in colored pencil, even on figurative work. In fact, when I began painting, I toned my canvas to the same color as my charcoal papers, and used only four colors on my palette, White, Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre, and Terra Rosa, which matched the four colored pencils I favored most.

 A quick Pen and Ink sketch done from life on the streets of France. So much fun drawing on the street there!
I spent six months living in France when I was younger.

One of my first jobs was a Dragon I created for a dentist in Seattle. I made enough to pay for the trip. Below is a shot of the dragon. One of my very first oil paintings actually also.
Well, I hope everyone enjoyed me embarrassing myself with old work just to prove a point! Be careful of what you read on the internet, too much of it is just plain wrong...


  1. Thank you! These blasts from the past are delightfu- illustrating (ahem) your innate talent.

  2. I agree completely that most people display an early, innate talent, in a field they have chosen to pursue. That chestnut I always hear- artistic success is overwhelmingly from hard work, not natural talent is not the whole story. It's the discovery of that nifty gift that inspires you, and keeps you going when the work gets terribly hard, and when events make it discouraging.
    Hey you should be proud of your early work, that's some good stuff there! The little kid in you ought to be beaming.

    1. Thanks Judy,
      I have seen young painters who were not very good become amazing with hard work. I have also met older painters who had taken workshops for years with every professional under the sun, and they didn't ever seem to get any better. I don't think the answer is so easy to define.

  3. I really love the portrait from life, with its clean structural style!

    I see what you mean about the article, it seems a bit naive. The guy that does the dinosaurs shows some real potential IMHO.

    1. I agree Jose, I almost mentioned that. He absolutely has some potential.