Lessons Learned From A Master

The Postman, Vincent van Gogh, 1889

The Postman, Vincent van Gogh, 1889

I’ve loved Impressionist and post-Impressionist art ever since I can remember. The vibrant use of color and light, and the texture created by brush and paint alone have always enchanted me. So, of course I was thrilled to learn about a new Vincent van Gogh exhibit at The Phillips Collection in Washington D.C. Titled Van Gogh Repetitions (October 12, 2013 – January 26, 2014) the show takes a new look at some of the artists more familiar work.

The cool part is that the exhibit lets us study van Gogh’s genius and technique while it focuses on a life lesson for any artist: that of repetition.  Yep, even van Gogh recreated and repainted the same composition over and over again.

By placing together paintings that are usually displayed separately the curators of this show have allowed us a sneak peek into the thought process of this famous master. Lectures and educational tours at the Phillips (and the Cleveland Museum of Art, March 2 – May 26, 2014) offer up the details into van Gogh’s technique, as he repeated his subject matter and reworked his ideas. For me, for now, it’s enough to know that the old adage “practice, practice, practice” can’t be repeated enough. (Sorry!) Here are examples of variances in one studied subject, and the perfection of getting it just right that we all aim for as designers and artists.

Portrait of Joseph Roulin, Vincent van Gogh, 1889

Portrait of Joseph Roulin, Vincent van Gogh, 1889

I find it timely that this exhibit coincides with National Portfolio Days across the country. When getting your portfolio reviewed and critiqued – and as you continue to build it – remember the passion and steps that van Gogh took.

I hope you get a chance to see this exhibit in person. If you do, please let me know. I’d love to hear what you learned from this master.

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National Portfolio Day

It’s National Portfolio time across the country.  What does that mean for you?  If you’re a high school art student contemplating an art career this is your opportunity to check out a wide variety of art and design colleges, learn about the programs they offer, and show off your own artistic capabilities.

From September through the end of January over 40 art and design institutions will host “National Portfolio Days,”which are art focused college fairs.  They give prospective students the chance to meet with representatives from a large variety of colleges with strong art programs.   In my neck of the woods, the Art Academy of Cincinnati and Columbus College of Art & Design are the hosts, holding National Portfolio Days on October 6th and 7th respectively.  Professors from AAC and CCAD along with representatives from over 35 other schools will be on hand to meet with students.

This two-way street opportunity is so much better than a traditional college fair.  Aspiring artists get to check out a variety of schools first hand, comparing various programs across the country.  Simultaneously, they receive a portfolio evaluation from college art experts, which can sometimes result in encouragement to apply.  Check out the National Portfolio Day website to learn about opportunities near you.

Before you go, make sure you’re prepared.  Here are four helpful tips to keep in mind.

1 – Review your portfolio.  Organize it so it tells the story you want to tell.  Is that by medium?  Subject matter?  Your story = your choice.

2 – Include sketches and work in progress.  Your technique and problem solving process is often more apparent in unfinished work.

3 – If some work is too large, fragile or cumbersome to carry, photograph it.  With that in mind, even though we now live in a world of electronics, don’t expect every school to have a laptop handy to view your work on a cd or dvd.  Bring your own, and make sure you’re battery is fully charged.

4 – Make sure to write down comments and critiques of your work.  You’ll want to remember what is said, and by whom.

Presenting your work to prospective art and design schools can be intimidating.  But National Portfolio Days are a win-win.  You’ll learn about a variety of programs and the artistic opportunities available for your future.   Breathe deep and dive in!