Researching art tutorials

I was teaching at RISD yesterday, and was able to carve out time to have lunch and dinner with two other RISD faculty. I talked to both of them about my “pie in the sky” idea of creating a show for fine artists which would feature tutorials on techniques and approaches in visual art. Both of them were very encouraging about this idea and it got me thinking that maybe I’m not crazy, and maybe this really is something I should seriously think about pursuing in the near future.

While I enjoy writing my advice column “Ask the Art Professor” for the Huffington Post, I have come to the realization that the format of a written advice column is limited when it comes to the visual arts. Yes, there are endless topics to be discussed, and I do intend to continue the column-but-ultimately to truly drive an idea home it seems like the format for talking about visual art has to be, well, visual.

I’ve been doing some research, trying to get a sense of what has been done before in how-to art shows.  All of the videos I’ve come across have been embarrassingly awful, demonstrating terrible approaches to drawing that offer both cheap shortcuts and incredibly inefficient ways of working. Or, I’ve found a few select documentaries that depict someone who is a contemporary master of an extremely difficult, specialized technique. (for an example, watch this video about engraving) While these documentaries are really great and fascinating, the techniques being shown are so advanced and require such high end facilities that for the average person, the technique is totally inaccessible.

In thinking about how I might approach this, I’ve been considering cooking shows as an analogy to what I might want to do. I love to cook, and hands down my favorite chef is Jacques Pepin.  I’ve watched his shows and cooked through many of his cookbooks throughout my life. He embodies the perfect balance of accessibility and mastery in his cooking shows. In his demonstrations, he delivers content in a distilled, simple manner that anyone can understand and actually put to practical use.  He provides solid, fundamental ideas but is also extremely detail oriented.  I hate recipes that say “salt and pepper to taste.”  By contrast, Jacques Pepin always tells you precisely how much salt and pepper to put in. Simultaneously, he is undeniably a master chef, and does amazing things that I will never be able to do as a home cook.  (I will never, ever, be able to chop garlic like he does.)

I think there is a void in the fine arts that I could potentially fill, and it’s exciting to think about the possibilities.

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