Personal or Formal?

Episode 252 · May 15th, 2023 · 31 mins 43 secs

About this Episode

We tend to think of artistic expression as being very personal, as coming from the artist’s experiences, emotions, memories, and responses. But there are also many works of art that are not focused on personal expression. Instead, the artist is motivated to explore a more impersonal realm of ideas, patterns, and more universal concepts. For most artists, there is a balance between sources that are more and less personal, a balance in working between the heart and the mind. That individual balance is basic to the artist’s voice and unique expression. Today we’re going to talk about these two different approaches to making art and the balance in your own art practice.

In looking at art history in these terms it is easy to see the differences, and to recognize the ways that artists have drawn from both personal and formal sources. These divisions, although they tend to overlap in any one artist's work, are useful in understanding your own preferences and tendencies, and what is important to you. Do you prefer a more intellectual, structured approach--one that is removed from pure emotion? Or is expressing your personal experiences in a freer way important to you? These divisions are simplistic, however. Even the most formal work may have emotion behind it, and the most informal relies on formal concerns like composition and the use of the visual elements.

Both approaches are equally valid, from pure abstraction to the most expressive ways of working. But in getting started, formal concerns like developing technique, and understanding the visual elements are an excellent starting point for finding your personal voice. Personal expression tends to emerge from this kind of exploration, but without a firm formal grounding it is difficult to develop powerful work.

It's important to develop your appreciation for the approach that feels less natural to you, and to recognize that any weakness in your own work may have its roots in that other approach. If your work is strictly formal, could it benefit from letting a little more of your more personal experience and sources come through? If strictly informal, is there enough structure to allow the viewer a way in, or a universality that allows their engagement with the image?

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What's new At Cold Wax Academy?
Rebecca and Jerry launched their spring quarter on April 12th. Sessions this quarter so far included identifying compositional issues in your work, and technical information from Gamblin representative Mary Tevlin. Upcoming sessions include a painting clinic for works in progress, and much more. As always, members can join in on live sessions with questions and comments, and can benefit anytime by interacting with other members on our Members-only facebook page. With 100 recorded sessions in the member library there is always something to learn or review, with topics ranging from technical advice to visual language to guests speakers and critiques of member work.

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