Hello, and welcome!
The core of Cameron Smith Academy of Painting is objective beauty in painting with a particular focus on composition. The learning method, as well as much of the course content, is unique and was developed for two main reasons: First, I believe composition is the single most critical determinant of whether a work of art is good. Indeed, for you can have a great painting without displaying particular skills or technical abilities, but you simply cannot have a great painting without good composition. Composition is the foundation, the structure, and it conveys the visual purpose of an artwork. The skill of composing essentially deals with the visual relationships of the various elements in a picture. Composition is what creates balance and harmony, order and equilibrium… Good composition, formally speaking in art, equates to beauty in design, or what Aquinas calls proportion.
The second reason these courses were developed is because there are crucial components of good painting, including composition, which are extremely difficult to learn on your own. Although we perceive them instantaneously, this occurs on a subconscious level. In order to fully grasp these components we need to be able to verbalize and think about them consciously…But putting them into words has been, traditionally, very challenging.
Imagine, if you will, that you grew up speaking a language without ever learning a thing about the alphabet, how sounds and letters go together, how words, phrases, and sentences are constructed. Now imagine that one day you happen upon a laptop, and, inspired by the keyboard, you decide to become a writer. Where would you begin?..And how could you possibly do it well, or communicate even a word, without the aid of a teacher to introduce you to foundational concepts of the alphabet, spelling, grammar, and more? This is analogous to the difficulty of learning composition without a simple, understandable method of explaining it. This is also why it has taken me, personally, roughly 20 years to learn!! But, hey, it’s not just me! Many artists I know, and I’m talking about revered artists, would agree that 15-20 years is not at all uncommon for reaching what you might call a “commanding grasp” of composition! And that’s for dedicated professionals!
This is why I’ve created these courses, and I am convinced that with this method you can learn these concepts much more quickly!
So how does it work? How does this method actually teach students to see composition? Similar to learning a new language or musical instrument, it starts by breaking down the visual ‘language’ into its most basic component parts, or what I call factors. By analyzing each factorial type of visual relationship we can isolate and consciously think and accurately articulate (left brain processes) what we visually perceive (right brain). The theory here is that when we get the two brain hemispheres working on the same page… well, my own experience was rather shocking.
This may all sound complicated, but, again, just as learning to speak a new language or play music does require work and practice, they are very doable and available to all ages. The same is true here. You see, people do so many right brain tasks without ever verbalizing or consciously thinking them through. It’s necessary, because we see a constant stream of images and physically react to them instantaneously. We literally don’t have time to think. Artists do quite a bit of work without consciously thinking about it. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s essential for an artist to develop the ability to work in right-brain mode, because this is where visual relationships are processed. There is a point, however, where he/she must make decisions, choices, and solve problems. The artist must consciously compose the piece, deciding on meaning, emphasis, and orchestrating various interrelated schemes. As the great painter Charles Movalli used to say, “Painting is a thinking man’s game.” (He may have been quoting somebody else, but he said it nonetheless.) Ultimately, it is critical for the artist to be able to fluidly and skillfully shift brain modalities, as well as adjust his/her perceptual lenses, so to speak, for addressing the various visual factors. In order to do this, systems and language must first be provided to sync conscious thought with the visual work. Realizing how key this is for the artist has given birth to the new learning method unique to this academy.
For beginners, the right and left brain processes will develop simultaneously from the start. It’s very natural. But for those already seasoned painters - who know how to mix paint and have advanced visually - closing the brain gap can be dramatic! Once the artist has learned the vocabulary, the systems, and the visual goals for articulating what they’re doing, it can be like removing blinders or lifting a veil.
A final key and unique feature of this program is that the various aspects that contribute to good composition have been considered, grouped, and categorized. Ultimately they fall under three overarching qualities. Articulating these qualities is significant, and, among other things, provides a clearer target and an effective tool for composing, diagnosing problems, and analyzing paintings. Put plainly, you learn what makes a painting good and how to put it together.
This brings me to the courses, which are divided into two categories: The first is Fundamentals. Derived from human perception and how we experience the world, fundamentals are the visual skills and systems we need to effectively engage the picture plane. Fundamentals are where we begin and what we continually practice. Professionals in every field attest that expertise and excellence are only possible after mastering the fundamentals. Interestingly, it’s within these fundamental skills that the visual building blocks for advanced compositional concepts are contained. The fundamentals are what enable us to see visual relationships. It all starts here. So whether a beginner or a pro - review, practice, and master the fundamentals!
The second course category is Signature Courses. These contain the original, unique systems I’ve developed with the goals of understanding beauty, composition, and good painting. The seeds of these courses were originally planted when I taught at St Thomas Moore Academy. St Thomas, the students and staff, have my undying gratitude and appreciation. It was there that I realized the incredible value of distilling and precisely articulating the visual world of painting.
Regarding course content, I’d ask that you be very conscious of what you share outside of the academy. Please keep in mind copyright and the proprietary nature of the method and systems of this academy. I’d love for you share your excitement about what you’re learning with others, but sharing the actual content could potentially disable my ability to continue developing this method and offering new courses. In the art world we all have to stick together when it comes to copyright! And, hey, if you’re that excited to share these courses with your big network…let me know! We do have an affiliate partner program.
In conclusion, this academy is ultimately about perception. Technique and materials are addressed to a necessary but limited degree. There are many outside resources available on these topics, including books, videos, workshops, other courses, and more. The main point to remember is to practice. Just as in learning a musical instrument or any other skill, practice is at least as valuable as natural ability. Ongoing exploration and experimentation is also an important part of the creative process, in order to grow, expand, and reinforce your artistic interests and inspiration. The concepts taught here in these courses, relating to beauty and composition, apply to all media, styles, and techniques, representational and non-representational. It’s about perception, so it truly applies to all that we see.
Finally I just want to say thank you! I hope you enjoy the courses.