Practice makes perfect

Doug Martin, Dan Beck and I went to see Scott Christensen yesterday.  He gave an hour and a half talk to about 50 people at the Denver Art Museum and he got us to realize, (me at least) what makes a painting great. It was nearly all old stuff. Things I’d heard before and in my haste to become  the next Rembrandt or Picasso these things got pushed back into my head and forgotten.

He talked about tension in a painting and what creates chaos and unity (and boredom) and how it all relates to music with its tempo and rhythm. He also talked about how easy it is to end up on the back road to Bangladesh, lost with no map if you ignore things like light and shadow and accents and reflected light and……all that other stuff we’re supposed to know.    Most of us have probably at least heard this stuff.  And most of us probably believe these ideas to be valid. But sometimes in our haste to be the next great painter it skips our minds and pales in importance while we quest for our next best painting. Now I know why it’s such a pleasure to watch Scott wield a brush. He paints to a different tune than a lot of us. But remembering that stuff and researching it and knowing it is the easy part.

So what’s the hard part? So what “did” I learn?

I learned what it means to be a football player and what it takes to be a winner.


And practicing at full speed if I expect to succeed when I’m doing the real thing. Scott believes it’s the preparing and the practicing that puts us on our game in the studio. And I think he’s right. It’s all in the doing and the doing and the doing.

You may be wondering what the image above has to do with all that. Not much. It’s just a small plein air painting that might have been a lot different had I been practicing and learning instead of trying to make something I could take to the gallery. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Just sayin.



27 Responses to “Practice makes perfect”


  2. and there’s no shortcut.

    • Hi Jeeanne,
      I guess we’re always looking for a short cut. I see what this guy does and I think, “geez Louis! here is an idea that may take me to something I’ve never done before”. I have to see where it goes. hell, I’m gonna have fun either way.

  3. Nonsense. Forget practicing, just keep doing. This is gorgeous. Coulda been.
    Quit it. It is.

    Take care,


    • Barbara, Hi!! I know what you mean. It’s confusing and it makes sense. I just would like to take this to another level. If this practicing idea were to show me the way I think I’ll see where it goes. It sounds kinda like fun to go out and do 3 or 4, 20 minute studies and see what shakes out. Scott’s ideas for his large studio work comes from a boat load of these studies. Sounds to me like a fun and worthy enterprise. For a while at least. 🙂
      And thanks for the encouragement, and thanks for being my friend.

  4. Hi Eldon, first time for me to your blog site. Very interesting.
    As for this one I have told my students about practicing, and practicing and practicing too. Its amazing how many think they can just watch you do it and try once and they will be able to do it too. I liken it to learning to play the piano (not that I can!) you cant do that without practice. The rest of Scott’s talk would have been very interesting. I would have liked to have heard that. Practicing can be as simple as doing, or even the same as long as we keep striving to do better with each one, giving ourselves new challenges, searching out ways to improve our skills, product knowledge, stepping outside our safety zone now and then. I’ll get to look around your blog site as soon as I can. Nite Eldon…glad you are my friend and really hope we meet when I am over there.

  5. Vicki Barton Says:

    Just keep reminding me. Vicki

    • Good Morning Vicki, It’s warming up again….
      We all need the jolt once in a while. I think it’s part of our job as artists and friends to keep each other on our toes. You’re going to have to poke me now and again as well. Oh wait, we’ve been doing that!!! 🙂

  6. I listen to music, (when working on my art) does that count?

    • Yes Rebecca, nice to hear from you.
      I think it does. I have a sneaky feeling that Scott Christenen listens to classical when he paints. Watching him use a brush is so much like music. Rock and Roll is a good choice too. Depends on my mood. Silence can be music too tho and sometimes I need that so it’s all good. 🙂

  7. I think anything worthwhile needs to be practiced. This can become drudgery like learning to play the piano when you would rather do other things. But since you love painting so well, I would guess that the practice is a great pleasure rather than drudgery. Nice painting at the beginning of this blog entry, Eldon. I love to see your work.


