Sunday, December 6, 2009

Robert Bateman on the Craft of Painting

Painting, for me, has never been a hobby. It is not relaxing - writers and athletes would say the same. Since I was twelve, I have always painted unless I am interrupted. It is a labour, but it is what I do . . . a labour of love let us say.

Countless times I have talked with young people and beginning artists who are less young. Questions of my techniques and procedures often come up, so I figure it is time to write a bit about the subject.

First and foremost is the idea or the thought behind the painting. Although it is a joy to create something just for the sake of creating, it is much more satisfying to create something special. It may not necessarily be brilliantly executed, but ‘special’ means it comes from the heart and experience unique to you.

One definition of a masterpiece I have heard . . . when you see it, you should feel you are seeing for the first time, and it should look as if it is done without effort. This is a very, very tough yardstick. I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever done a masterpiece, but when I am struggling with each painting - and they are all a struggle - I often feel that I am nowhere near those two goals.

Sadly, I feel much wildlife art is just the opposite. When you see it, you feel you have seen it a thousand times before – yet another wolf, or another loon, or some other overworked subject done in the same old way. And, it looks as if it is done with a great deal of effort – every feather or every hair painted in great detail, but no sense of form or air or space or time, and often flat as a pancake.

My own ideas come out of nowhere.
It may be from a film such as “Lawrence of Arabia” as it was for the composition of my lone newborn wildebeest.

Extracted from Robert Bateman's website. Please click here to see more of Bob's works and ideas on his craft.


  1. Mr. Fredricks . . . .and I feel I must call you "Mister" as you deserve the dignity.

    Bateman's comment here I found to be very moving. Having seen in person the painting behind him in the photo helped in that feeling. One can indeed feel his passion as one stands before his work. His words ring true!

    Thanks for coming by my blog and visiting with such positive comments. I am, frankly, flattered.

  2. Win, I gotta disagree with Ol'Bob, with all due respect. He has the dough to prove his point or that his system works for him. I find painting almost joyful and if its work, its very pleasant compared to humping concrete which I know about.

  3. Thank you Mike and Ron, for your kind comments on today's blog. I like your comment on work puts it all in perspective. Drop by again Mike. Your art and your blog is a delight to visit.

  4. Thank you for steering me towards your blog certainly was a surprise and I will be back again to see what else you have to share.
    I do like what Robt Bateman has to say in the quotes above. I too think there are times when painting pulls so much emotion from one that it wears them out and then it becomes a struggle to pace themselves or even leave them with any strength to try to express anything within the confines of the 2 dimensional plane. Indeed sometimes it is so painful it makes one think they should just quit. Then there comes those times when things move so quickly that it makes your heart sing and the brush fly...I wish there were more times singing then tears..but I know with a true artist heart I will continue to paint no matter what comes my way.

    In the painting above..I feel the breath of that bison on that cold morning and making a viewer feel is worthy of calling any painting a masterpiece.


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