The best way to learn to do art is to do art. I read somewhere that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in something. Now that doesn’t mean that it takes 10,000 hours and then you produce your first good piece of art out of thin air—it’s an evolution over time. It does help, though, to have basic techniques mastered first so that your voice comes through. I’m not sure that I’d want to hear the first time Chip Davis played the drums as a child, but I’ve no doubt that the genius behind Mannheim Steamroller was there. You just couldn’t hear it behind the immature technique!
So where to begin? The mastery of digital tools is an exhausting process, and a never-ending treadmill of change. I’ve found that it’s best to learn things just as I need them to express my vision at that time. As I develop new content and ideas, I learn the computer skills to complete the work. I’m by no means a Photoshop expert, but in those things that I use I’m pretty good. A basic foundation is certainly required, but don’t wait until you’ve finished the last chapter before starting to create; exploit what you know to its fullest, and then add more tools to your pallet as you grow.
Next, think about the statement you’re trying to make with your art. You should have a reason for the subject matter and the techniques you use in your work. Remember, you’re not going to be around to explain the image—you’re a visual artist. While the artist’s statement has become a traditional attachment, the best works stand by themselves, without comment. Just make sure that the statement you’re making isn’t something like, “I just learned how to use the XXX plugin for Photoshop!” Your techniques may grow over time, and that might be part of the story, but it shouldn’t be the whole story.
I have been creating a series of images of dolls over the past several years, adding one or two at a time (Figures 4.2 through 4.5). I think you can see the evolution of my voice and vision as well as the techniques and technology as you look across the body of work. You can see the full image of one of the “Girls” in Chapter 11; I’m sure you can see from its character the newness of it, as it uses chlorophyll light-sensitive emulsions that I’ve never explored before. The process conveys a sense of nostalgia to the image. For me, the materials influence the content and add to the visual feast.
Figure 4.2. This 2001 24" x 24" UV pigment on polycarbonate with a mirror is titled Paper Doll.
Figure 4.3. This 2005 24" x 30" inkjet pigment direct image to sand is titled Bubble Dance.
Figure 4.4. This 2006 24" x 30" transfer to fresco overlayered with a transfer to an old tablecloth is titled Tea Time Ladies.
Figure 4.5. This 2012 34" x 48" anthotype/UV pigment on metal is titled Baby Doll (detail).