    • Hi Peggy!! {{{{{{{{{{{{{}}}}}}}}}}}}} It’s all about getting better. And “the practice” is worth it. I tried to learn the piano when I was a kid. Being out doors meant more to me so the lessons went by the way side. She was a nice old lady but there was more important things to do. 🙂

  8. Eldon,

    I love your posted painting. I think that it shows great spontaneity and feeling. Thank you for sharing Scott’s talk with us. I wish that I could have been there.

    • Hi Cynthia! I hear you’ll be back around this area soon. I’ll make a point of getting out to Evergreen to see you guys. Keep me posted on dates, OK?
      Thanks, I’m glad you like this one. It’s a little bit different than what I normally do but one never knows what going to strike when one is in the field. Scott is a pretty cool guy. Real easy going. I wish the talk would have lasted for longer than it did. It was over so quickly. It did put some of the stuff back in my head where it’s supposed to be. His basic idea was variation in all things is what makes as painting great. Yin-Yan sort of approach. And do paint strokes like the composers did their musical notes, how they varied the notes and rhythm etc.

  9. Hi Eldon, your comments above on what Scott said about variations, yin-yang etc make a lot of sense. As for music, I have to have the right music for the moment, for the painting I am doing. Sometimes if the music irritates me its just not the right music for that moment. When doing landscapes of some wilder places I actually have some cds with animal and bird sounds in them – didnt understand these till I traveled in Alaska and heard them in real life. Now it means so much to me and sounds like that put you in the place and really help.
    Please feel free to poke me any time you like. Its great how artists keep each other going and motivated and inspired.
    Thanks for all your input into this for me.

    • It is a fact Lorna, the wrong music can irritate the heck out of me too. And it changes or there’s not a lot of work getting done. I like classical and old rock and roll most of the time. Sometimes a good jazz station on the radio is just what i need. What ever it takes right?

  10. I like the painting. In the process of taking a better look at it, the splashes of paint for new flowers in blossom reminded me painfully how for the last couple of years mother nature has tricked things into blooming and then hit us with a couple of late storms. It reminds me that we need to enjoy the warm days as they’re here. These could easily be the more colorful days of the season.

    • Oh heck yes Clay. It’s supposed to do the white crap stuff again on Wed. Tomorrow is going to be to good to pass up. Get it while you can, right?

  11. Hi Eldon!
    First of all, the painting that you did is really nice- I like the diagonals and the colors are really right on and second, I sure wish I could have heard Scott do that talk- I think it would have done me some good. I remember a friend telling me that her professor in college said that in a painting you need repetition with constant variation. Made sense to me so I memorized it. I guess music does that as well.

    • Totally true Sue. My problem is I get so intent on painting I sometime forget what I know I know. I have committed to getting back to some of the basics Scott was talking about. Repetition with constant variation is an excellent way to put it. I’ll probably bore the heck out of every one with it for a while.

      • It would be great if you talked about some of the things he lectured on and what you are discovering by getting back to the basics… I won’t be bored at all!

  12. “Could you tell me the way to the Albert Hall?”
    “Practice, practice, practice.”

    • Absolutely JO.
      Prepare at the highest level.
      Practice at the highest level.
      Paint at the highest level.
      Anyway that’s what they tell me. Easier said than done.

  13. Clay Hinman Says:

    Love the work. The photo of the fishermen at the top reminded me of a place I’d like to show you this summer. Beneath a grove of aging cottonwood trees is a ditch cut deep with time. Running over the top of the ditch is part of a 5 way gang weir. In the middle of summer’s hottest heat, you can smell the moss and feel the cool air wafting up from the evaporating waters and shadows below. Its just a few miles north of where I live and aside from the trees, you’re looking at fields and prairies till your eyes hurt.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: