The “Right” way to make Art?

and I think today I have made a breakthrough in finding the answer to a question that has been bugging me for a very long time.

I’ve been trying to study the “right” and the “wrong” way of making art, to find some guiding principles, something to go by in order to make “good art”.

And at the same time asking myself – those artists that lived in the past and even in ancient civilizations, did they really know some magnificent secrete that we, in modern times, have lost? Why does their art seem serious and whole, while ours, which is more informed, more realistic, lacks that sense of telling a simple, fundamental truth about the world?

For example, one step in my chain of discoveries was that good art involves storytelling. And like any verbal storytelling it has to be selective. It has to be tied to the theme.

But can that be used, like some kind of formula, to create “good art”?

That’s what I question. Surely, yes, it can, to some degree. It can help you debug your novel when it seems to go awry with too many details, for example.

But fundamentally good art comes from the artist’s genuine desire to describe something, and their focus on that thing that they want to describe.

Not their focus on how to impress, not their focus on how to please a critic, but just a focus on the thing they’re expressing.

Ancient Egyptian art lacks realism, but the confidence it has in its style and its devotion to telling its essential story are what make it beautiful. There is sincerity of a mind describing a thought there.

What have we done in modern times? We have replaced that desire with an impersonal aspiration of some kind. We ran away from realism in an attempt to find “individuality”, and then we came back to realism in an attempt to find “excellence”, and neither attempt is really fully successful, isn’t it..

Of course you could make the point that someone with no art training at all would just create a mess, and that is a very good point indeed.
But also, someone with lots of art education and excellent execution can create something stale and formulaic.

To speak beautifully – you need words, and then you need to have an idea that is Your owN.
Art that has no hesitations about the fundamental way it should be done, is possible when the artist has taken the time to learn the tools they need for that execution. And which tool they acquired was dictated by what they wanted to express. And that the tools themselves are a result of a sincere quest for expression.


A self trusting soul is earned and created by the habit of not hiding from its own questions, but trying to answer them, instead.

Invented Dancer figure

'Dancing Through Fire'

8”X11” Graphite on Paper. I named this one ‘Dancing through Fire’. I started it while listening to the lyrics of a song I heard on the radio earlier that day. It was a pop song about self-empowerment, but the visual image of a dancer dancing amidst flames ignited my imagination and I grabbed my sketchbook and drew a sketch of how such figure might be.

Her body posture must reflect the nature of the flames; a wild, selfish, free force reaching up for oxygen but grounded to the ground where it begins.

It needed to be uninhibited and in full force of motion.
When I was done with the figure I added shackles, which I did not initially have in mind. The pose seemed powerful and she needed to be grounded, like the flames. A powerful force ignoring its external bonds.

It stands in my mind as a symbol of life amidst difficulties; a dance as a response to shackles, saying that one’s spirit cannot be bound.

I started with the gesture, then general volumes, then anatomy and lastly all the values (the lights and darks) had to be figured out. That was the most challenging part, to imagine a light source and how this light source would influence a figure, how to arrange it all to make the figure stand out and still allow it to have dimensionality (rather than being 2 dimensional).

It was a difficult mental exercise but satisfying nonetheless.

Finally Graduated..

So I figure I’d write an update about how things are going. June 29th I graduated from a full-time 3 year program at Georgetown Atelier.

Just in time… as even though I think I have so much more to learn, I was definitely ready to be out of an atelier environment. Perhaps this particular atelier, but nonetheless, it is nice to be on my own.

I have a couple of finished pieces which I will photograph and display soon.
One of the finished pieces is “Glimpse of the desert” – a painting I’ve been working on for a while from a miniature setup I built. Continue reading

Thoughts about music and Painting

Trying to find a good version of Chopin’s Nocturne Op.9 on iTunes I find myself going through some strange feelings while listening to the different versions by different artists. In most cases, I feel this strong irritations at those who are doing it “wrong”. They slow down in sentimental parts too much, making it sound artificial, or they play around with the notes trying to sound fancy, or they space the notes in such a way that makes it sound “sophisticated” but completely loses touch with the emotional content.

I think to myself: It is just like those dancers who have perfected the moves of the dance so much that they seem to be a caricature of expressing feelings instead of expressing them through dance. Continue reading

‘Looking Forward’: My recent painting

Looking Foreward

'Looking Foreward'
‘Looking Forward’, 17”x24.5” oil on Board

Here is the study I did for this painting (minus the last few brush strokes to finish it):

Study for "Looking Forward"

The model I was painting was a beautiful woman in her 50’s. I decided it would be a good challenge to paint her younger because it would force me to understand how the light interacts with her flesh. It wasn’t easy and if anything, it was a good reminder of the need to further study the anatomy of the head. As usual, trying to draw from imagination is the best way to realize how well you have the form conceptualized (or not!).

It was interesting, and I appreciate how the model brought this mood and attitude with her to her sitting sessions (most notably at first! before it started being boring and uncomfortable I’m sure).

This painting got me thinking of just how much of myself I bring into a painting vs. how much it is about capturing the model.

