Tag Archives: painting

Why You Should Study Art


Youth, they say, is wasted on the young. Not always, of course, but the older I get, the more I understand the sentiment. In part, your youth is spent resenting the requirements of school. I, for one, was 27 before I truly enjoyed learning for the first time. I went back to college then, partly to explore the curiosity about learning that was suddenly bubbling up inside me. The feeling of anticipation, sitting on the edge of my seat as my professors would unveil the techniques of art or the stories of art history, is burned in my memory like an old master’s etching.


The view from my window at La Casa Berti

And so,  I find myself at 43, still on the edge of my seat, still, and even more so, ready to learn.

There are times when I feel so completely disappointed that we get but one life to learn all of the many joys there are in this world. So one must make choices: Do I want to learn a little about a lot, or a lot, about a little?

To a certain extent, each of us makes our compromises in our learning to something in between those two extremes. If you’re really lucky, you’ll learn a lot about something, but keep with you an endless curiosity about everything.

This is where I find myself. At a place in my life that is fully dedicated to art. The unfolding and excavation of all things art. From history to technique — yes, please, sign me up!

With my great need to learn more, I started looking for a place to go, and I landed back in Florence.  Florence, Italy, is the most beautiful blending of so many areas of interest. Somewhere around the mid part of the fifteenth century the Renaissance bloomed. “Renaissance” literally means rebirth, a rebirth of knowledge and learning.  And Florence was the epicenter of this return to the exploration Ancient Greek and Roman ways — philosophy, art and curiosity.

In ancient Greece and Rome art, science, math, and philosophy were being mixed together, each one helping the other to flourish and grow.  In  ancient art we can see this in the use of perspective, scale, and humanism.  Then during the middle ages- for a thousand years it was lost.  During those dark days there was a mass regression.  It wasn’t until the Renaissance that we began to return to what had already been discovered,  and math, science & philosophy joined with art once again.

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Atmosphere of the setting sun on a cloudy night — it was really quite extraordinary.

Now, my thirst for learning has pulled me to this place where some of the greatest artists once worked.  Returning to structure and methods that have been proven over time. Step by step, those before us in the history of art have figured out how it can be done. Sometimes, as artists, our egos can stop us from pursuing the work of past masters, and in those moments we need to learn to step away from it.  A time comes when we need to surrender ourselves to the teachers from our pasts, in order to find our own way, just a bit easier. It is the circle of learning: structure, exploration, reflection.

What holds us back from learning, from pursuing what we love? I am here to tell you that there are steps you can take along a well traveled path to begin your explorations.  Will you take that path?

Will you expose yourself to something new?

Will you boldly go forth and make art?


Inside the Casa Berti Studio

I hope the answer is yes–if only to learn to see the world from a deeper more meaningful place.  I hope you will come along with me to learn just a bit more about the ways in which artists see the world. How beautiful the world can be when it is seen with profound and sometimes excruciating detail.

As always the best conversations happen on Facebook and Instagram. Have you been following this latest trip and if so what have you learned? Or what trips have you taken that helped to you to learn and grow? Trips where you physically left home or simply took a journey of the mind … I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Plein Air Painting: A Different (But Worthwhile) Beast


Location, location, location — one of the many things that makes plein air painting so worth doing.

It’s that time of year. For those of us who enjoy working from nature but aren’t into the winter plein air bit, the weather has just turned into something we can work with.

Plein air painting, also called outdoor painting, is a completely different beast than studio work — and a method of working that I didn’t easily adjust to. I loved the idea of it, but in practice, my easel would blow over, taking my wet paint with it, both returning full of dirt … only to repeat the whole scenario all over again moments later.


My favorite fur baby loves plein air painting with his Mama.

I had so many frustrations early on in my outdoor work, but the outdoor part kept calling me back. The beauty of nature, the sound of the birds: I wanted this to be my office. I figured there must be a way.

My setup is very different now, and my time outside painting is more peaceful — in increasing measure as I figure out better ways of working. I use a pochade box (see photo) now instead of a easel. I invested in a sturdy tripod to hold my pochade box. I work on smaller panels, instead of huge canvases, and I work in oil paint versus acrylic when the sun is out so my paint doesn’t dry up on me.


I’ll make this my office every time I can.

Not that I don’t ever work differently: I will paint a big canvas in acrylic if I can drive right up to my painting spot, the wind is calm, and the sun not so hot that my paint dries fast. It can be fun to shake things up and work differently, which is the allure of plein air painting. Setting yourself up to study nature, and immersing yourself in it. For a landscape painter, there is nothing better than that.


It helps to have some guidance as you get started in this incredibly rewarding way of working. I highly recommend the podcast “Plein Air Painting,” the book “Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting,” and studying from the masters: Andrew Wyeth, Frederic Edwin Church, Asher Durand, or any of the Hudson River School painters.

And most definitely, take a class. With good weather upon us, lots of classes are available. Or — if you live near Grand Rapids or Traverse City — send me an email. I’ll be happy to take you outdoors in nature and get you started on an adventure that will change your life  and your relationship to the outdoor world. It will teach you to see, to appreciate, and I promise you will never be the same. I know I’m not.