The following is an excerpt from the June-July 2009 issue of International Artist. In the “The Art of the Portrait” section of the magazine, Nelson Shanks was interviewed by Lauren Harris. The article describes Mr. Shanks as “…acclaimed modern Realist.” He spoke with Lauren Harris about his perspectives on the modern aesthetic, education, technique and realism in the twenty and twenty-first centuries.”
Ms. Harris asked the question; “What learning experiences do you feel are crucial in the education of a Realist artist today? What advice would you offer an artist beginning to seek his or her education?”
This is Mr. Shank’s response: “I think the first thing an artist should seek to achieve is drawing excellence, then color and then integration of the two. The strongest advice I could give to someone who seriously wants to be educated as an artist as opposed to a secondary school teacher or something else – is to avoid degree-granting universities and colleges’ art departments. There is such a conflict (within those institutions) on many levels, beginning with goals. The real goal (at most colleges and universities) is to get the degree – the piece of paper. Also, after generations of downward-spiraling measures of competence among faculty, the teaching level as dropped to a point where it is of little, if any, value. The aesthetic culture is derivative of the decreasing competence levels; therefore, what they define as art has ventured far away from anything I would often consider art, or have any interest in regardless of definition.”
I am a self-taught artist and I preface my first blog entry with Mr. Shank’s statement not to make excuses for the fact that I am self-taught, but to make known that one does not have to have a degree to be an artist…at least in the opinion of one of the foremost Realist artists of today. Nelson Shanks is also the founder and Artistic Director of Studio Incamminati.
I have attended art classes, studied countless artists and their techniques (thank God for the internet), studied and viewed the Masters, read as much on the subject as time would permit and basically just jumped in there with brushes loaded and painted. I consider myself a student…always learning, constantly striving for improvement. My only regret is that I wish I had taken the creating of art more seriously earlier in life.
Tomorrow, God willing, I will begin posting a piece that I’ve been working on for quite sometime. Fortunately, I’ve kept a photo record of the process and will take you through the trials and errors of this piece.