View Full Version : What stage are YOU in?

07-08-2005, 12:36 AM
I have been thinking about being a beginner in art and pastels and how that affects the way that I approach a painting in comparison to how a professional artist approaches a painting. I have also been mulling around how this concept of beginner/professional relates to my field, where I am a professional - education.

In education, there are 4 stages of teaching - I think they relate to art, too:
the survival stage where teachers are focusing on the actual techniques of teaching...studying every night just to teach a lesson the next day because it is NOT 2nd nature...thinking through EVERY step that they make, so that they say/teach the right thing...and of course they make mistakes and bad judgment calls due to inexperience...it is a difficult stage because they are not sure of anything, they are out of their comfort zone every minute, they have not developed a repitoire of tricks and skills yet to fall back on when things get tough...it is scary and that is why it is called survival stage. (sound familiar to any of you newbies??) If teachers do not quit, they eventually graduate from the survival stage and move into the...

mastery stage where teachers begin to feel more comfortable with teaching; they have gained techniques, skills and strategies to deal with the day to day operations as well as any problems that may arise...teachers in this stage are more confident in their abilities and have a "can do" attitude. They are ready to meet future challenges. Soon they will move into the

impact stage where the teacher is VERY comfortable in her field...she/he is now able to empower the students by giving them control over certain aspects of their work...teachers build on current knowledge while continually gaining new skills; the biggest difference in this stage is the teacher's mind - the focus grows from the simple acquisition and development of skills to the desire and striving to increase the impact of what they DO. The teacher, at this point, is not just operating a tool in the performance of the task, but is continually honing and preparing the tool for even more effectiveness in producing the desired outcomes. (Sound familiar to you professionals??) The final level is

the innovation stage where teachers have survived the beginning years, mastered the art of teaching, have made an observable impact on their audience (students/parents) and have now gained the ability to evaluate the elements of their own teaching...they move from simple productivity to meta-productivity where they analyze, evaluate, create on an intuitive level. These teachers know they will NEVER stop learning and growing.

These stages aide me in offering my teachers staff development (someone in the survival stage will need much different professional development than a teacher in the impact stage). These stages also help me when I must conduct formative and summative evaluations (I have different expectations for a teacher at the "innovation stage" than I do for one in the survival stage.

I think this relates to art so well...I am in the survival stage...thinking about EVERY stroke of my pastel...agonizing over the compostion, the lighting, values, color, etc...whereas, an experience artist my not have to "think" about all of those things so hard because they have experience, skills, techniques that they can fall back on. They have drawn and painted 300 trees and "some" of the techniqes become intuitive...2nd nature. They don't have to struggle as much to set up a good compostion or to push back part of the painting, they know how to do that and can sense when the painting needs it. There is a sense of automaticity to their operations/techniques...their mind is more free to dwell on the creative aspects of the painting and they don't have to "think" so hard about what type of stroke to make.

I think it was Debbie who said that her instructor told her the curtains in her beautiful painting needed to be cooler in color. She said that that would never had occurred to her. But, I bet that knowledge comes with experience, time, knowledge, and practice in seeing and doing. I bet, if she and I and every other newbie keeps struggling to make it through this "survival stage" of art, then we WILL master the techniques and gain an eye for the details of the painting.

I want to create art where I use a minimum of strokes to simply suggest the subject because I believe that this empowers the viewer by requiring them to be engaged and involved in the painting...i.e. the impact stage. Hopefully one day I'll get there... I know I have rambled, but I want newbies to know that they shouldn't be too hard on themselves for the stage they are in...there is a natural progression to ALL things...and art cannot be too different from education! (Sorry so long!)

K Taylor-Green
07-08-2005, 01:24 AM
Don't apologize!! this is going to be a great thread with lots of informative input!
I can't wait to see all the different responses.
I'd have to say I am at the impact stage. I feel comfortable about what I know, even though I am still learning so much about what I don't know, like landscape paintings.
I think that the stages you refer to have stages in stages. I could walk and talk you through an animal painting, feeling comfortable and confident in what I know. But if I try something out of my comfort zone, a landscape, I am back to the survival stage, at least somewhat. How about the rest of you?

