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The Way To Happiness The philosophy of these lessons: Look, Learn, Practice

Chapter 17 of "The Way To Happiness" deals with Competence. I've found that too many limit their own progress as an artist with the concept that they "haven't got the talent." 90% of being a good professional artist is about looking for yourself, learning (including good study habits), and practicing what you have learned to become Competent. If you are interested in a free copy of "The Way to Happiness", please email me for one.

Lesson 7


If you have done any of the lessons I have posted so far, let me know how useful they have been to you in terms of your goals. This will help me improve future lessons.

Please think about the following questions:

  • What progress (if any) do you feel you have made?
  • What do you feel are the areas in which you need work?

2. Word for the week:

ARTY: adjective. colloquial. Showily imitative of art; aspiring to be artistic; -- used disparagingly. Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary,1949.

A Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage by Bergan Evans defines arty along with Art, artifice, artful and artificial. I think the explanation is interesting so I'll quote the whole thing:

"The ordinary man mistrusts the skilled man, assuming (probably with full justification) that he will employ his skill unscrupulously to his own advantage. And the man who lacks a skill has a tendency to revenge himself upon anyone who has it by despising him. Hence, although art keeps its primary meaning of skill or the product of a skill, it has a secondary meaning of wiliness or trickery, and in most of its derivatives the derogatory meaning has come to predominate. An artifice is now almost always a cunning or crafty stratagem. (Both cunning and crafty were once quite innocent words, meaning simply knowing and able.) It was not always so; formerly God himself was often called the Great Artificer of the universe. Artful is now definitely condemnatory, suggesting one who takes unfair advantage, though it once meant wise or admirably clever. Dickens' Artful Dodger seems a more proper expression to us today than Milton's artful strains. Artificial, as opposed to natural, has always been condemnatory, though, amusingly, handmade (which means the same thing) has come in our machine age to be a term of high approbation with much of the estimation attached to natural. Arty is slang. The suffix expresses contempt. Sometimes the contempt is just for art itself but there is usually at least a pretense that it for exaggerated or deliberately contrived effects that are more obvious than true skill would have made them."

3. Practice : "Learning bears fruit when it is applied."

Mexican hat still life. An example of high contrast painting.Exercise: "Contrast" and "Key"

Use of strong contrast is an means to get a composition that sparkles. However, low contrast is also permissible in a painting.

There is also the "key" of a painting.

Here are some definitions:

High Contrast - means the painting uses a full range of values (as on a bright, sunny day);

This portrait sketch was done as an exercise in black and white peering into a handheld mirror. Then, when dry, I glazed with thinned color in Liquin. It's an example of low contrast and low key.Low Contrast - uses a more limited value range.

KEY - refers to the overall value of a painting. When the overall value of a painting is pale, it's called a high-key picture. (Foggy coastlines and misty landscapes are often high key). A low-key painting is predominantly dark.

A painting can be low-key and high contrast if it contains a few strips of very light area (for example: a setting sun, a night picture with a window, etc.) Exercise: Look around for a landscape or still life and do a painting that is high-key and low contrast. Can be in B&W or color.

Observe what you are doing to achieve this and write it down. Discuss it with me if you wish.

Interested in other lessons?

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Last Updated: March 1, 2004