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Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Real Things an Artist MUST Develop for Success

If you've had any kind of formal education in the arts, you know that the emphasis is on teaching you technique. But there is a whole other level of skill that has nothing to do with technique and everything about teaching you to make art the foundation of your life path. If your in art for the money, prestige, or hobby then don't read any further. It won't make any sense to you. If you are in art to make it your on. 

1) Your art is not a hobby. Its a life course

I think this is the single biggest mistake artists make. They think because they work two other jobs and have a home and family that their art must take second place to all else. The moment we relegate our art to that status then it truly is a hobby and nothing else. Time does not equal commitment. If you can only place two hours a week on your art, then that two hours should be your priority. If its not then one week its two hours, the next week its an hour and a half and before you know it your art is no longer a part of your life. Artists who are making a life commitment to art find the time, no matter what. 

2) Intuition

Society places way too little emphasis on having good intuition. Trust your gut! If something your working on feels like it should go in a different direction then listen to that voice. If you mess it up anyway, that is not a reason not to listen to that inner voice. Over time this will be a skill that you refine and use over and over again. Like a guitar player who can only play one chord at first, as your art skills develop so will your intuition. 

3) A sense of timing

Develop a sense timing in all things. When I work, I know I am only good for a certain amount of time. My mind starts to wear out and I know my work will be inferior if I continue. Learn to have a sense of timing in everything, not just your art. We are impatient as a rule. Thats just who we are as humans. Forcing ourselves to have a sense of when something is the right time and when it is not is the essence of who we are as artists. Timing is everything. 

4) Evolution of skills

Your skills as an artist must evolve. If you are particularly good at painting forest scenes, then once you've mastered them, go on to something new. That something new may be as small as adding an animal to the forest scene, or painting a red tree is an evolution from the original skill. Most important, "don't get comfortable". If you challenge yourself daily to surpass what you did the day before then your work will always evolve. And watch for pathways. Think of your art skills as a single path. For example if you are great at watercolors, watch for ways to diverge from just doing the same kind of work every day. Diverging from one set of skills and introducing one new element is how you become a master artisan, not just a crafter. 

5) Emotions

When you look at a great piece of art, it will often go deeper into you than just what you see with your eyes. If you've ever been in a museum, you may have noticed a group of people walking along looking at paintings, and one person stops and looks closer at a particular piece. The others move on. Further down another person may stop and stare while the group again moves away. These people are experiencing more when they see that piece of art. In some way its hit them emotionally. It may be anger, or sadness, or joy. But its now more to them than just a painting or a sculpture. Something resonated within them and made them stop and perhaps try to puzzle out why it made an impression on them. Art is like that. Every piece speaks differently to the viewer. But if the artist puts no emotion into the piece, very little will come back out to the viewer. If you train yourself to be emotional about what you are creating, it can and will make some of your viewers resonate with your art like a big gong going off in their head. 

6) Patience

I think we all suffer from a bit of impatience with our art. We fret over drying times, fine detailing and slow methodical brush strokes. But it is a skill that you must have in order to be successful. I've seen many pieces of art where the artist had the skills but their impatience led them to forget one crucial element of the work and as a result it failed to impress. 

7) Broad spectrum skills

Once you master one area of art such as watercolors, sculpting, etc., you must move on and add to those skills. The wider your repertoire of skills the wider range of ideas you will be able to examine and work with. The end result is that your art is always exploring new realms and older skills are always augmented with newer ones. 

8) Become comfortable with the fact that not everyone will like your work

When we first begin in art we hope everyone will like what we create and for the most part family and friends will tell you so. This can give us a false sense of our own abilities. But as you grow and the audience who views your work expands, not everyone will like it. If you can resolve yourself to that fact earlier then it frees you up to create anything your mind can dream up rather than only things which you know others will like and which will make you money. 

9) Be willing to take risks 

Playing it safe with your art means that an essential element is missing from your work. Sometimes we have to take a risk, whether its by being an art advocate, trying something totally new or radical, or taking a chance that you would not usually be willing to take. All of these things lend something to the art you create. Think of it like stripping down naked and sitting on a street corner and painting. This is an emotional stripping. Your tearing away preconceptions in order to go to a new level with what you create. 

10) Drop pretension 

Being artist does not make you god. It may give you insights into the world that others just don't grasp, but if you are pretentious about it you will assassinate your own reputation. Be humble. Your not the best. Your not the only one. Your not even thinking up anything that someone in the thousands of years preceding you hasn't already considered. Place your confidence in your skills and your ideas, but NOT your pretension. 

11) Make Your Mistakes Count

Mistakes can be the greatest things that ever happen to an artist. We set off to create one thing, we botch it and we suddenly realize we have something pretty unexpected and unique that we would have missed totally if we hadn't messed up. Nothing....absolutely nothing that you create is a total loss. It can always be fixed, changed or upgraded into something pretty freaking cool. Its your own perceptions you have to change to see that a mistake can often be a blessing. Always remember that some of the best art comes from mistakes. 

12) Money is fun but secondary

If you set off in your art career to make money you may do so, but you will never be an artist if that is your only reason for creating something. Money creates pressure. Money means compromising. Neither have a place in art. If you make money without compromising your joy of creating and your need to pursue the artistic dream then great! I always think about Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. If you've never seen it, merely to look on a photo of it will tell you that the man painted for the shear joy of it. Not for what Pope Julius was going to pay him for it. 

And never forget to always approach your art with a warriors spirit and a saints heart. Now go create something amazing!


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