Art School - Raluca Neferu, “Maru” 16 x 22 cm., oil on linen
Raluca Neferu, “Maru” 16 x 22 cm., oil on linen

There is more to art than mere technique and more that art school gives than mere artisan skill…

By Raluca Neferu

The hero’s journey is also the artist’s journey.

Yet, this is not a story of struggle, discipline, and perseverance, a praise of hard work, good habits, and daily routines.

There is another side to creating meaningful art; one that speaks not to a restless mind but to a peaceful soul.

Like many artists, I too used to swear allegiance to the unshakeable belief that my career as an artist would be a ceaseless struggle.

How could I have believed otherwise, as a budding realist artist immersed in a mainstream culture that shunned realist art?

Art school - Raluca Neferu, “Marcelo” 24 x 41 cm., oil on linen
Raluca Neferu, “Marcelo” 24 x 41 cm., oil on linen

In many universities and galleries, realist art is disconsidered and devalued. No wonder artists are often romanticized as fiercely individualistic, for indeed, there is much to be admired in those who succeed not because of but in spite of the trends of their times.

And yet, I trusted that there were more of us who still recognized the value of the quality traits behind fine realist art, warriors who fought for the preservation and elevation of the human spirit.

And so, I started my search, not just for a place to hone my artistic skills, but even more for a place to house my artistic spirit. I sought to bond with other artists of talent, cultivate our human qualities through art, and bring about a rebirth of the classical arts of skill.

Through the Art Renewal Center (ARC), I discovered Atelier Madrid, where my hope proved well founded. Indeed, there were other allies to be found on my journey besides the heavy armor of my steadfast pursuit of the fine arts and of their supporting qualities above all else.

Art school - Raluca Neferu, “Andrea,” 16 x 22 cm., oil on linen
Raluca Neferu, “Andrea,” 16 x 22 cm., oil on linen

I found mentors and friends, my art teachers and other art students, who showed me a different way to look at my life as an artist: a way to recapture genuine enthusiasm for and enjoyment of the creative process, without worrying about its result; to learn and follow its natural rhythms, without trying to force it apace; to enjoy the efforts of creating, without the stress of self-doubt.

The experience of studying art in an atelier was more meaningful and enriching for me than doing so in a formal institution. It was liberating to know that no grading system, stressful exams, or time limitations could interfere with the natural pace at which I could best savor the acts of learning and creating.

Three years of atelier study heightened my appreciation for the beauty of simplicity, sharpened my mind’s eye to perceive with clarity, and nurtured my sensitivity to the inspirations of daily life. However, it also took away my unrealistic expectation of immediate reward and the unconscious projection of my preconceptions upon reality.

Witnessing my teachers’ success instilled in me confidence that I too could have a successful career as an artist. At the same time, experiencing first-hand how much time and effort goes into a fine work of realist art tempered my naive expectation of grand achievements within unreasonably narrow timeframes.

I learned to see a shape as it is, not as it looks like, nor as I want it to be. To understand a stretch of time, a concept, a person in the same manner. That all true knowledge comes from observation; all else is wishful thinking and self-delusion. What my imagination lost in flamboyance, it gained in sharpness.

Portrait drawings and paintings - Raluca Neferu, “Amelia,” 19 x 27 cm., oil on linen
Raluca Neferu, “Amelia,” 19 x 27 cm., oil on linen

Through my exploration of portraiture, I gained a greater love for people. There is no person whose portrait cannot convey a unique beauty. Unlike photography, which distinguishes ‘photogenic’ people, in painting, everyone’s traits bear witness to their distinct qualities.

Indeed, there is more to art than mere technique and more that art school gives than mere artisan skill. There is also the human quality of the artist behind the pencil or brush, which imparts its living emotion to the drawing or painting.

Above all else, this is what art school has given me: greater intensity of focus, caring for quality, attention to detail, accuracy of perception, warmth of communication, clarity of thought, depth of awareness, understanding of harmony, and receptiveness to critique.

At the same time, it took away from me some of my former stubbornness, impatience, prejudice, unconsciousness, insecurity, intolerance towards others, and fear of being judged.

Just as harmony between elements supports a painting’s emotional nuance, so does harmony between people support the emotional atmosphere of a place, and the Atelier has given me a most nurturing environment to grow in both as an artist and as a human being.

Even now, I have never ceased to think of Atelier Madrid as home and of my colleagues and teachers as family. I have gained more than artistic skills; I have gained an artistic family.

They taught me to abandon the battlefield and join the playground – a place in my mind and heart where I can be free to create, sustained by the positive emotions and creative energy that flow naturally when following my own heart without collateral interests or concerns. Where everything is alive with the mysticism of art, and painting becomes more than painting – but a meditation, a prayer, a spark of inner light, a breath of new life.

Portrait drawing of a man - Raluca Neferu, “Alejandro” 16 x 22 cm., oil on linen
Raluca Neferu, “Alejandro” 16 x 22 cm., oil on linen

When I put down the sword, I realized this hero is meant to walk a different path – of fulfillment rather than confusion, of freedom rather than stasis, of harmony rather than distress.

Whatever I do in life, art will enrich it, and make it whole. Because, for me, art is no battle. Art is a fount of bliss. As I hope it is for you.

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