Art appreciation -
"Midway Farm" by John Hughes

Art 101 = Art Appreciation

Some might say that learning to draw circles, squares, and triangles is a fundamental skill that every beginning artist needs, and that is certainly true; but at its basic level, art education starts with pure appreciation.

As a landscape painter, I don’t really create art out of a vacuum. I notice it first, and then interpret what I see and feel to suite my own liking.

Art is everywhere, and the world around us is one big interactive canvas with endless possibilities. The painter must first see the natural art, then appreciate it before participating fully in its creation. This participation fulfills a basic need within us, and on a secondary level also helps others to see and appreciate what we notice.

art appreciation - morning walks

I often consider my morning walks to be my most productive time of the day because it is there, in nature, that I am able to appreciate the quiet ambient beauty in a way that is unencumbered by the demands of daily living.

Life’s mundane chores have a way of sucking artistic energy from anyone, and it’s the challenge of every artist to transcend those basic needs-driven hurdles when facing a canvas. That’s why the ability to compartmentalize life’s tasks and pressures is one of the artist’s greatest gifts.

Life on my morning walks is a period of splendid reverie, where I am able to take the time to notice the lyrical quality of a tree limb that climbs gracefully into the sky, rather than in a boring straight line. This in itself is testament to God in my opinion; who is the ultimate source of beauty.

One morning’s walk is no different in many ways from hundreds of other morning walks; but every time there is a slight, or even abrupt change from the day before. The differing qualities of light, the change of the seasons or weather, all combine in making each day a unique feast for the eyes. Almost every day, if I allow my perceptions to take center stage, I see new things, think new thoughts and appreciate on a deeper level.

Yes, appreciation is the most important first step in the art process; which culminates in its mastery and creation by artists everywhere.

Which artist started out in life as a pure practitioner, before engaging in the act of appreciation? That one action preceded execution every time! This appreciation most likely came in the form of observation of natural forms, either indoors or outside.

From there the introduction of other artists’ works would most likely be the next step in one’s artistic development, although this order could be reversed.

For me it was all of the above, having started out my life in an apartment house in the Bronx. Although few and far between, natural forms were in my world, and it took some effort to see them. I could look out the window or take a walk with my mom to get a glimpse of things like trees and water, but most of my early memories consisted of cement buildings and pavement, along with the still life forms of manmade objects in our apartment.

Still there were other opportunities for appreciation which managed to inspire me, like the medium of television, which was brand new in the early 50s; but more importantly my parents had several Winslow Homer prints hanging in the living room and I used to gaze at them in wonder as a young child.

Just as importantly though, were our family vacations into the Adirondacks of upstate New York. It was that, more than anything else, which produced a love of nature in my mind.

I often credit my mother for my love of art, and my father for my love of nature. Mom inspired me to draw and paint, and Dad inspired me to see natural beauty. What a winning combination!

Whatever a person’s personal story is, one thing is clear; art begins at its inception with pure appreciation, and appreciation brings artists and collectors together in an association of an activity which is common to both; seeing on a deeper level, and that is no small matter!

What do you do for inspiration and to support your appreciation of art? Share it with us in the comments below.

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