It can seem sometimes like artists and art lovers fall into two camps—those that adamantly prefer abstraction, and those who feel the same way about realism. Of course, this is a very simplistic view of art --and the fact is that these two approaches meet and mingle in countless unique ways. But it can be demoralizing for an abstract artist to be dismissed out of hand as lacking seriousness and skill, and the same for the realist who may be criticized for lacking imagination or unique vision. In fact, all artists who have gained mastery at what they do have something to teach others.
Thinking of abstraction and realism as a simple duality is misleading; it is more useful to think of various ways of depiction as a continuum, with extremely realistic work at once end and completely nonrepresentational, pure abstraction at the other end. The line in between filled with various departures from either extreme, and any kind of art is an interpretation, and there are always limitations to the medium an artist uses.
While each way of working has its strengths, too often abstract artists don't consider or exploit the depth and nuances that can be observed in the real world and that realist artists are by necessity very aware of. These can bring more intricacy and complexity to abstract approaches. Realist painters learn skills such as creating visual texture through subtle shifts of value and color, and to edit their work carefully to create good composition that are applicable to abstract work as well.
On the other hand, realism may also include approaches that do not interest abstract artists such as depiction of deep space and perspective, and there are interests that are unique to abstraction such as a focus on materiality and visual elements for their own sakes. So, while there are distinct differences, it's worth paying attention to how these various approaches overlap. All forms of art have more in common than they do differences, and it can be very beneficial to understand other approaches to the visual world.
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Rebecca and her partner Jerry McLaughlin are excited to be launching year two of Cold Wax Academy's membership program, which began in October of 2020. In the coming year, live online learning sessions will feature an entirely new set of topics---beginning with a deep dive into technique and the steps involved in developing a painting. Other topics for year 2 include professional development, abstraction and realism, principles of design, and expanded uses for cold wax medium.
As always, members have access to recordings of all previous sessions including everything from the first year, so it's easy to join anytime. Fall Quarter begins October 6th. Please visit http://www.coldwaxacademy.com for details about membership levels and to sign up for a year of exciting learning experiences.
Here is what a member named Sandy has to say about her own experience:
"Rebecca and Jerry have presented the most professional, authentic and structured approach to a creative activity I have ever come across. Their selfless sharing of all their knowledge and encouragement is a gift in my life unsurpassed."
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