Purple Mercedes and Pizza Gas Stations

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Philly to Utah is a long trip, but completely worth it. The first day with Ryan Brown, I drove down from my timeshare in Park City. It was a little over an hour’s drive to Springville, an adorable little town and the home of Brigham Young University, where Ryan studied illustration before entering the Florence Academy of Art. Ryan’s studio was right in the middle of town. I walked into The Center for Academic Study and Naturalist Painting CAS, established by Ryan in 2008, and Ryan introduced himself along with all of the students who were there at the time. Three of them would paint with us that day. Ryan started talking about art in a very serious way after the introductions. He spoke of style, technique, old masters, ateliers from the past, current schools etc. Here is a little sampling of what he said. “Art was once a skill based pursuit.  The modern university and art school training approach to “teaching” art has nothing whatsoever to do with the tradition of developing the skills artists must possess in order to create lasting art that serves the public.  The art educational system has failed its students for 70+ years.  The current resurgence back toward tradition in art education has had a major impact on the quality of work being produced today.  It has little to do with style and everything to do with the foundational principles of art.  It is upon these principles that we discover and develop our individual talents, visions and voices.  Ideas which lack access to the proper tools needed to realize them will never come to fruition.  It is essential that an artist obtain the skills necessary to perform their craft to their greatest potential before attempting to execute anything artistic meant for public use.  Artists owe it to themselves and those they hope to feed with their work to understand the foundations, principles and traditions on which the quality and relevance that their work will rest.  Any work of art made without this knowledge is a fragment of what it could be and therefore leaves viewers wanting.  Art is important, or more properly said, great art is important and should be treated by those making it and those viewing it with some concept of its important role.  It is true that society can live without art, without music and without outward expression of meaning and purpose.  But great art, once experienced, leaves the viewer with such fulfillment that, although they can live without it, they prefer not to.  
We are all creative beings and should rejoice in our natural desires to create.  It is not the goal of every artist to become the next great master.  No one should feel inadequate when attempting to create something new, something beautiful.  But for those who aim to do more with their art, to move past art as a hobby, I believe it is important for them to understand the tradition of what they hope to adopt themselves into.  Be fair to yourselves.  Allow yourself the time to develop that you need.  Don’t let impatience or frustration distract or discourage you from fighting for the solutions to the problems you will inevitably face. Everyone learns at a different pace.  Don’t allow your exuberance to make art overcome the need to understand how to create it.  Slow down.  Develop discipline.  You and all those who share your experience will be the better for it., I interrupted and said, “Please stop talking, and let me run to my car so I can get my sketch pad and take notes.” He seemed startled, but said OK.A painting studio at CAS.

Another studio at CAS.

Ryan gets in a zone when he talks about art and when he paints. In this first lecture he gave wonderful information and I learned a truck load! Be warned. Bring a pencil and be ready to work hard, because this man does not mess around when it comes to art.

Ryan suggested lunch at the pizza shop gas station. –a new concept to me. I said, “OK.” and we went out to his car to load our supplies and get lunch. I was dumbfounded to find that Ryan Brown drove a 1998 ML 350 Mercedes in a hard-to-describe iridescent color! It turned from dark blue to purple to golden yellow as one walked around the perimeter of the car. His father-in-law who picked the color gave it to him. The two of us went to lunch at the pizza shop gas station in the purple iridescent Mercedes. Great pizza-all gas stations should serve it.

Shelli Alford is an artist and author, who enjoys learning from master oil painters from around the world and reviewing their classes, workshops and demonstrations.

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