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.”



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.

Great photo essay

Stumbled on this blog, somehow, from June 2007; a really well done essay on photography.


art AND politics

Today we have both Art and Politics in all the hoo ha about the trials and tribulations of poor Miley Cyrus the young, 15 year old, superstar singer.

Vanity Fair assigned Annie Leibovitz to photograph Ms. Cyrus for their June issue. If you follow any of these things you know that Annie has done Vanity Fair portraits for eons (since 1983). And you would be familiar with Annie’s style.

So let us look at this from the isolation of a portrait. The portraitist is displaying an essence of the subject. It is a facet or a view and can not be the person in total. Primarily because people are not two dimensional, by any definition, so you can’t see the person in total.

Contributing what I can to this image, I see a self confidence and a casualness. But the grip on her blanket isn’t letting anything peek out. There is a “nudge-nudge wink-wink” (see Monty Python) in the eyes and she is not looking directly into the lens, but just camera left. Now we know Annie’s behind the lens so who is at her shoulder that got Miley’s attention? The smile flirting around her lips seems to hold back a chuckle.

That’s it! I just realized this is a publicity photo for Miley. And here I am giving more coverage. Ha! caught me kid. Oh well, I needed something to post.

I have been on my writing, but drawing is really falling behind. This new house is eating my time, but it’s fun, planting flowers and watering lawn.

I’ll be out of town mid May visiting my Mom. It’ll be good even though it’s more disruption.

You can see the Miley promo piece at Vanity Fair if you’re interested. You can read all kinds of outrage all over the Net, but why bother.

Some art today.

Been looking through a book of old Francesco Scavullo photos; Scavullo: Francesco Scavullo Photographs 1948-1984. I was interested in how he got a high contrast look with single source flat lighting.

I had the idea, I think from a professor at my first university, that magazine fashion was the ‘bleeding edge’ of mainstream photography. (just where is that on the ‘hip’ scale?) Anyway I would flip through Harpers and Vanity Fair, Vouge and Cosmo. Rarely did I find anything I would use in my own work, but it is a good exercise in ‘eye’. When I was doing professional photography, in the late 70’s – early 80’s, I was looking for a long tonal range lower contrast in my work. Probably I imagined myself an Ansel Adams for dancers and actors.

Scavullo’s portraits were also an eye exercise. Here was a person, someone you likely would never meet, and cropped so tightly in an environment of seamless, yet Scavullo got you (me anyway) to think you knew something about this person from looking at this photo. For me this is where the art is in his work. He was communicating something, whether it was true was irrelevant, about this person.

It is the feeling of connection, communication between the veiwer and the work, that is the defining factor in art. Next time you’re at the gallery or museum go past the ‘I like it / don’t like it’ and ask ‘what is the piece saying to me’, if anything. What can I contribute to the piece. You’re not looking to figure out ‘what the artist is trying to say’. This is just a simple exercise in ‘what is this piece saying to ME’.

I want to have figured out how to get images up in this thing real soon now. So if I’m not in the server closet I’ll be at the drawing table, till next time.

Some art intruding on real life.