There's No Such Thing as Innate Talent

Here’s a secret: With very few exceptions, there’s no such thing as intrinsic artistic genius. It's a myth. 

There’s a sentiment I hear too often and one I’d love to see disappear. This comes in the form of phrases like, “I’m not artistic”, "I don’t have a creative bone in my body”, "I can’t paint” and/or "I have no talent”.  

This simply isn’t true. I have yet to meet one single person in my teaching career who was completely devoid of all artistic talent.

The biggest difference between those who have an easier time and those who struggle is experience, not talent. 

Many people have the misconception that artists just know how to draw or paint from memory or from a knowing place deep within them. There are exceptions, but most of us have to rely on practice, the use of reference materials, and the development of a critical eye that comes only with experience. 

A couple of examples...

I’ve never been an athlete or in any way geared toward feats of strength. But the primary reason for that isn’t due to the limitations of my body. If I were to start going to yoga four times a week it’s likely that within weeks I’d struggle less, enjoy it more, and feel more flexible and centered in my body. I don’t lack the “right" body for yoga (because there is no such thing), l’ve lacked a willingness to make it a priority.

Art, like yoga, is very accessible to all ages, minds, goals, and abilities. 

I also can’t play the guitar. I can’t play the guitar because I’ve chosen to center my creative focus on other things, not because I’m not musically gifted. If I took lessons, practiced, and built up my calluses, I’d be playing in less than a year. I may not be writing my own music and touring professionally, but I could play well enough to enjoy myself and express myself musically. And isn’t that the point?

If your dream is to become a professional artist then art school, apprenticeship, and/or professional development should be part of your plan. But...

If you want to express yourself creatively there are NO prerequisites! 

Show up. Occasionally for the fun of it or more often to improve your skills. That’s it. You are an artist.  

Oils and Acrylics; What's the Difference?

I am often asked about the differences between oil and acrylic paints. While every artist has their preference I'm going to try to answer this question as best as I am able. 

Acrylics work in a very similar way to oils, in that they are semi-opaque and can be applied in thin layers or thick impasto. At a very basic level, there are three main differences between oils and acrylics...

Dry time

Acrylics dry very quickly, so you can paint over areas that were wet only minutes ago. With oils it's harder to apply more paint to wet areas without smudging all the colors together. Direct painting in oils involves laying down wet paint next to wet paint, and requires a deft and deliberate hand. However, there are benefits to painting wet on wet, such as the ability to achieve soft edges. A shorter or longer dry time can work for or against you depending on the effects you are trying to achieve. 

Binder

Oil paints are made of pigment blended with oil (linseed, safflower, walnut, etc.). Acrylic paints are made of pigment blended with acrylic polymer emulsion (a synthetic resin). 

Solvents

To thin oil paint you can add oil or a solvent such as turpentine or mineral spirits. To thin acrylic paint you can add water or an acrylic painting medium. There are countless mediums that can be added to each type of paint that vary the consistency, texture, transparency, and dry time of the paint. Brushes used with acrylic paint can be cleaned with water and a mild soap, and brushes used with oils can be cleaned with oil, mineral spirits, and/or a conditioning soap such as Murphy's Oil Soap or the Masters brush cleaner.  

There are other differences too. Acrylics don't require solvents or other painting mediums that some people are sensitive to, so they can be a better choice for anyone with allergies or chemical sensitivities.  However it's possible to use oil paints without solvents, and there are solvent free mediums on the market. 

Bottom line: They each have their advantages, and I enjoy working with both of them.

Did I leave anything out? What is your favorite medium and why? I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Installation: Masterworks at Portland Museum of Art

Recently I was invited to contribute to the installation of signage for the new Masterworks exhibition at the Portland Museum of Art. My piece of the project was to paint the words "On Paper" in watercolor on large sheets of watercolor paper that would be hung in the entrance to the exhibit. It was an incredible creative idea by local designer Heidi Dikeman, and a nice departure from the traditional printed lettering. I had a lot of fun doing it and I think the result is wonderful. Check it out if you get to the PMA! It will be up until June 5th 2016.


Holiday Sale and Open Studios!

Still Life Studio is located inside of a wonderful studio building that is home to many working artists. Every year we have a holiday event where art available for purchase covers every surface and resident artists open their studios to visitors. It's a warm, festive, fun event and a great way to support the local art scene while giving yourself a great boost of creative energy. 

I will be in my studio all day and would love to see you. Please stop by to learn more about lessons, or just to say hi!

Saturday December 12th 10am-6pm. 250 Anderson St. Portland ME. 

New Website, New Business Name, New Blog!

My studio and teaching practice have been evolving over the years, and I decided it was time to give my business its very own name. Painting Lessons with Adria Moynihan Rusk is now Still Life Studio. 

Why the new name? I wanted to create a distinction between my own painting practice and the lessons I teach. This will help to keep both things in separate camps, while still being linked. I want Still Life Studio to continue to be a sanctuary for creative growth where personal attention is essential. A place for both learning and retreat from the daily grind. 

With this change comes a brand new website! I will be updating it frequently and I hope it will become a useful tool for anyone wanting to learn more about what I do. Of course if you have questions that aren't answered here, please contact me