Ruth Grinstead
07-08-2005, 04:08 AM
I think I am at the mastery stage with some trips back to survival stage when I am trying a new material or subject.

With composition and some other areas I don't think I have passed from survival stage yet.

I still learn something new on a daily basis and need to practice regularly.

I can still remember when I first tried to get a picture on paper, that my head was whirring so much with what I was supposed to do or not do that I was almost paralysed. Now some of it just happens without me needing to remind myself to think about it.

So your teachers example seems to fit, I always think of it as a journey and sometimes I feel as though I am cutting my way through a jungle and sometimes I am zooming along a motorway, there are turns along the way - there is always progress as long as you keep going. Some of you are ahead of me, some are behind, some overtake me :envy: but the journey is fun and I am going to keep on going.



07-08-2005, 08:41 AM
I'm stuck somewhere between mastery and impact with periodic backslides into panic mode. :D

07-08-2005, 09:05 AM
Kate, that is so true...there are definitely stages within the stages! And Just like you and Ruth said, it is a journey with trips back to certain stages in certain areas and, I would think, a visit or two ahead to more advanced stages sometimes. For instance, when someone really nails a painting or gets into the "zone" for the first time and then reverts back. These little windows or trips ahead are likely what keeps us motivated.

I think the developmental stages are certainly fluid or flexible, but when you have achieved mastery in painting, even if you move to a different type of painting (portrait to landscape), you still retain and can fall back on some of the basic techniques you've learned.

I know in education, the proverbial pendulum swings back and forth with every new theory and paradigm shift. Even mastery or impact teachers feel like they are back in survival stage when they are required to think in a different way and implement a new way of doing things...it's interesting...

Sooz: periodic backslides into "panic mode"...I totally know where you're coming from!! lol

Thanks for responding!!


07-08-2005, 10:57 AM
I am in survival stage- with occasional glimpses of mastery in certain areas, then I gasp, and think- I don't know that much, my education was not in art- then I slip back down into the bog and start thinking of everything.

I think your stages are good - I went throught them doing e & p geophysics, then teaching software, then testing software, etc. Whatever the task, and even whatever the background, you usually are a beginner even if you had the proper degree in school- on the job training so to speak without supervision is where you really start... I think after about 1-2 solid years you tend to feel quite comfortable and realize you are actually doing it without thinking about it too much. True mastery, then innovation take a while- and with the other occcupatins I found that your innovation may threaten those (like the masters) in the lower catagories- just an observation.

I think a lot of people, particularily those who are perfectionists and do well in other areas, have a 'fear of failure' block in art that prevents them from advancing. I know that I do- but when I can lose all of that and just get into the pleasure of doing art for art's sake, it is great fun. Since I lack technical training though, I find myself overwhelmed when I look at people like Daniel Greene and his oriental rug auction vs anything of mine!

K Taylor-Green
07-08-2005, 11:23 AM
See, told you it would be interesting!
Ruth, A journey for sure, with amazing twists and turns.
Rosewood, I like your reference to skipping ahead. I agree with that too. When a painting flows along, almost painting it's self and the next one is a struggle, I feel like that!

07-08-2005, 11:32 AM
Great thread!

I think I would consider myself to be tenaciously at the mastery stage...which feels so weird to say. A year ago I didn't even know what a soft pastel was and now I am head over heels. I have gained so many skills and I am no longer at the point where I spend every stroke obsessing about everything. I know that there are still areas that I slip back into survival, but for the most part, I am comfortable and enjoying this stage. I am not afraid to try those new things and to keep learning to grow where I need to.

