Takeaways from Spain

Last week, I traveled to Barcelona and Madrid for a much needed vacation.  I purposely left my laptop in Boston to avoid the urge of doing work. I wanted to open my senses to a new and exciting place without the usual distractions, and what I found was a country so different from the United States, but a place that had clearly been infiltrated by American culture.  In almost every store or restaurant I entered, familiar music could be heard – Ella, MJ, Madonna. McDonalds, Burger Kings, and KFCs amazingly stood out next to Antoni Gaudi buildings.  Apple products were everywhere – iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks.  I even spotted some old friends such as Spongebob, Buzz Lightyear, and Phineas and Ferb.  I was in place so different than my own, yet it felt so similar in many ways.  But looking at the bigger picture (and lots of art), I realized the US can learn a lot from Spanish and probably most of European culture.  One lesson that seemed especially relevant (for the blog) is their connection to classical art and art history.

Goya is a national hero, Dali is a legend, Picasso is a god, and their buildings are shrines. They’re important, they’re relevant, and they’re part of the historical conversation – it creates a culture of inspiration for new generations of artists.  I also visited a college art school gallery in Madrid that blew me away.  Because art is their culture, it seems there is a greater focus on classical art and draftsmanship, and it showed in the student work.  Visiting Spain made me realize that the art of art is drying up in the US.  For the most part, the importance of traditional art skills is not preached or practiced here (especially for younger kids).  The result is portfolios from recent grads who can’t draw and don’t have an understanding of anatomy, perspective, or color theory.  Why?  Some ideas:

  1. The craft of seeing, drawing, and painting is not being properly taught in art schools.
  2. There is an emphasis placed on ideas over technique.  Ideas are a crucial element of modern art, but so is craft.
  3. Students are distracted by media and technology, and aren’t able to focus and push themselves to that next level of creation.

I don’t know if it’s possible to truly change the way the US views the arts, but young artists in the States should understand that being an artist is a constant evolution that takes a lot of time, hard work, dedication, patience, and love.  CloudKid believes this process starts with an emphasis on traditional art skills.  While I learned many more things during my trip, Spain truly opened my eyes that we need to embrace our artistic heritage, need more effective art education, and need to constantly push our craft.