Posts Tagged ‘success’

Every effort—a learning opportunity

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

Does an artist always need to practice?  Absolutely!  The old adage “Use it or lose it,” applies here just as much as in any other realm.  Conscious and deliberate practice sessions are often undertaken to develop or strengthen a specific skill.  But every painting I undertake … or even consider and reject before ever setting brush to palette … gives me additional practice in skills that continually need honing.

Whether to paint, or not, is a continual question:  Is this subject worthy of the time and effort needed?  Is the concept interesting or evocative?  What makes me want to paint it?  Can the subject or scene be treated in an interesting enough manner to create an appealing composition?  When the answer is no, I keep looking.  When it is yes, it poses further questions:

How varied is the value range, and can it be adjusted or simplified to create a stronger statement?  How should I handle the color harmony?  Does the subject lend itself to a limited palette or beg for a broader spectrum of hues?  What is the chromatic range?  Will it translate well into paint?  If not, how can the scene be modified to improve its effectiveness?

What structural design will best serve the subject to effectively express the concept?

All of these questions and many more need to be dealt with before painting should actually begin.  And the act of simply going through the exercise of seeking the answers (either consciously or subconsciously) sharpens my artistic eye and multiplies the creative possibilities.

Finding alternatives to the obvious answers helps keep my work fresh.  Why allow it to bog down by approaching the same types of subjects in the same-ol’-same-ol’ ways?  It’s good to play with fresh approaches to see what might evolve.

No matter how hard we may try, not every painting is going to succeed.  But that doesn’t mean that the effort is wasted.  Every painting, whether successful or not, serves a purpose.  It is another step along an endless learning curve.  It may reinforce previous successes or call attention to a need for stricter attention to some technical skill; it sharpens my perception and hones my technique.  And it broadens my experience, which in turn nurtures my creativity.

Oh yes, it’s wonderful to find encouragement in achieving a difficult effect.  But it’s also a welcome challenge to recognize the need for developing a different approach to a seemingly insurmountable problem.  That simply serves as a goad to keep me trying.  And that, in itself, is valuable.

We rarely underestimate the satisfaction of a success.  But neither should we underestimate the positive potential of a failure!  We should always ask what we can learn from it.

For the Love of Art

Saturday, October 1st, 2016

In the past several weeks I’ve been exploring the question of “success.”  What do I really want?  What is my ultimate purpose?  I’ve repeatedly been advised to discover my own definition of success rather than accepting the assumption that it’s the same as other artists’.  I was surprised, as I dug deeper, to realize that my definition of success includes a sense of joy and satisfaction that has little to do with sales or financial gain.

Certainly sales and income are both inducements to continue and a means to support my pursuit of painting.  But I find greater joy and satisfaction in teaching, mentoring, and sharing my love of art and understanding of artistic principles with others who want to learn.

I enjoy teaching others painting skills and artistic appreciation.  Totally aside from my own drive to continually improve, the act of teaching motivates me to continue striving to hone my skills and to achieve greater understanding of artistic principles.

This blog and my monthly newsletter also provide outreach arms to those of you with whom I may have no other personal contact.  They also remind me to work regularly enough to identify and develop topics of potential interest to my readers.  (Though if any of you would like to suggest a topic, I’m open to that, as well.)

Teaching in-person classes helps me to establish clear goals not only for student learning but also for my own studies, since it requires that I stay well ahead of most of my students and at the very least remain on a conversant par with the most advanced of them.  By providing deadlines of scheduled class meeting times during “high season” in our largely seasonal community, teaching also ensures that I work consistently without slacking off, even when I may be tempted to postpone studio work to socialize in other ways.  Despite spending so much time in my studio, by teaching I also have the opportunity to get to know artistically inclined neighbors, both old and new, with whom I might not otherwise have crossed paths.

So, to me, success means finding joy and satisfaction in teaching, mentoring, and encouraging other artists while continuing to improve my own skills.  Pricing of both my classes and my artwork is more to establish a sense of value and respect for myself and my art than to earn an income.

Do you find this surprising?  Fair or not, the value of both art and services are usually perceived by the general public on a financial basis.  Students who do not need to pay for classes tend to attend class irregularly, granting higher priority to other interests and momentary whims, whereas those who have paid for classes are more inclined to attend regularly, apply themselves more assiduously, and express greater respect and attention to the instructor and the course content.

Similarly, artwork that is given or sold at unrealistically low prices garners less respect or appreciation than work that has been priced to reflect the artist’s skill level in comparison to that of other artists of similar experience or achievement.  So sales both help to cover incurred expenses and provide positive assurance to others of the intrinsic value of my artwork, while helping to establish my credentials for potential students.

Of course I like to be paid for my work.  Who wouldn’t welcome this kind of positive feedback and encouragement?  Sales that support my work are lovely, but they are only a secondary goal.  My sense of real success is much more closely related to my pleasure in helping others find satisfaction in their own art, as I have found satisfaction in mine.