Bill Foehringer
07-08-2005, 11:58 AM
As in many things it is useful to break complicated continuous processes into managable concepts. Like the grieving process. One moves back and forth through the various stages eventually emerging with the ability to counsel others from the perspective of one who has been there. A person who also knows that every grieving experience is different and can creatively respond to different circumstances.
Even though I'm still in the early stages of artistic endeavor (where I'm still 'drawing' and not really painting, where edges still happen more by chance than design and to say nothing about proper framing and marketing) I can see from the experiences of the master painters in our midst that even in the 'impact stage' of artistic endeavor there will be many things to learn, maybe more than all the previous lessons combined. Actually it is this 'last stage' where the artist becomes free to learn all the lessons.
These stages, like those in the grieving process, are particularly useful when progress seems to be stifled. For instance if someone becomes mired in denial of unpleasant facts it is useful to recognize what denial is either through counselling or self-education through reading books about the grieving process. In art if someone's work is stuck because they have not mastered values then this stage of their developement can be pointed out to them or they will 'see' values done well by others.
In the olden days the apprentice system, while stifling in some ways, also could catapult an artist to new heights by eliminating the drudgery of rediscovery of basic concepts, like perspective for instance. Today the concept of mentoring is similiar to teaching an apprentice.
The WC! serves as a mentoring/apprentice system in many ways. From tips about solvents, paper, framing, websites, dealing with galleries, to seeing the emotion in life and rendering it, etc artists at all points on the continuum benefit.
Like the grieving process or learning to kiteboard there is no substitute for the direct experience of putting brush or pencil or chalk to surface. We all simply have to do the work to learn our lessons well.

Deborah Secor
07-08-2005, 12:54 PM
Mmmm, very interesting thread. As an art teacher it's particularly apt. I can apply it to my art and my teaching, simultaneously, although I may have been in different stages within each overlapping discipline at different times.

I don't think I can decide where my artistic career stands at the moment. I certainly try to evaluate my teaching--and there's nothing much more gratifying than finding a new way to inspire or assist a student at any level. In the last few years I've moved from teaching raw beginners (which I still do, and enjoy doing) to teaching advanced students, something I don't think you can do until you're advancing yourself. Its intrinsically intertwined, you know? I progressas an artist AS I teach.

Painting the landscape is like breathing for me now--easy, natural and needed, at some level. But I didn't get there via some load of natural talent. I had to learn and I think it was the learning that made/makes me a better teacher. I can reach back into what worked for me to help another learn something. I've met some very talented painters who couldn't teach at all well because they have a 'you just DO it' way of thinking. So I'm thankful for the process of learning and always look forward to more of it.

The thing I've found here at WC is that artists of all levels come here, so that I can see the inteaction. Art is communication, as is teaching, of course, and here we commmunicate all the time! It helps me so much to see the struggle some people are going through, because it reminds me of the things my students are going through. It keeps me in touch with the thought processes...maybe more than in my classroom, in some ways, because there are so many people here who areteaching, as well as learning. It's an incredible little microcosm. So often when I give a little bit of advice to a student, I remember seeing someone do it here. So I wonder how innovative I am! I think I'm just good at deriving things... :) Teaching art is a pleasure, a joy in others' successes, and a wonderful challenge. You learn so much by teaching--yet it's never a substitute for learning and growing in your own work. They go hand in hand, I guess.

Okay, that's my ramble for today... I'll be keeping an eye on this thread! Thanks for starting it, Jaycee.


CM Neidhofer
07-08-2005, 01:34 PM
I think I'm somewhere between survival and mastery. I know most of the basics, but still trying to conquer values and colors. It is very frustrating to create a piece that I am just so happy about, and the next piece is just the biggest flop there ever was! But it's still a learning process to the next level, whenever I manage to get there.


07-08-2005, 07:28 PM
Bill, yes, I agree with you...stages are only a way of acknowledging that everything is a process - like the grieving you mentioned or other occupations like purples suggested. I totally agree with you on your statement that there is no substitution for actually performing art! That is so true.

Khourianya - It must feel great to be comfortable in the stage you're in. I would say that shows confidence in yourself and your abilities!

