Practice makes perfect. Sounds good, but it needs to be perfect practice. Well what is that??

I have heard it advocated that one should ‘paint a picture a day’ and this will speed one to artisthood. Maybe this comes from Malcolm Gladwell’s observation that it takes about 10,000 hours to become a ‘Master’. Maybe it does, but standing over a canvas on the floor and drizzling paint out of a bucket for 10k hrs. will not make you Jackson Pollack, sorry. No it has to be 10k hrs. of actually doing something. Let’s stick with Pollack. There is a lot going on in a Pollack painting, and it isn’t jump out at you illustration. You have to “contribute” to a Pollack to get something out of it, whether it is the landscape, or the portrait, or the still life. And they didn’t get into the painting by just drizzling paint. Look up some of the videos of him at work, it’s work.

If you look at the larger body of some Old Master’s work, someone who’s left a lot of paintings, and sketches, and etchings, etc. you see that there are the same, or very similar, poses and figures. Here in Guido Cagnacci’s Death of Cleopatra he has used the same face and he is able to put the different emotions on it, not by chance surely.

There is no quick fix nor is quantity alone an answer. You won’t become a Master by turning out one piece of crap a day, but you will get better if you turn out one perfect hand/leg/arm/nose every drawing session. Discover, recover, uncover the basics of drawing a hand, foot, etc. and then do that, drill the basics. When it becomes your own it will not leave you.

Hugh MacLeod in a talk made 20 points about success here is what he says about mastery:

“17. In a word: MASTERY. They’ve MASTERED something. Something inte­res­ting and valua­ble. They are MASTERS of their craft. It may be an old-fashioned word that makes peo­ple uncom­for­ta­ble, but that’s only because it’s something that elu­des most people.

18. Though, having watched these mas­ters care­fully first-hand, I can honestly say MASTERY is more satisf­ying than money. If you’re up for it, yes, MASTERY MATTERS MORE THAN MONEY, MASTERY MATTERS MORE THAN SUCCESS.

19. And it’s por­ta­ble. It tra­vels with you, whe­re­ver you go. No land­lord, no boss, no reces­sion, no Wall Street analyst, no news­pa­per cri­tic can take it away. It’s something that truly belongs to you, for always.”

I like that last, “It’s something that truly belongs to you, for always.”



I have recently been writing about my views on what is art, the negative influence of gatekeepers (galleryist and dealers), and decrying the rise of the ‘opinion’ critic.

I hadn’t really given much thought to art publications until I came across Brian Sherwin writing at Fine Art Views who said: “It is vital that we — the art community as a whole — have sources of art writing that are not dictated solely by ad sales or other influential business factors. After all, it is no secret that traditional/commercial print art publications are often burdened by the revenue model (the influence of ad sales and other business factors) that sustains them — and that traditional/commercial print art writers, due to that revenue model, are often ‘pinned down’ as to what they can write about for their employers. The public has noticed the Devil in the details. … — we expect more from art writing in general. We want something that is more authentic.”

By advocating the promotion of a unified definition of what art is this will make it easier and more informative to read about and remark upon.


Last time I talked about how Art is defined and the importance of contribution. Let’s look at these two drawings, studies by Degas for a painting.

Is this a feeling of repose?

Is this a dancers movement or a longing outreach to a lover?

The Painting is titled “Scene de Guerre au Moyen Age (Scene of War in the Middle Ages)” click image to see larger

So this one is titled “Interieur” it is an illustration of a passage from “Therese Raquin” by Emile Zola. What does it say to you??

And now being told it is also (mis)titled “Le Viol (The Rape)” what does it say??

It is in the contribution that there is art.


The “I like it.” “I don’t like it.” criteria for what is art can be valid, but only for that one person. How can you decide what is art in a more universal sphere.

Back in January last year I was ranting about gatekeepers and critics eviscerating Art. My whole point is that the idea that someone other than the ‘appreciator’ SHOULD dictate what is art and what is good taste is WRONG.

Too many instances of some galleryist proclaiming themself an arbitor of Art, taste, or value actually flies in the face of what art is.

