Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pithy phrases saturated with meaning are extremely helpful to the apprenticed artist.

A Quote by R. H. Ives Gammell hanging in Ingbretson Studios

 I can easily view the above framed quote by R. H. Ives Gammell, each time I take a break from my artwork and walk into the break room at Ingbretson Studios. Written in the artist’s own handwriting, it is a treasured catchword saved and hung there by my teacher Paul Ingbretson. A catchword is a memorable or effective word or phrase that is repeated so often that it becomes a slogan, as in a political campaign or in advertising a product. In the training of the Boston School Style of art, such catch phrases are an essential ingredient to the critiques on our work by Paul, helping to anchor the instructions in art he patiently delivers to each of his appreciative students.  These mottos are also tossed around between the students as friendly encouragements and reminders as we occasionally venture back into the verbal world amidst our two dimensional visual art battles.  They instantly refocus our thinking as we physically wield the brush.  Maybe painting aprons printed with a list of the most commonly quoted studio adages could be worn by our studio artists. We could also hang small printed strips of paper easily seen along our hallways with favorite artist mantras. I have made myself a stack of quotes on card stock to carry with me to memorize. It is helpful to keep them simply and easily accessed for those moments during our studio time when we surface to the verbal intellectual areas of our consciousness, before we dive back to the visually dominant areas of the gray cells and proceed to paint.
In a recent conversation I had in said break room with artist Mary M., Mary explained that the unique nature of the training at our studio requires years of devoted participation between master artist and student. This is because although the artist can hear verbally how to produce great art, physically acting on this information and consistently producing beautiful Boston School Style art is a long process. It is as if an artist can only advance by small steps.  Repetitive patterns of drawing/painting, then correction and instruction by the master artist, over and over for years—at least 3 to 5 years is necessary.   In a similar conversation in same lounge room, artist David B. and I discussed the similarity of our ongoing formal art training to dancing lessons, sport training or tennis lessons (David teaches tennis, I dabbled in gymnastics and dancing as a teen). We agreed these disciplines, like our art lessons, involve instruction that alternates between acquired knowledge with verbal reminders, and physical output in order to produce desired ends. We all agreed concise pithy phases with an economy of words saturated with meaning are extremely helpful to the apprentice whose product depends on physical performance. Slogans concisely reminding students of elaborate lessons are of course used in other disciplines, such as,
Talk with your racquet, play with your heart
Hustle, hit and never quit
It’s what you do before the season start that makes a champion.
Practice winning every day
Practice, Practice, Practice…
Experience first, then intellectualize……
Here is a sample of some of the quotes we love to hear as we train in the Boston School Style of Painting:
A painter must seek exactitude in his visible shapes and his color relations, not actual shapes and local color. --Gammell
Look for the farthest stragglers; the area least like: make it as right as possible.
All the great painters of the past had found the vocabulary of their art in the appearance of surface forms. –Gammell
Simplest way is the best way. 
Don't be meager with the paint.
Use a good deal of paint to get things down fast. Spread it professionally - generously - but carefully around the drawing.
Study the values, always the values, and again, the values. –Carolus-Duran
Paint shapes as you see them; not as they exist.
Students aiming at rapid progress in the science which teaches us to imitate and represent nature’s world, should devote themselves chiefly to drawing. -Da Vinci
The simplest way is the best way.
Acquire accuracy before quickness. –Da Vinci
Drawing is the interpretation of form. –Degas
Drawing is the probity of art. –Ingres
Ingres outlaws finicky indications and demands broad statements of dominant form. –Duval
There is courage indeed in launching a frontal attack upon the main structure and the main lines of nature and cowardice in approaching by facts and details. Art is really a battle. –Degas
Like good coaching advice that is never forgotten, these maxims can echo in the mind and help guide the artist to great productions!
Written by Sandra Galda Jan. 31, 2012


  1. and the words of the prophets were written on the studio walls....

  2. Thank you, Sandra. I have appreciated hearing many of these from my teachers: one of whom studied with Mr. Gammell, and the other under Paul Ingbretson. I've printed out the first quote and kept it visible in my artroom. Wonderful instruction!

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