Published in Nanaimo Magazine & Voyager Magazine - May 2016
“Your best asset is you! Celebrate you!” These words set the tone for a great painting workshop I recently attended in Tucson, Arizona. They were the words of Matt Smith, an exceptional teacher and talented American Plein Air (outdoors) painter.
Matt explained how he wanted to be the best version of himself as an artist, not a second or third rate version of someone else. I think this is good advice for all areas of one’s life. It is always refreshing to see artwork that is unique, created by an artist who has become one with their subject; an artist who has vision and a distinct style of their own.
A few, (well, many), years ago, while in university, I had an English literature teacher who was kind, but ruthless in requiring her students to find their own writing voice. This was indeed a challenge when first starting to write, but by the end of the term, each student began to emerge with their own distinctive style. Defining one’s artistic voice can be equally painful and tedious. There is so much to learn. It is often easier to adopt what one likes of someone else’s style, especially when quality technical information is limited and trends and opinions are abundant.
Matt Smith’s workshop was refreshing. His presentation included many examples of other artists’ work, both living and dead. He generously praised other artists and highlighted their unique styles, qualities and skills that were evident in their paintings. He further guided the workshop attendees with invaluable concrete technical information while he applied his knowledge and skills with intuition and finesse in his painting demonstrations.
Even if it feels like we are going against the flow, it is crucial to know yourself and express yourself in your own special way. Above all else, painting is a form of communication. So say what only you can say. And remember: “Your best asset is you! Celebrate you!”