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Artists, listen to what others tell you.........

Artists, listen to what others tell you.........

As an NZ self taught artist, learning about art has been a long road for me. I never profess to be an intellectual and I unfortunately I wasn’t in the position to do an arts degree early on, so what I do know has been either by working it out myself or from listening to others. 

A significant learning occassion for me with learning from another artist was when my dear uncle Paul sat me down at around age 9 and talked about painting, brushes, easels and things I should know about creating the illusion of depth in my artwork.

He pointed to a tree outside the window and asked me what colours I saw in it. Of course I saw the usual greens and yellows and the brown on the trunk, but as he showed me there were many more colours that helped create that image and without them the tree would look flat and well, lifeless if I painted it like that!

Besides all the help my dear uncle gave me, I have always remembered that particular lesson and although Uncle Paul sadly isn’t here with us anymore, he will always be there with me when I pass on that advice to my art students. I miss you Uncle Paul, although you may not have ever known it, you will always be an inspiration to me. 

Fortunately for me I was also lucky enough to live next door to two other artists over the years that were kind enough to help me learn to paint. They both taught me valuable things that I don’t think I would have learnt at art school. So much so that I was able to avoid the scary feeling of selling my first artwork as an adult with all the insecurities that end up coming with age.

I sold my first painting at the age of eleven, eager to boost my pocket money and too young to develop an emotional attachment to my artwork. Win win situation I think! The picture below is one of my first paintings as a teenager

painting of awaken gorge by Collette Fergus

 These days I take pride in the fact I am a self taught artist, I don’t need a degree to say I can paint, I understand concepts, my paintings make others happy and I feel good about most of the work I produce, which is always evolving and improving, at least that’s what I think and the feedback I get says I’m doing a pretty good job! One collector of my work recently commented on how my art brings him so much joy. That makes my heart sing.

 Today I worked in my fellow artist Bruce McLachlan’s studio; it helps keep me away from other influences like the lure of the internet, housework, friends visiting and other distractions.

I have a show coming up soon that opens on the 7th May ‘It’s all about Me..….ow!’ and I really need to concentrate on producing work for it in time, so it works well for me to be there. The best part is that working with other artists like Bruce means I get their feedback and advice too and it’s something I cannot even begin to place a value on.


Funnily enough Bruce piped up today that he found it fascinating watching me paint as he learnt things off me too, he was surprised how we often paint in a similar fashion (Our art is nothing alike, I think his work is beyond amazing. He does a lot of mural work too, here is one hee did for a local shopping centre. We have both suffered from artists block at some time or another so being able to boose each other is really important.

You see we both are self taught and have worked out things from talking to other artists or from simply learning it by trial and error. Other artists often visit the studio when we are working and even the ones who have art degrees learn a thing or two off us. It seems that actual painting skills is something you should already know at art school and often art students think they will learn all of that when studying. Art school is more often than not about concept, not practical skills. 

So my advice to you is seek out help from others and listen to what they tell you….who knows what you can learn.

While you're here why not read my blog post on what do artists wear too.

Posted: Monday 19 April 2010


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Don't forget to take a look at more of New Zealand contemporary artist's work in Collette's Online Galleries