Learning to paint is a two-fold process. The technical aspect of learning how to draw, make sound compositions, control edges, value and color takes years of practice. The other component, self knowledge, that is knowing one's self well enough to discern what it is you feel and truly want to express, takes even longer. Put together, these two ingredients to becoming a competent artist take time. Lots of time.
Too many artists that might have become accomplished simply got discouraged and bailed out too soon. It is not only a loss to society, but even a greater loss to the artists themselves. There are many factors that keep us from achieving our goals as artists: laziness, lack of confidence, an inability to budget time, or personal and professional setbacks. Learning to do anything well requires perseverance, whether it's athletics, music, dance or rocket science.
The journey to making it as an artist isn't an easy road, especially in the early years when less satisfying jobs often have to be pursued to make a living. If you are serious about moving your work to the next level, you must be willing to experience failures. After all, who ever learned anything from success? Sometimes I think discouragement is just nature's way of weeding out the ones who are not entirely committed.
Even for artists like myself who have been at it for a long time, there are challenges to be met every day. In this economic downturn, the challenges for us become even greater. To help achieve your goals, following are three suggestions for staying on track:
- Make time to paint. No matter what, carve out time every day or week, and devote it to nothing but painting. Let your friends and family know you have made this important appointment. Even if your paintings are stacked to the ceiling in this economic recession, use the opportunity to create new works. Instead of chasing the market, chase your heart. You may end up surprising yourself with work that is truly fresh and original.
- Set a goal. Having a reasonable goal and focusing on it can be motivating. Challenge yourself to have so many works by a certain date, and stick with the plan. If a whale sandwich is eaten bite by bite, imagine how much you will accomplish over a designated period of time, both in finished works and in personal growth.
- Find inspiration. Visit museums and good galleries. Study the work of the masters and analyze what makes their paintings successful. If you can't get to the museums, look at their collections online. Find a group of like-minded artists and meet regularly for camaraderie and critiques. Most importantly, think positively. Your effort and attitude will be the greatest factor in determining your success. For eleven more tips on Making Your Best Paintings Ever, come and join me at the Cecelia Beaux Forum in Washington D.C., Saturday, April 25th at noon.
Mary Whyte Editor’s Note: Mary Whyte will also be demonstrating on Friday, April 24 from 9:30a-11:00a and will be part of the Bonus Program: The Business Side of Art on Friday evening from 8:00p-10:00p.