by- Petar Meseldzija

The following conversation
between a professor and an art student is fictive, it never took place in
reality. Nevertheless it addresses an important issue and sums up the  discussions about this particular subject that
I had during the years with my professors and fellow artists. The purpose of
this little dialog is to raise the question and the awareness of the issue,
more than to offer an answer.

I have used the segments
and details from my own paintings to illustrate this dilemma and to make it more
apparent. Basically this issue deals with two crucial aspect in painting ( or
should I call it the crucial insights) – the problem of composition, and the
problem of content ( in other words the atmosphere or the suggestive power of
the image).

Professor – …Pay attention to the whole, don’t get
lost in the details.

Student –  But,
I love details.

Professor –  The
composition in its entirety should be the subject of your concern, not the
details. The whole is more important than the details. 

Student –  But,
the details make up the whole. Therefore they are also important. What if a
detail is really good, truly beautiful, and in fact better than the rest of the

Professor – In that case we should “kill the darling” by
repainting the detail in question.

Student – But, can I keep the detail and “kill” the
rest of the painting? I like details…

Professor – No, you cannot.

Student – I mean, can I cut out the detail and call it
a whole painting?

Professor – No, definitely not… You must sacrifice
your “darlings” in order to save the whole. When you are finished with your art
education and become a master in your own right, you can do whatever you like. But
now, and for the time being, you have to follow the instructions.

Student – But…can I…?

Professor – That would be all for today. I need a cup
of coffee. See you next week. Good day to you…