Monday, April 21, 2008

Art and Knowledge

Oil on Panel

I read this quote by Scott Christensen in the February issue of Southwest Art, and I've been meaning to write it down ever since. In an interview, they ask him what the biggest misconception is about artists, and his answer is the following:

"That we just paint and it just comes flowing out of us naturally. But it has to be a learned thing. Knowledge precedes execution. Most people think creating art is a feeling. That’s like saying Yo-Yo Ma must have just picked up the cello and started playing it."
I love that because it says in so few words exactly what annoys me sometimes about the public perception of art. People assume that painting is this touchy-feely relaxing activity that requires no study or thought. I can't tell you how many people have (with genuine concern!) asked me if what I'm doing now is keeping me "challenged" enough after leaving engineering. Truth is, I love to paint, but I keep at it because it's a challenge.

Honestly, this is the hardest job I've ever had.

Every day I'm striving to improve my work and learn something that will take me to that next level. And I know that I'll probably never feel like I've "made it", because I'll always see something that needs improving. Add to that the challenge of actually making a living at art, and you have a helluva challenging job! It takes work, and it takes knowledge. And when it comes to the knowledge part, I've got a long way to go...


  1. Dear Mrs Peterson,
    Your art is amazing, I love it! Technics and emotions melted!
    I'm also an ingeneer willing to become painter (cf my blo) but unfortunetly I'm not good enough, Im' just an "amateur". I hope and I'm sure you'll succeed in your transition, !
    Colorado, great State I visited in 1992!
    Helene from France

  2. Good painting, Love the sky and the little bit of....Denver?
    Great thoughts on artsists Stacey.
    I read that quote too and totally agreed with what he was saying.
    I am with you on how hard it is being an artist, but that the never ending challenge it poses to us is what keeps us going.
    There are a lot of misconceptions out there that artists- painters- are just slackers out having fun.
    Painting is tiring, hard work.

  3. Dude, don't go posting my wedding present on your blog or someone will try to buy it before you can give it to me.

  4. This myth is sometimes perpetuated when accomplished artists, Yo-Yo Ma for example, make creating beauty seem effortless. I am not so sure that is a bad thing.

    Most people, even those who believe artists are slackers, are also amazed at what we do and think we are somehow touched by God in order to do it.

    Sure, it is frustrating, and emotionally and intellectually challenging work. But I want my audience to feel that my work is a natural extension of me and that it did flow out of me naturally. As painters, when we are truly in the flow of work - when time stands still, lost in the moment not thinking about what you are doing, but somehow the magic is happening seemingly above our control - life simply doesn't get better. Those are the moments worth all the sweat and tears that mastering our craft requires.

    Beautiful work, Stacey. You say you have a long way to go. I hope to be where you are one day. But don't you think the fun in the journey?

  5. The painting part of art is certainly challenging, but in a fun way for an artist. I find the most difficult thing is to fit the "business" part of art in happily.

  6. Great post. You're right on. None of my friends think I actually work for a living when I wake up and spend the whole day outside painting. It is work. It's exhausting, and its rewarding. Alot of people tell me they just were'nt born with the talent, and I often say that neither was I, but I work really hard at it and keep getting better. I'm pretty sure they don't believe me.

    The painting on this post is absolutely beautiful, as usual.

  7. Helene - thanks for stopping by!!

    Shannon - sorry, but this one won't be your wedding present - it sold at my show in November =( Don't worry - I've got it taken care of though...

    Frank, Michael, Veronica, and Colin - sounds like most of us are agreed that it's taken some serious work to be good at painting, but there's no doubt the journey is rewarding. I should have mentioned that while this is the hardest job I've ever had, it's also the most FUN!

  8. Oh, and Frank, yes that's Denver. I think this might be the only painting that I've painted buildings into in the past few years - I loved the way the city lights were just starting to sparkle here and there as the sun went down.

  9. so glad i found your blog Stacey
    enjoyed my first visit very much
    you do atmosphere so well...great bunch of work...i'll be back for more

  10. A lovely painting Stacey! And a thoughtful post. I couldn't agree with you more. I practiced law for a long time before becoming a full time artist- and this is the hardest thing I've ever done. But I know I made the right choice and I think you did too!

  11. oooh - I really like this one!! and how is Miss A.W.? ;)