Some context: I’m a huge fan of Alan McGowan’s painting and have learnt a great deal from his art workshops. Alan wrote this on a Facebook thread and, with his permission, I’m reprinting it here. I think it’s important anyone wanting to learn to draw and paint doesn’t get stuck believing Western classical realism is the ‘right’ or ‘only’ way, there’s so much more to explore.
I had an interesting conversation with a young art student at the weekend … It seemed that she associated skills with a “classical” approach. What struck me was that there was no awareness of another way of doing it, that one could develop discipline and skills in drawing and in painting through other (lets call them “expressive”) approaches, that have been used for years by people like Schiele, Freud, Uglow, Jenny Saville, Rodin. That one needn’t draw “sight-size”, that Barque drawings are not the end point of drawing, that painting does not have to start with a grisaille… etc, etc.
That’s not to decry what the atelier system does, but to say that there has always been a dichotomy in representation between the classical (Raphael, Ingres) and the expressive (Michelangelo, Delacroix), and the understanding of these motivating, invigorating and oppositional forces is being lost. …
I’d say that there is more than one version of what “properly” means, and certainly there are a variety of different ways, techniques and teaching methods that one could use to try and achieve it. I would further argue that the methods one uses are intimately connected to the kind of results you aim for. So not every way is the same. I think this is important in the same way that art is important (moreso than the right way to do other things), because the diversity and choices within it reflect the diversity within people — there can’t be a single “proper” way any more than there can be a single proper way of being a person.
I believe in craft, and I hope my work shows that. I think the point I am trying to make is that not one system has a monopoly on craft; or that there is more than one idea of what constitutes craft.
I am not an expert on music but I think that there are other scales in say Japanese music, Asian music, the Blues scale etc which are not the same as the Western harmonic scale that Mozart used. Whether they are better, inferior or just different becomes a distinction that one makes, and as a musician would have to make. The definition of what is correct varies — as an example at one time idealised proportion was valued over realistic proportions in Neoclassical painting — it’s a different way of defining what is valuable and “correct”.
— Alan McGowan, on Facebook, 15 March 2018