Purples...you are so RIGHT about that fear of failure thing! I probably suffer from some of that...I think it stems from my parents high expectations for me (not at all complaining) and pressures that I put on myself...trying to break free from a lot of that. I hope art is helping me do that! :)

Kate - yes...You did say it would make for interesting rhetoric, and you were right! Everyone's views add so much to the topic.

Deborah - that is very interesting that you can relate to the stages as an artist and as a teacher of art. It is also an interesting observation that your art and your teaching can be at different stages sometimes overlapping and at other times not. But I don't know about your comment concerning innovation, though. I think picking something up from this forum or somewhere else and then using it/tweaking it to suit your needs and to help others succeed IS quite innovative... Many people see, hear and are taught things but simply cannot apply them on their own.

Christine - I can comepletely sympathize with you...I can have a piece look like an actual piece of art (well, pretty close! :) ) and then I can produce a piece that looks like a child's rendering! Oh well...just do what I do; cut another sheet of paper to size and move on. :)

Thanks everyone! I am enjoying reading all of your thoughts.


07-08-2005, 08:15 PM

I've found this thread quite interesting and I think that I'm in the first stage or haven't got there yet.
I don't worry too much about studying arts as a regular task, altough I read about it, mainly technical books or mags.
In my case, altough I may like abstract painting, I'm more towards realistic paintings. Doesn't have to be photo realistic - I like impressionism - but it must show that the painter knows how to paint a tree that does not seem a lollipop (does this reminds something of yours ? :rolleyes: )
I cannot stop to stress that knowing how to draw well is very important.
Of course that a person who does no how to draw can make an atractive painting, and one who does, do something without interest. But can the person who does not know how to draw, accept a comission for a portrait, for insteance ?
A painter may choose his/her own way of style, but for me to consider him/her a good painter, he/she must prove a capability of drawing/painting realistically.
Of course that this is my opinion and many of you will find it wrong, but you don't need to vote for me on the next elections :p

Have a wonderfull weekend !!


P.S. now I'll go to the backstage :wave:

07-09-2005, 10:36 PM
Great thread! Well of course I'm still very definitely in the survival stage, agonizing over composition and color and value and each pastel stroke, and never quite trusting my own judgement in any of them. There have been a couple great threads in composition lately that I have enjoyed reading, and learned from - but I still don't naturally *see* the good composition. Sometimes the ones the experts say are bad for various reasons still look pretty good to me. :D

So I do look forward to developing a better eye, and having more confidence in myself. But I'm still having lots of fun as I don't need to try to impart any of my limited knowledge to anyone else, as a newbie teacher does. As a teacher in survival mode I'd be in full-time panic attack. Just like when I first started working out in the "real world". When I was hired they told me point-blank that they expected it would take a full three years before they started seeing any return on their investment in me, as experience had shown them that that's how long it took people to learn the job.

But I was still in panic mode that I was not "getting it", and used to throw up my breakfast every single morning, from sheer nerves. But suddenly, one day (and in only 2 1/2 years, not three, LOL) I woke up for work one morning and said "you know, I can do this job", and that morning I went into work, and I didn't get sick, and I felt fine about everything, and I *could* do the job - yet there was nothing magic that happened between that day and the day before when I had still felt sick and anxious.

So maybe one day I will wake up and say, "you know, I *can* paint", but I think I still have a ways to go before I get there. :)

Debbie C.

Kathryn Day
07-09-2005, 11:49 PM
Hi, great thread idea. I feel I am in between survival and mastery. I know I have lots to learn and am really enjoying the journey. Even the frustration or dissapointment in a painting makes me more determined to move forward.

Katherine T
07-10-2005, 07:01 AM
What a good idea for a thread! :clap::clap::clap:

Rosewood - if I may (with due acknowledgement and links) I'm going to borrow your descriptions from the beginning and start a thread over in the Coloured Pencil Forum. We've just had somebody posing a question somewhat similar and I think this is a really informative way of tackling the debate about how we all progress.

Thanks for having such a great idea.