The philosopher L. Ron Hubbard in his seminal series of essays on Art says “Art is a word that summarizes the quality of communication.” So Art is a communication and how good is that. How good does it have to be?

In the essay Art, More About he says how good the technique must be: “Technical expertise itself adequate to produce an emotional impact.” Are you writing a sad song, is it good enough to make the listener feel blue, can it make the listener cry?

How do you know what effect is evoked? From the essay Art and Communication “True art always elicits a contribution from those who view or hear or experience it. By contribution is meant ‘adding to it’.”

So how can a ‘gatekeeper’ tell anyone about art? Clearly all they can tell is their opinion and everyone knows an opinion’s relation to anatomy. However within the framework of a communication of sufficient technical execution to elicit a contribution there is now a way to at least talk about a piece to another from a common ground. And it may still be I like, I don’t like but one can now judge how much.

Next I want to look at some work through this viewpoint.

more from City Seens

27 – Ships Passing

Not a blink, not a nod, he was old and young, bold and drunk.
Not staggered, not swaggered he flowed, never slowed, on and on.
She was svelt and she smelled, sweet.
Her hair blond brown she wore it down, loose on her neck, over the shoulder.
As the sun set the vectors were pushing them toward each other.
He didn’t notice, no juice vibe to attract him.
She didn’t notice lost in her ipod, locked in her iphone texticulating at the twitterverse.
Close now half a block, he flows left she’s keeping right.
75 feet he flows right, she sees the store fronts she’s passing.
50 feet he stops, peering into the void, she looks ahead to the end of the block.
They come abreast, she sneezes a gentle puff into a dainty hanky; he gets a whiff of sweet and sags nearly clubbed to his knees by beauty.


So I’ve written about various artists I’ve found inspiring. Here is someone I actually went to university with, Carl Studna. When I met Carl he was a bright kid running the darkroom. I was the old man, this being after the war and my third go at trying to get a degree. I could see Carl was good he had a great eye and was always onto learning something new.

After we graduated I lost touch, meaning I fell off the earth again, for a couple of years.

Then I’m in Los Angeles now for a couple of years and in the lobby at A&E Photo to pick up some processing (This was an arcane ritual of delivering your mission critical, irreplaceable, hard work to the high priest where it was anointed and bathed, and if the gods are with you the priest will present you back with pictures. You could wait overnight to find out of you’ll be billing this job or with additional donations you can learn your fate in as little as 1 hour.) and there was Carl, waiting too. We talk a bit, catch up, play “do you remember”. I tell him about the work I’m doing, architectural, all ‘for hire’; I think he said he was doing promotional or publicity. And zott we’re gone again.

Now it’s about 1989-90 and I hear Jefferson Airplane got back together and put out a new album. Since JA and I go back to 1967 I snap it up. I’m reading the liner credits and there’s Carl, photography by.

Thinking about my blog I go “where’s Carl?” he’s at

This is a little from his website:

The mission – To anchor with the client in the vision that’s emerging, utilizing all of the tools necessary to see it through to it’s clearest and most powerful form.

And a quote of what he’s about – “The medium of photography reveals the presence of grace, beauty and wisdom through the lens of the camera. Every shoot, whether it be a person, product, landscape or activity offers the opportunity to see and imprint the true essence that is present. Cultivating an atmosphere of trust is the most essential ingredient in working with clients.”

…Carl Studna is a multifaceted portrait photographer whose three decades of commercial shooting covers the spectrum of musicians, authors, celebrities, corporate, advertising and fine art.

Here are examples of his work

As I looked through Carl’s work I recognized images I’ve seen in publication and didn’t know who’d made them. I’m delighted that people I knew, before they “made it”, continue to make it. That’s always inspiring to me, knowing hard work, and some talent, will always get you somewhere.


I’m getting more work done. Realizing there is no way I can show as little as is ready now. So it’ll be head down scribbling, scratching, sketching, and slathering paint more industriously.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be chatting here. In fact here’s someone I just stumbled across.