I read somewhere recently that banks train their staff to recognise counterfeit banknotes. They do so, not by pointing out defective notes, or letting them study bank notes which contain mistakes, or with lists of how to spot a counterfeit, but by showing them hundreds and hundreds of real notes. The bank employees get so used to seeing the real thing, that when a counterfeit note appears it just jumps out at them.
How does this relate to art? Well, I think we can spend too long looking at the wrong sort of painting! We can study our own mistakes and those paintings that haven’t turned out particularly well, we can look at the paintings of others in our evening class who are at our same level and ability, and we can begin to assume that we can then spot a good painting.
However I think it is much better for us to spend our time looking at the Best of the Best in order to understand what a good painting is – immersing ourselves in galleries, looking at books of paintings by famous or professional artists, cutting out and keeping paintings from magazines that we really admire. And as we get used to seeing the ‘real thing’ I believe our own art will improve in leaps and bounds.