-Au Naturel, Not Really-
To act natural or train yourself?
Is painting a natural process or expression. No doubt in my mind the answer is no. Trust me, I wish it were. But wishing never got me any where. The most "natural" of athletes, musicians, writers, or artists of any worth trained nonstop. I used to play a back and forth in my mind to either go with the flow or use reason and judgement. Here's how I think about it. We're all driving down a road. So the road sets the guide-lines of where to drive. And on this road, some may be driving faster than others. But if you are driving blindly and not using any judgement, you'll eventually crash. You have to know where you want to end up and also know how to get there. Your natural talent is a set of rules in a sense. Being able to surpass those rules requires persistent training.
I read a lot about the "zone" that athletes find themselves in often during crucial moments and how it's a zen like meditative state. I remember the zone from when I used to play squash. The feeling that I could do no wrong. Now I fall into that state after being at the easel long enough, but it's not a lack of thinking that produces the effect. But rather, it's a deep state of thought where mind is ruling over body. There's a romantic notion that all great works of art were the result of the artist acting as a natural genius. The truth is not that. No one was ever brought up and automatically skilled at anything. Even prodigal geniuses like Mozart or Bobby Fischer reached their prime after years of commitment and having someone pushing them. So these great minds were built on a solid foundation of intelligence and commitment. After Fischer won the world chess championship in 1972, he was asked what he'll be doing now. His answer was that now he'll finally have more time to play chess.
These stories excite me because I am looking to gain knowledge about my craft to put more tools in the toolbox through commitment. I can pull out some old paintings (before I used my colorblindness as a strength) and show you what I was trying to paint naturally. They are a blob of messy, muddy color in no particular order. So I learned the principles of technique because my natural state doesn't allow me to see subtle colors. Arm yourself with training and never be fooled into thinking that anyone is a natural talent.
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