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  • Writer's pictureDale Jackson

Why Studies Matter

In this post, I'll discuss why I think smaller studies really matter with regard to the completion of a larger final piece of art.

First, a study, in my opinion is a way of concentrating on problematic areas that you, as an artist, may have to face later in your final work. I have gone straight at a painting, thinking I was very confident to complete it in one fell swoop, but rather, what happened is that I hit a brick wall, having not thought out my composition very well, and ended up practically throwing away the whole piece because I failed to understand that I had particular challenges that I had not thought out well in advance.

A smaller study, to me, is a way to concentrate on those challenge areas that I would foresee face in my final composition. A study doesn't have to be a painting, they can be in pencil. I find that breaking down my final composition before I paint it, into small studies, helps me tremendously in achieving my intent overall.

Secondly, a study is a way of practice before diving into the big composition. Athletes don't head into a race without great amounts of practice. In fact, they constantly train in the specific sport they thrive in. They concentrate and train, setting their sights on their goal and practice hard on problematic areas so that when the final comes, they are hyper focused and ready. The same can be said for much things in life, and the same can be said for creating art.

Thirdly, studies allow for experimentation. I personally, love experimenting with different methods. I find this is a way that I can attain my own signature look. Just like a person's signature is usually unique to them, an artist explores ways to find their signature look in the vast arena of art. I don't have a problem imitating a genre of art or another's style, however, I try my best to only do that just to gain my own footing into a particular style, then I experiment with my own techniques so that I can find my own signature look. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I don't think one can tell another "do this" to achieve their own unique look, with regards to artistic creation. Rather, each artist explores, experiments and imitates and then goes on to add on their own distinctive "branding". There's nothing wrong with imitating. Many master artists have their own pupils. Masters teach their students the skills they need in order to go on and step into the big world of art and be able to stand on their own with their own signature look. This is what experimentation is all about, and an artistic study is a perfect way to accomplish this.

Studies matter because they help the artist achieve their visions in short, little "notes". They may even write in a journal that goes along their studies so that they may remember where they've been and the direction they are heading. Studies help artists tackle problem areas that they have difficulties in, whether it's about how light plays on a surface, or whether it's about composition or the challenges of hue and tonality, and even experimenting with the mood that they want to express.

The video below shows a tiny color study I produced. I was really experimenting with color, rather than details. I wanted to really play with the pigments to produce a scene of the vibrant turquois look of a sunlit wave rolling in onto the shallows at the beach.

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