Thursday, November 24, 2011


I have a confession to make. For years when people asked me if I knew, or used, the "tonal method" I'd nod sagely... however, I didn't actually understand what they were on about.

Then about five years ago the penny finally dropped. This hallowed "tonal method" was nothing more than a part of the basic art training I had started to receive in secondary school (about age 13-14), and on into college. That was it, no big secret, no fancy "technique of the ancients".

I merely had the luck to be born, and to have my artistic training, just prior to the end of the traditional system of art education. We did life-drawing (even in secondary school), learnt how to make paint and other materials, anatomy, and so on. In other words, the old-fashioned stuff. No big deal or fuss was made over it, it was just considered a foundation upon which "real" artistic activity would be based by on-going actual practice thereafter.

All that said, the reason this came back to mind was a fellow artist a couple of days ago asking me in hushed reverent tones about "the academic tradition"... to which I unthinkingly replied "you mean basic training"?

That shocked them. The thought that such could be considered only a foundation, and not a "sacred end-in-itself", I don't think had occurred to them. To me it's just basic stuff that is first learnt, then adapted to actual "real" practice (possibly even being abandoned altogether).

What really knocked them was my saying that "training is only training, what use it is turned to in one's practice is what matters". Isn't that obvious?

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