How did you learn art?


Did you go to art school? If so, do you mind sharing which one? Did you apprentice? Did you teach yourself with books and trial and error? Tell us your experience.

I'm self-taught, and pulled from books at the public library (pre-Internet!). I went to museums and galleries from the time I was sixteen and studied my favorite artists. I was not able to watch anyone else paint until I was in my twenties and found a mentor, but he did not instruct me. I was just allowed to watch. He mostly used graphite and made nudes. He didn't paint.

I got into oils when I was in my early twenties. I was allowed to use someone's studio and their supplies for a month. Then I was hooked.
I grew up in artistic family. My dad went to Cooper Union and had many friends who also did. I had a strong interest in birds, and began doing pencil sketches of them when I was thirteen, especially of raptors. My dad taught me the basics of pencil work and I took it from there.
In high school I had a very progressive art teacher so I wasn't limited to doing realistic work. Ab-Ex was very big at the time so I was able to experiment with that.

Since I grew up just a stone's throw from New York I went to many museums, often in my dad's company. He explained a lot of stuff to me, having a good background in art history.

I ended up at Cooper myself but didn't stay long. The corner of St Mark's Place and Bowery was not exactly a great place to try to go to school in 1967. What was going on in the street was far more interesting. l had begun playing guitar when I was sixteen and decided a few years later that I wanted to learn to build them, which I did. Hardly anyone was doing this at the time, so it took me four years to acquire enough knowledge to build my first. I stopped building in 1986 to devote myself more to playing.

From then on it was all guitar all the time until 1996, when by kismet I met my first teacher in bird carving, Floyd Scholz, who was about to open a school. Though I had no special interest in this art form, I decided to take a seminar there, enjoyed it, and kept at it from then on until I was stricken with rheumatoid arthritis in 2005.
Hi Musket. Glad to see you here. It would be great if you posted one of your bird carvings. I think they're amazing.
I guess I inherited a certain amount of "talent". My mother was an artist and that made me interested in art. Mom and Dad bought me the "draw me" art course that used to be seen in magazines but it was a commercial art course and I really lost interest in it quickly. I'm ashamed to say that I never finished it because I know it was a sacrifice on my parent's part to purchase it for me. As I went through school I would draw in the backs of my school books, I know, I should be ashamed of that too. When teachers would see me drawing they would give me the "art" assignments of drawing maps on the chalk board and sometimes a nativity scene at Christmas time. The accolades from other students and teachers was kind of gratifying since I was not popular at all in school. It was one thing I could do well so it made me feel good that others like it. After I married and mostly had raised my child I began with art again and started oil painting. I loved it. I also did a lot of acrylic painting for a while and really got pretty good with it but then went back to oils and have stayed with them every since. For a while I had my own website and sold paintings and took commissions there but now I only sell once in a while through my facebook postings. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. :)
I love your story because I never knew about it before. Now I know! (Some of it anyway.) And no shame, unless you're kidding of course. It's great how you devoted your time to art once you finally had the time to do it. That's important because distractions suck. I'm a huge oil painting fan too. I have tried acrylics before, but maybe haven't given them their fair shake, and I couldn't help just being more comfortable with my oil paints. Before that I was a water media artist (not that acrylic can't be counted as such), but it's too thick. I will use it as underpainting at times though. Watercolor, I still love. I wind up making different styles when I use it though. Oil painting is more for my major pieces I guess.
You just have to learn techniques to be successful with acrylics. I watched a lot of Jerry Yarnell techniques and really liked his results. This is one of my acrylic paintings.

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That is spectacular. The detail is so amazing, and I'm surprised at the reds you accomplished in that bandana with acrylics. That is one thing I prefer about oils are the richer colors. But I love the gold you captured in the lighting in the hat, the yellows in the rope and spur. Really, really well done. And your skills are outstanding of course.
Growing up in a 3k population town meant no museums, no art schools nor art in schools unless one counts binder and desk top decorating. My folks enrolled me in things to help keep me out of mischief [brownies, swimming, bowling, etc.] When I was 11 they plunked me with an oil painter who lived across the street. Can't say I never looked back, wild child teenage years 'n all, but thoughts of paint marinated along and tugged me back in again and again and here I am, decades and every medium later, oil painting. Kids grow up, couples loose interest, but paint is forever, apparently. I'm okay with that :)
This is an African pygmy kingfisher. Around 3 1/2" from crown to tip of the tail. He's sitting atop a piece of desert ironwood collected in Arizona by my dad. Like most kingfishers, they don't fish and live in semi-arid country. The pillar is Brazilian kingwood, a type of rosewood. The base is African ebony.

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Harris's hawk, 2000. Tupelo and acrylics. All falconry gear is faux. No leather, no metal except for silver leaf and a teensy loop of florist's wire on the bells, which are made of wood. They are exact copies of silver-plated Pakistani bells. The bewits, which attach the bells to the tarsi, are of Japanese mulberry paper and are threaded through the bells and on to the tarsi exactly as the real thing; ditto for the jesses, made in exactly the same way. Mulberry paper is incredibly strong. The Aylmeri anklets are wood; the grommets are carved in and painting with acrylic bronze. Around 10" long, roughly 2/3 lifesize for a male.

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Thanks, sno. Wish I could still do it, but my carving days are over, barring a sudden vast improvement in my rheumatoid arthritis.
I learned to do this by taking seminars at Floyd Scholz's Vermont Raptor Academy, then located in Hancock, VT. I took four seminars and then struck out on my own. It helped that I had some background in ornithology, and as a guitar builder. It should really be called bird grinding, since almost all the work, if you work in tupelo, is done with diamond or ruby bits, and carbide or high speed steel burs, with a variable speed micro-motor handpiece. But bird grinding doesn't sound very good (people who work in basswood make a lot more use of edge tools).

Thanks again, sno.
The Harris again, different view. I wanted him to seem to be looking at potential prey and mounted him just slightly off balance, to create the illusion that he was on the verge of going for it. I'm not fond of the base, which is thuya burl, but I had a deadline to meet. Donated to the British Campaign for Falconry, for auctioning at the 2000 Falconers' Fair.

I was wondering if you might make use of a moto-tool or similar.

A much fancier tool made by Gesswein. These consist of a handpiece with a built in motor connected by a flexible coil chord to a control box that varies the speed from 5K-50K rpm. Usually I worked at around 35K. My control box doesn't look like the current one and I only have two handpieces, one of which is no longer being made, but as you can see, these things aren't cheap. Nonetheless for fine work, using this is like being let out of jail compared to using a Dremel or a Flexshaft like a Foredom. I did use a Foredom for roughing out.