I think nowadays (or maybe always!) it is considered graceful to focus on capturing the essence of the model who is sitting for the artist. Paintings are usually named after the sitter, as well. But for me, I always make it about myself and how I feel  – even when it is a male model. It is a human being, and that is enough for me to relate to their experience.

I feel like when I re-create them on my canvas that figure exists in a different universe. And I capture how they feel while in that world. It’s almost like writing a story in the third person… Often this form of writing makes the writer relate to the characters more personally than if they wrote it in first person form.

About getting in “The mood” for painting

An artwork must have all its elements integrated around its theme to be good. This means that every detail that is being painted has to be painted such that it helps to emphasize the meaning of the work.

A painting involves so many things to keep in mind to create it: the colors, value, brushwork, edges, colors, thickness of paint, drawing aspect and so on – that something must be used to allow the artist to maintain the cohesiveness of the work while creating its different parts.

The only way to do it, in my opinion, is to let all the artist’s skills, experience and knowledge work from the background and work primarily from their emotions and inspiration in terms of the artist’s state of mind.

When I’m immersed in the work such that I feel as if it is a real world and I am inside it – I do things right. When I find myself thinking of other, technical things and try to work that way the result is always inferior.

To illustrate: suppose you’re working on the background of a painting, the environment in which your figure would go; you can paint it while thinking things like: “A background needs to be unified, it needs to be subtle, so I’ll work my brush thinly and do this and that technical details”, OR you can think something along the lines of how the figure would feel about the background, as if it were a real place. Something like: “The sky seem distant such that the figure feels that they are inside a huge space. Nothing is pressing on them and the sky surrounds the figure as if it belongs there”.

Surprisingly, the sky would come out looking like all the technical things you wanted it to be if you think of the later, but will likely not be as nice if you try to think of it in technical terms as you’re creating it.


Now this long train of thought it actually just the introduction to a different topic which really bothers me. That is; the difficulty of getting into that state of mind.

I think that this is the most difficult challenge I am facing as an artist. I find the mood inspired upon me by my day to day life is a huge obstacle to “getting in the right mood” to make my art.
My art demands the best of me, the best part of my soul, and I feel as if, either the circumstances of my life or something in me that does not allow me to delve into that.
If I start working on a painting and I am at the easel every day (like when I’m at my school), I might eventually get into the right mood, if I feel it spiritually “safe”.
Years ago, when I was done with my army service (at age 19), I lived alone, in a nice, isolated studio apartment with no TV or computer and a phone I barely used (by choice). I painted all day and night, every day and every night and in the rest of the time worked or took walks in the area by myself.
I have never been more productive in my art in my life. It was the right environment for it. I was very happy, but also lonely (and not financially stable).

I need to find a different way to get into the mood that doesn’t involve the extreme of removing every trace of human contact from my life.
I wonder what it is, and why, that having no one around has such a powerful effect on letting me allow that inside world to come out, to make it real and to immerse myself in it.


Not being able to get into the “mood”, I usually just do something else. Days and weeks go by and no painting gets done. True, I could discipline myself into being at my easel, but the clash of motivations is very strong, and unless I manage to really immerse myself in the mood of the painting, I won’t paint it well anyway.

I bet this is a big problem for a lot of artists who create work based on inspiration.


Tomorrow starts my second term of my last year at Georgetown atelier. I wonder how the routine of getting back to the easel every day and painting will affect me. I hope it will affect me for the better.




Short paintings and thoughts (weekly #23)

Here are the two studies I did this past week. The photos have some glare, but they will have to do for now.

Getting back into painting after several months of not painting proves to be challenging. A lot of times it feels like I am learning more about what NOT to do with oil paints rather than what TO do with them.

One important thing I must learn to do is to trust myself and move on once I painted an area. But I also realized that trusting myself must be earned – I cannot simply convince my subconscious to “trust”. If I am sufficiently thorough in my method of painting, trusting will happen, but if I’m not, I will not “trust”.

It is very easy, early in the morning, being tired, to be tempted to mix a paint that is “just close” and say to myself: “I will adjust it later”.
It takes a lot of discipline to slow down, consider the place of a particular area in the painting in relation to the global values and global color scheme.
It is much easier to try to mimic that particular color that you see in that particular instance and move on. But great paintings have that analysis completed before the painter starts painting. This way, every part makes sense as part of a whole color/value scheme and is not just copied.

I think a lot of modern works are more “copied” than arranged around a value/color scheme. They look more photographic, but less harmonic.

I’m afraid that if I will attempt that level of discipline I will go mad, maybe even not be able to retain the complexity, yet I think this is what I need to attempt to do. I know that over time, something that at first appears difficult becomes automatized. It’s just a matter of pushing yourself through the initial difficulty. The effort is worth it because it will make my paintings better in the long run.

During the first week of painting I felt unusual lack of control over the behavior of the paints.

