It was a collection of drawings, of course. My good friend from grad
school, Amanda, made me a handmade miniature book filled with
calligraphy and fun sketches of our time together in school. The cover
is light blue and the pages are accordion-style, one folding over the
next. The book is made from basic materials—paper, cardboard, pen, and
ink—but it is one of my prized possessions because it is a
one-of-a-kind artwork made especially for me by someone I care about.
The thoughtfulness of the gesture still bowls me over.
During family get-togethers when my younger cousins were much smaller,
they would always want to draw together or for me to draw pictures for
them. Oh, man, they set the bar high! Princesses in gowns, cars and
trucks, monsters—my little cousin Austin once asked for a galloping
horse that took an hour of work before it passed muster.
No apologies from me for that attempt at sensationalism (I would have
written tabloid headlines in another life). The truth is I was lucky
enough to sit down and chat with artist and instructor C.W. Mundy, who
is generous with both his time and his talents. We chatted about his upbringing, strategies for being a successful artist, and more.
A lot of painters have strong opinions about whether or not it is
helpful to premix colors on the palette before painting. I’m not
talking about making your paints from scratch but rather about mixing a
few colors, or even just one, after you’ve identified what the main
colors in the work are going to be. Then, you don’t have to remix those
colors during the painting process. For example, if you are painting a
still life with green apples, at the onset you could mix a large
quantity of the green you’ve decided to use so that you have it in
reserve throughout the process. I don’t have strong feelings one way or
the other on this, but here are some of the pros and cons of premixing
I used to think so romantically about Monet, Pissarro, and the other
Impressionists. Not romantic like Manet is so dreamy; romantic as in
idealizing this particular group of painters—thinking they stepped
outside of their studios and, snap, Impressionism just happened.
Veneration can sometimes blind the mind’s eye to all the toil and
planning that goes behind an elegant masterpiece. The reality is that
the Impressionists were strategists, thinkers, and pioneering
technicians when it came to the art they produced.
I love how artists can create worlds all their own—using the hills and
valleys of a beautiful landscape or the sensuous curves of the human
form. But that’s not all artists are capable of doing. Centuries ago,
great artists like Michelangelo and Bernini didn’t just build worlds in
their paintings and sculptures, they actually constructed amazing works
of architecture—church facades, magnificent tombs, and exquisite
palaces. The artists imagined an environment from the ground up, and
were often able to turn their visions into reality.
You know how life can sometimes speed by and at other times crawl along
at a snail’s pace? Well, drawing is that way too. There are drawing
techniques that are incredibly labor intensive and deliberate, then
there are others that are quick and unplanned.
Good painters don’t merely re-create what
is in front of
them. An experienced artist knows how to create a successful painting no
what situation or model he or she is presented with. Of course, this
often comes after years of
practice and experimentation—as well as the development of a unique
voice—but there are some basic characteristics that all good paintings