The Myth Of The Self-Taught Artist

Garlic In OilWe learn from the world around us, our experiences and interactions with those we meet, and those whose artwork we glance. Their is no self taught artist. It is a myth. We may challenge ourselves as individuals to come up with solutions to problems we face in our art, but often times we unconsciously utilize strategies we’ve learned from observation or exposure. We do not exist in a bubble. It would be impossible to be a self-taught artist in this day and age. This would have to assume one has never tried a technique they saw somewhere, they would’ve had to come upon their first brush by happenstance with no one to show them what to do with it, paint will have had to fallen on us from the heavens. Sure we teach ourselves to utilize the tools alone in the studio, but to proclaim oneself as a self-taught artist is doing a disservice to the art community in which you’ve exposed yourself. We borrow, steal, give, and take to those around us. This is how art evolves. This is how we learn. We may be self-practiced, but it’s damn near impossible to be a self-taught artist. Even the simplest passing conversations on art have stuck with me. A girl, Kalina, from the Urban Sketchers said one day, “Maybe the way to make something brighter is not by actually making it brighter, but to make the surrounding subject appear duller.” and this is a concept that just rings unconsciously in the back of my head now, and if I didn’t remember where I heard it, I may think wrongfully so, I taught it to myself. It wasn’t implicitly taught to me, but it was learned nonetheless. The same thing with the mention of the idea one day to make shadows cool, when the light is warm, and the shadows warm when the light is cool. I think James Gurney said that in some post of his years ago, and it was learned and taught, though not through being given a particular lesson. We do teach ourselves a lot through our art, but I think artists should stop using the term self-taught artist as a seeming badge of honor and start acknowledging that art is a universal experience. We don’t exist in a bubble and should give thanks to the wealth of information influencing our artistic endeavors and always be on the lookout for people and ways to help us learn more.

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