It took me a week to realize that the problem was that I was using only one brush to paint and constantly cleaning it with mineral spirit, which made the paint very runny.
Oy! Everything I tried to apply would instantly get mixed with everything else and it was impossible to assert the power of a new brush stroke.
I was also reminded again how quickly a painting can fall apart when you use the existing paint on the canvas and move it around instead of adding new paint. Oy.
Then I also realized that with a palette that is too light, it is near impossible to distinguish the hues of dark colors. They all look the same – simply dark.
My thoughts dangle between “YES!! I got it! I can succeed!” to “I will never be good at painting. It’s not my thing!”.
My painting schizophrenia ends when I remind myself that I have the right motivation, that I love what I want to create, that I have already accomplished some good paintings and therefore, just to shut the hell up and keep practicing. It usually works after I use some harsh language. 🙂

Getting sleep also helps with mental stability and calmness and an overall positive approach.
On that note, I will do just that… go get some sleep.

Have a good week and glad to have you as a reader on my blog.




Paintings, Drawings and Atelier projects (weekly #22)

Been busy busy in the past 2 weeks. Finally started painting this week.

Here is the first painting I did this year, during a 2 hour sitting:

(Enlarge all images by clicking on them).

I also went back to my dear skull, this time to finish the battle. Indeed, it is a glorious one. One which will be remembered in the Ifat history books of painting progression. This is the second skull I am painting, in the same setup. I worked on the first for 3 months and decided to start over because I judged it to be overworked and too far off.
In working on the current one I realized that I am unclear on the global value relationships and did a small study to figure it out. It’s a very analytic process, not a lot of fun and surfing going on there. Here is a neat photo I took of the painting, the study (middle) and the setup of the skull itself.

At the bottom of my easel is attached a new note I wrote to myself with some stern reminders on proper work methods. This is my attempt to assign myself as my own enforces. I even added some dramatic emphasis to make sure I understand how serious I am about these rules! It’s working great so far.

The one thing I still need to add in my studio is a note my brother wrote me for my last birthday which made me feel very good about what I’m doing.


More stuff:

The sketch I discussed in this blog post has developed into a fully developed skeleton on which I planned to overlay muscles, flesh and ultimately make into a full human being with invented lighting and all. Now that I started painting this drawing will have to take a second priority, but it is wonderful to be able to draw something from imagination and see it come to live without a model. It will be interesting to see it through. Here is the skeleton I drew (the sketch from which it started on the right):

Another quick and fun drawing I did a week ago:

Turns out that sometimes being in a bad mood helps me bring more emotion into an artwork. The art process can become an outlet for what I’m feeling if the subject matter fits.
At this time I kiss goodbye to the quick block-in’s section of the curriculum. Here are a couple of the last block-in’s I did:



One of the forms of analysis that come to me most naturally, as a natural desire, is to understand the form I’m looking at in 3D. I think every artist has different tendencies in this regard. Some tend to see more graphical shadow shapes, some focus more on gesture lines. For me it’s been the planes and 3D connections. I don’t remember experiencing it when I drew from photos before joining the atelier, but once I started doing long drawings from life, it was one of the main things I was thinking of when drawing. I find this pleasurable in rendering as well, because I feel that by pulling my lines in the direction of the turning of the form I’m creating something real inside the page, as if I could almost slide my hands on it as if it were a solid object. Sounds a lot like how a sculptor would think. Indeed, I love sculpting too. I would definitely do some of that in the future, if time permits.

I find that painting does not come as easily to me as drawing does. But slowly I’m beginning to remember how to paint. I’ve had nearly a whole summer to forget it, with exception of a painting I consider successful which I painted in August.
I wish you all a good week, I appreciate your interest,


An Evening of painting outside

This first step in what will become an oil painting is about light, Forest light.
That’s also the name I will give it.
Objective: Make this a short painting for inspiration and study. Let’s see if I can keep it this way. Short and simple, that is 🙂

I started painting this tonight, at dusk, enclosed in my green backyard. Music flowing free in the evening air, feeling absolutely amazing.

I started the evening with the following song [Link], which, to me, feels like it’s capturing the feeling pretty well.

I want to describe just how I feel because, really, if I can ever capture it in a painting, fully and completely, I will know I have achieved my goal as an artist.

The way I feel is – absolutely invincible. Not a victory over anyone specific or any particular problem – but a sense of uncontested freedom and victory over life’s obstacles as a whole. More than that – it’s as if life is pure joy. I feel self confidence so absolute, it doesn’t even feel like it relates specifically to me as an individual, but as if I am that feeling and there is nothing left but to bless life.
I was thinking to myself… feeling the way I did is the reason I am an artist, so that I can communicate it through art.

People often wonder in today’s culture, what reason a man has for staying loyal to one’s conscience. This is my answer; To be able to feel like this, despite all of life’s problems, struggles to figure out right from wrong and all the stuff that brings one down to the point of wanting to give up one’s goals. Personally, I’ve had my share of those and still do. I’m not gonna lie about it.
But so long as I can feel the way I did tonight, life is worth living and the struggle for your goals is worth having, no matter the hardships. Bring it on.