In the visual arts, the term classicism stems from a set of creative principles first formalized in ancient Greece and enhanced in the Italian Renaissance.
The Ancient Greeks wanted to identify the creative principles that nature uses and employ them in their designs. They established them as being: unity, duality, polarity, equilibrium, and proportion. The Greeks believed these creative principles were of universal origin, and by understanding them, they could complement the beauty of nature in their art and architecture.
The Italian Renaissance added to Greek classicism by inventing the mathematics of perspective and formalizing the principles of light (chiaroscuro).
The Italian term chiaroscuro is the treatment of light and shade on an object (chiaro means light and scuro means dark). When rendering an object, the depicted shading communicates the exact location of the light source. Its use enables a realistic conveyance of a three-dimensional image on a two-dimensional surface.
Chiaroscuro was used as a technique in the Late Renaissance and Baroque by Caravaggio and Rembrandt. They employed it to create sharp contrasts of light and dark sections in their paintings. Through this use, the term also became known as a style of painting.
Mastery is the ability to execute or inform across a specific field with skill and precision. Whether you are playing a musical instrument or creating an oil painting until you attain mastery, you are in the process of learning needed skills.
To achieve mastery, we must engage in a systematic learning process. Drawing from a photograph will never result in the ability to draw from life or imagination. We must teach art so that each step builds upon the last. When an artist can skillfully create from imagination across all mediums – then they have mastered the field of visual art. Today a high degree of skill or mastery distinguishes an artist even more than in past centuries.
Euclidian and sacred geometry share the same components, such as a point, straight line, circle arc, etc. Euclidian geometry uses a presumption called a postulate to avoid assigning meaning or significance to either the elements or to diagrams created from them. Sacred geometry, however, assumes that the elements have significance and seeks to discover meaning in geometrical diagrams.
Euclidian geometry is focused on measuring and describing observed or imagined forms but is unconcerned with designing them. Sacred geometry is used for designing rather than merely measuring. It is an aesthetic design process that uses universal creative principles to facilitate the expression of beauty in manmade objects.
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During the middle ages, guilds acted very much like present-day unions. They wielded a lot of authority and made inspections to assure the quality of the guild member’s products met a high standard. The guild would permit an artist to open a workshop and take on apprentices solely upon his ability to compose original works of art in a variety of mediums. If an artist could not create work from his imagination across all mediums such as painting, drawing, and sculpture, then he did not qualify. Once granted the right to open a workshop, the apprentices and public utilized the distinction master when referring to the artist-owner.
By the time of the Renaissance, the artist and historian Vasari used the term master artist to describe the best artists of his time. During the Renaissance, artists exhibited great technical skill and originality in many mediums, but for many reasons such as rivalry or an invasion, not all great artists opened workshops. Vasari applied the term master artist to the most capable of his day whether or not they had a studio.
The industrial revolution ended the guild inspection committees, and mass production replaced artisanal craftsmanship. Throughout the 1800s, art academies replaced the masterful instruction of workshops. This change led to art academies applying the term “master” to their instructors.
As time went on, historians bestowed the term as they saw fit as did art critics to artists they admired or were promoting. Over the centuries the title has lost its significance.
Thirty-five years ago, Kurt Wenner met the original standards for the title and his apprentices at the time began using it. Over the years the title stuck, and throughout Italy, he continues to be called master. Wenner has spent decades publicly speaking and writing on the importance of valuing skills in the visual arts.
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Drawing functions as a visual language and is the first step for bringing an artist’s idea into creation regardless of the final product, such as a painting, architecture, decoration, or sculpture.
The term master drawing gained momentum from the late Renaissance and referred to drawings done by master artists. Master drawings visually communicated an image of the final work to a patron, as well as guided assistants in the execution of the artwork.
Today the term master drawing is unfortunately used whether or not a drawing reflects the skill once associated with the term.