So You Think . . . . .



Sketches and trial composition and color studies of Linemen at work

pencil and watercolor

So you think it’s all talent?? I say Baloney !

It seems every time people comment on the work of artist, including my own, these statements are overheard:

“You are soooo talented.”

“I could never do that.”

“I tried it once and didn’t do well, so I never did it again.”

I say “Baloney!” because over the years I have spent painting . . .and counting all the failures which no one ever sees . . . . .it has been hard, focused and devoted W O R K ! That is not to say that the efforts have been unhappy, or that there has been no frustration or disappointments. Quite the contrary! Underneath all of the paintings before now has been study. Diligent, concentrated investigation and attempt after attempt to resolve unsatisfactory results has been the daily rigor.

Here is an example of what sort of effort goes into developing a painting from an idea.

First, there are the sketches to determine how the artist wants to compose or present the subject. Often, the effort stops there. Once in a while, though, an idea persists and further development is called for.

Rather than paint the mundane, ordinary stuff we see daily, why not elevate it to a different stature. In this example, I spent a full week exploring different color schemes while also considering different compositional ideas. Oh, sure I had reference photos from which to select ideas and approaches, but after several drawings on tracing paper, modifications had to be made to make clear what was being said visually.

In the end, I did develop a painting from these studies, which I will show in the next post. The point here is not the finished product, but the effort over fully two weeks of daily work to bring that painting to life.

Talent? Baloney!! It is trial and error and error and error and trial and more trials and more errors. It is having the stubbornness to not be swayed by the failure to deliver the goods on the first try, or the second or even the third, but to attempt again and again making refinements along the way.

Mastery is not a trait someone is born with or is given as a gift. Every good artist I know puts in way more time than many folks do at a job. They dream about it at night. They read and study about it. They drill themselves in exercises and studies. They are often compulsive about it. They are willing to risk failure daily in order to have the opportunity to make a single success at painting.

So, if you want to really compliment an artist (musician, dancer, actor, painter, sculptor etc.) let them know you appreciate their insatiable efforts to get better and better. It really is quite a cool way to live . . . . .it is most fulfilling!!

11 thoughts on “So You Think . . . . .”

  1. I watch your blog regularly thought I'd say hello. I really enjoyed this post – it helped me get things back into perspective after a rather frustrating painting session. I love the subject matter of these studies, it's rather unusual and visually very interesting. The colour studies are looking great.

  2. Thanks, Mike, for this kick-in-the-pants for me. By sharing this you are telling all of us who want to be good at art to get better at studying, learning, practicing and accepting failures along the way. And I really like all of these finished color studies.

  3. Very well said. And this is the truth. Behind every good painting there are 9 which were a part of the process.

    And being an artist is always Work in progress. Always looking to break your own barriers and being brave enough to accept the failures, because without them the barriers can not be broken.

  4. That is so true. There may be a modicum of talent involved and an inherent desire to make art. In the end it's a lot of practice, learning, failure and enough success to keep you going. Hooray! Let's make art!

Join in and comment!