Sunday 18 August 2013

12 Lessons for the Artist

1. You'll never be satisfied with your work. 
  When you do become satisfied, it means you've not pushed your boundaries enough, or that you're not growing artistically.

2. The longer you stare at it, the more you'll hate it.
  I'm not sure whether it's something that happens to only a few of us, but if I'm ever slightly happy with one of my paintings, I will stare at it and begin to pick it apart and find all the faults I can in it. And in about 5 minutes, I'll go from actually thinking it's decent to hating it with my entire being.

3. But it's actually not as bad as you think it is.
  After you go through the stage of hate with your painting, set it aside for a couple of days. When you return to it, you'll be much more objective and not so emotionally attached to it. And it won't look half as bad as you think it did.

4. Don't be afraid of teaching others and/or learning from them as well.
  No one draws, or paints, or sketches exactly the way you do. When you teach someone else your method, you are giving the joy of Art to them. And you cannot somehow "be less than a certain artist" if you learn from them, so don't be afraid to do study sketches of another artist's work. Just don't sell it as your own after.

5. There will always be someone better than you.
  Always- no exceptions. You're awesome at graphite drawings? Cool, but can you paint in oils? You won an award in a watercolour competition? Go and join a coloured pencil competition– I'm sure you'll have much to learn there. There's always something else to learn and that you should always...

6. Listen.
  When someone gives you criticism, don't be defensive. Everyone has their own opinions. If another artist tells you about their method of working, just listen. Absorb what you think has value, let go of everything else. It doesn't help for you to think that only your way is the right way, or that you're the best on the block.

7. Be nice to everyone.
  I think this is a rule that applies to all human beings, but I'd just like to remind you just in case, you know, you forget. Artists need people to buy their works. The more people like you, the higher the chances of them wanting to buy your work. Also, you never know whether the gentleman/lady you just met might introduce you to a gallery who might have an interest in representing you, or to a friend who is currently looking for art to hang on the empty walls of their new apartment.

8. Draw (or at least sketch) every day.
  Most of us have other commitments, but if you really want to improve you have to keep that pencil, brush, and/or pen moving. At least give yourself 15 minutes a day to draw.

9. Procrastination is a time-sucker. Set yourself deadlines.
  I procrastinate a lot sometimes. But I'm learning to overcome it. At the end of each week, I take a few minutes to reflect back on my week and what I had managed to accomplish. I identify the things that I could have done without- the things that I use as an excuse for procrastination- and I eliminate (or at least reduce) those activities. If you set yourself deadlines, you'll feel the need to finish your project and it'll push you past the "ugly stage".

[See blog post: Ways to Stop Procrastinating]

10. There'll always be an "ugly stage" in your painting.
  You know, that gap in time when your art piece is about one third done and all there is on your paper are the outlines of the subject and the base colours. Everything looks horrid and you feel as though it won't work out and you just want to give up... Don't. Keep going.

11. But sometimes things just don't work out...
  Like when you pick a subject that is too complicated for you right now. Or when you didn't sort the composition problems in the sketching phase. Or when the colours are getting muddy because you just couldn't get that shade of lilac-blue correctly. Things sometimes just don't work out. But don't be disheartened. Try something else. Or maybe start anew. Tripping up is part of the learning process.

12. Know where you stand, but don't compare yourself to others.
  Look at other artists' works and ask yourself where you stand amongst them. But don't fall into the trap of saying "I'll never be good enough because is wayyy better than me". It sounds contradictory, I know, but what you need to do is know that you're not the best– that there is still room for improvement– but that you're still making progress in your artistic journey. Compare yourself to the you of yesterday. If you've improved and have learnt something today, you're doing well.

  And most important of all...

13. Cut yourself some slack, for Ford's sake.
  As artists, we're usually far more critical of ourselves than others are to us. Stop beating yourself up. It's bad for the soul. You're awesome in your own ways, and no other artist can create what you create exactly the way you do.

  Yeah, I know that brings the number of points to 13 but I never was any good at Maths. Cut me some slack, alright.  :)

  What other lessons do you think are important? Leave me a comment in the comment section below.

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