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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Cordova

The Art of Intention...

Over the years of teaching fine art technique to artists of all ages, I’ve learned that art concepts and teachings can be categorized into different groups.

Concepts having to do with technique are about how an artist uses their tools and chosen medium. These concepts are the literal skill of art-making. Many fine art techniques are universal, like doing a wash with watercolor, or crosshatching in a drawing. Some are individual to the teaching artist, but basically this category is how the artist uses their physical tools to make art.

There are general fine art concepts, such as composition, color theory, contrast, perspective, etc. These are teachings that are universal to all artists, and are an artist’s link to art history. These concepts, used over any medium, are the foundation for fine art-making.

Art of Intention
The Art of Intention

As mentioned before, there are concepts and techniques that are unique to the teaching artist as an individual. For example, some of mine are, using “dry rub” technique to blend and soften transitions with acrylic, or layering color, "like you layer spices for flavor in cooking", or thinking of watercolor as a patchwork quilt, keeping the colors separate at first before bringing them together in a composition. These types of teachings are what have been distilled from a teaching artist's personal art- making practice. This group of teachings add character and fun to an individual’s teaching style, and are the artistry of the skill of teaching fine art technique to fellow artists.

Then, there are more abstract teachings having to do with expressing emotion, and putting life into a two-dimensional work of art. This is the Art of Intention.

In college, I once painted a still life of persimmons. I was happy with the composition and my execution of the drawing and painting, but when my favorite teacher (Jack Ogden) walked by he said, “so you painted some persimmons, now what?” It shook me a bit at first, then got me thinking. It took me years to figure out that what Jack was talking about was Intention. He was teaching me to open my eyes and mind to take things to the next level. He was teaching me to express an emotion, not just paint a still life of fruit.

The Art of Intention means offering the viewer an experience, a feeling, an atmosphere when looking at your paintings. Putting intention into your artwork is the most abstract art concept category to teach. I encourage artists in my classes to imagine being out in the landscape they are painting, to tell a story with their work. The Art of Intention is the glue that holds all of the prior groups of teachings together. The Art of Intention takes decades of practice to even begin to understand how it feels to paint in this expressive way. I plant the seeds of the Art of Intention from the beginning in my teachings to new artists, in hopes it will resonate even if in some small way with my students. This is the most refined skill-set to learn, develop, and express. It's the Art of Intention.

Happy Painting!


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