07-10-2005, 12:07 PM
I have found reading everyone's comments to be truly interesting. I guess this is essentially a self-evaluation, which I think helps us grow as individuals. It is interesting to me that almost no one has put themselves in the 3rd and/or 4th stages and I know that we have fellow artists in these stages. I would love to hear from you and to hear YOUR struggles, successes and experiences. The artists in this forum in the final stages are such an inspiration to me and to all of us, I am sure. :) I also wonder if some of you may have rated yourselves too low... :)

Jose...Your comment, "I think that I'm in the first stage or haven't got there yet..." reminds me that there is actually a pre-stage for teachers called the fantasy stage. It comes before the survival stage, and is where teachers think that teaching is going to be simple, that they can handle any problem with ease, that there will be enough time to plan thoroughly all the time, that the money will be plenty, etc. They are enamored by the chalk, red pens, pretty stickers, etc. They do not have a firm concept of what teaching is actually like and when they begin teaching...it is a big wake-up call. Pre-service teachers are not really prepared and that's why we loose some of them after a couple years. It is sort of like pre-artists who are not prepared for the work it takes to gain the skills they need to become proficient or better. I really doubt that this is where you are, though! lol I think you are very aware of what it takes to improve, and that you work to learn and grow in your art. You are too hard on yourself! :)

Debbie - your story about your work is amazing! I am so sorry that you were so anxious for so long! I'm glad you are over that now. And hopefully you can find that place with your art sooner than later. :)

Kathy - Your comment, "Even the frustration or dissapointment in a painting makes me more determined to move forward," is very interesting. With such a great attitude toward your work you will surely grow in leaps and bounds!

Katherine - Quote: "If I may (with due acknowledgement and links) I'm going to borrow your descriptions from the beginning and start a thread over in the Coloured Pencil Forum." Of course! I would be honored. :)

Thanks, everyone!! Jaycee

Mikki Petersen
07-10-2005, 04:11 PM
Jaycee, what a wonderful ponder you've started here! Thank you.

I think I'm sliding around between the stages a lot of the time. I'm pretty well seated at the Mastery stage most of the time, but I'm venturing forth toward Impact more with each new painting. When it comes to publicly showing my work, I run right back to the Survival stage so confidence in my work is still a ways off. I'm still learning every time I approach my easel, but am more comfortable with the process now after 2.5 years of working with pastels.


07-11-2005, 12:25 AM
For the most part, I am in-between mastery and impact: I pretty much can see what I want to do, and how to do it- my biggest problem/lack/drawback is impatience- some pieces aren't done when I am, so I have to keep going with 'em despite a lack of interest. With subjects like the landscape- my personal bane- I am not-quite surviving- there has to be a stage earlier than survival, like, "I hate this and I'm not good at it and it's no fun, and why did I even start this thing?!?" Not panic, because I can stop painting the darned landscape anytime I please, no one is forcing me to keep at 'em but myself; but my enjoyment level is not high, at all. So for landscapes, I'm in-between surviving and exasperated "Why are you doing this to yourself and that poor paper?"

Painting a still life, though, *seeing* a painting from a set-up or reference- is so easy anymore it is almost a revelation when it happens. "There it is", both satisfied and calmly certain. I cut some hydrangeas yesterday thinking maybe I'd see what I could get for refs, carefully trimmed and arranged 'em in a pretty little ceramic vase, and by golly- even though I bought that vase specifically to paint- I can SEE the hydrangeas do not go with it- without even bothering to try a set-up, I can see I need to find something else. But I also picked some wildflowers and jammed them into that little white enamelware pitcher, and they sit there saying "Me! Me! Paint ME!!" *shrug* Who knew??

Teaching, though, that really helps a person understand- codify, in a way- what they know already. You may think you don't know a lot, or what you know is "personal"- such a weird way of doing things no one else could possibly understand- but when you show someone else, suddenly you will see where so many things fit in- and the whole of the medium is right there for you- like a gift. When that happens, yank on the end of that ribbon and untie the package- I promise you what's inside will be delightful.

