Painting isn’t dead. It’s not old and decrepit. It’s not expired. It’s not archaic.
Painting, according to fine artist Ryan S. Brown, is more alive and relevant than it’s ever been.
Brown is a painter, instructor and founder of the Center for Academic Study and Naturalist Painting in Springville, and he intends to make art more accessible to the general public.
CAS focuses on traditional techniques to create “art that serves the public, elevates society and reestablishes the standards of art as a visual language that can be understood and felt beyond any boundaries.”
Brown’s engrossing fascination with 19th-century tradition was a reaction against the principles of modernism. During his college years, Brown tried to pull meaning out of the movements and mediums he was exposed to, but struggled to find any.
“The teachers didn’t have the skills I was looking for,” Brown said. “They were the parrots of poorly comprehended ideas. Although they had bought into a lie, I couldn’t do it. I never had what it took to believe in depth that wasn’t there.”
After he received his Bachelor of Fine Art in Illustration, Brown recognized that his education had provided very few practical skills for survival in the real world of an artist. His education had given him an overview of the liberal arts and a heap of jumbled theory, but no viable technique.
Shortly after graduation, Brown opened an art academy in Utah County and tutored aspiring artists for three years before continuing his education at the Florence Academy of Art. After two years in Italy with his wife and three children, Brown and his family returned to America and opened the Center for Academic Study and Naturalist Painting in Springville.
CAS’s reputation has grown since opening its doors in 2008, and is now one of 30 traditional art academies around the world recognized by the Art Renewal Center, an international organization devoted to propagating excellence in the arts.
When asked why he has devoted so many years of his life to a field that many art elitists have deemed dead, Brown smiled and cited the words of French painter Eugene Delacroix, “What moves those of genius, what inspires their work is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is not enough.”
“The purpose of art has always been to enrich and inspire,” Brown said. “Art is a service-oriented pursuit. We make art to lift others, to serve society.”
According to Brown and the Art Renewal Center, when the Abstract Expressionists turned their back on reality, they turned their back on humanity. They began creating work that was too empirical for the general public to understand, and the underlying purpose of art—communicating—began to erode.
Our society became fanatical about the newest fads in art, but they were all fleeting fascinations.
“Modern art was never meant to last,” Brown said. “Most of it was merely an immature attempt to get noticed. As a result, most contemporary art is like a magazine—very forgettable. The one thing that will make painting obsolete is if we continue on the road that modernism set us on. Modernism shunned the public that art was originally meant for. Its whole purpose became to mock and shock the general public.”
Brown stands with the Art Renewal Center in renouncing “the idea that development in art requires destruction of boundaries and standards, pointless emphasis on ‘newness,’ or pursuit of the bizarre and ugly.”
“Beauty, craft and discipline are constant ideals,” Brown said. “Knowledge-based and craft-based ideals will always have a positive use in society.”
“A real artist must have knowledge and skills to speak. Only by discipline can an artist use art for its true purpose—feeding the people.”