07-11-2005, 12:29 PM
I think that getting to the "innovation sage" simply involves the realization that what one is making is art- is an "object" in its own right and that is the purveyer of meaning. In this case it is what is on the paper, not how well it replicates what is out in the world. The picture has its own demands to express what it is that the artist sees. Learning how to let your preconcieved notions of what should be go so that you can see what is on the picture is a big first step. Finding the pictures' rightness, its poetic core, is what it is all about.
This comes I think from looking, looking, and more looking. Trying to figure out how works of art work for you. Why does a particular picture work one way and no another. How two pictures of the same thing and be so different- this all leads in one way or another to being able to "see" and judge works on their own merits and not something out there. It is one of the simplest things to do yet in many ways very hard. Somewhat, I suppose, like knowing the sound of one hand clapping.
I'll get off the soapbox now.

Kathryn Wilson
07-12-2005, 10:17 AM
I can't pinpoint where I am right now - just not sure. Some days I feel a Mastery of my medium - other days, I am still in the learning stage. I feel on the brink of something - perhaps abandoning pastels altogether, or going on to a big change in what I am accomplishing with pastels. Which will it be???

There are days when I am afraid to pick up a pastel stick for fear of failure and other days I just go at it like a mad woman. I need a break through!

K Taylor-Green
07-12-2005, 01:17 PM
Julie, I am soooooo with you on the landscapes!!! And I think interest in a subject plays a large part in how far you get! In a way "Paint what you love" is redundant advice. Who wants to paint what they don't love? What would keep you motivated and interested?

Kat, Just out of couriosity, if you packed away your pastels, which medium would you explore?

Kathryn Wilson
07-12-2005, 05:52 PM
Not sure, Kate - I've always liked drawing and probably would go back to basics. I've never tried oils, so that holds a fascination. I've tried both watercolor and acrylics with some success, but pastels have been the best so far.

07-15-2005, 12:20 AM
With my last 3 works I feel I have gone from survival to mastery and am edging towards impact. Since I was once there and was edging towards innovation all those moons ago it feels really good to be feeling some mastery again and it has not taken as long as I had thought it would. Now I need to stay willing to leave the comfort zone and be a survivalist again in new directions and even other mediums. I drive a modified Jeep offroad and until the last few months was definitely in the survival mode in sometimes a very literal sense, then one run I solidly landed in the mastery stage. Besides getting out in nature and being with fun people one of the things that keeps me driving is being on the edge, always pushing my envelope just a bit. I enjoy that in my artwork as well. I love the challenging piece, hate doing the "scales". I think these stages can apply within any individual art endeavor as well. I'm in survival stage when the painting is in that ugly stage they all go through, I feel the mastery "the zone" when it begins to emerge as I envision it. Sometimes it hits an impact stage and with rare moments there will be tiny, quick and surprising moments of innovation. When that all happens in one piece, I feel it sings and I feel like a competent artist.
Reading everyone's response has been interesting. Thanks for starting this thread.

07-15-2005, 12:38 AM
Julie, I am soooooo with you on the landscapes!!! And I think interest in a subject plays a large part in how far you get! In a way "Paint what you love" is redundant advice. Who wants to paint what they don't love? What would keep you motivated and interested?
I like doing skies and clouds, I don't mind water much, but it's those sweeping vistas that I *see* but cannot translate to paper which drag me right down. "Intimate views"- one tree stump, a bit of fern, a bramble berry- those I can do; but anything much bigger is just stilted and forced-looking. I wonder why I even bother to keep trying these stupid things?? And the answer is: It bugs me that I cannot, so I will keep trying until I can.

My latest attempt is fresh off the easel and sitting in the "to-be-hosed" pile; it's okay, but it is not up to my standards for my work, so it goes. I had a lot of successes with this one, but it is still too awkward-appearing, too "staged" looking. I *like* staging a still life- to me, the objects *should* be arranged just so in a still life- but a landscape should look natural, not like someone forced it into the equivalent of too-tight pantyhose and a choker, then stuck cruel shoes on it just to make sure. ;)