There is a widely held belief that the life of an artist is a struggle, a constant battle to attain the level of proficiency that you desire. Making a living and paying your bills on an artist’s salary is a struggle, but the process of painting should be a joy. Why would you want to do something that you don’t enjoy?
Becoming a good artist and enhancing your skills takes practice, are you not more likely to practice something you love to do than something you find tedious, or frustrating? Artistic angst is not a necessary component in becoming a successful painter. Approach your work with a positive attitude and free yourself up to experimentation. Take risks, it’s only a piece of paper or canvas, you can’t hurt anyone with it.
This is not to say that you should not always try to improve your skills and reach the next level. But to do that, you have to acknowledge your strengths first and make a specific plan for overcoming those areas that you find difficult.
How do you do that? You can start by learning how to objectively look at your work. Pretend it was done by another artist and make note of the things you like about it, as well as those you don’t. Be sure to note at least one thing positive, then specifically identify the areas you find fault with and figure out how you would make them better. If you don’t know how to fix your mistakes, ask an instructor or experienced artist to help you, but be very specific in your request. Don’t just say, “what’s wrong with this?” or “what do you think?”, because everyone will have a different opinion, you have to learn to trust your own judgment. Instead, tell the instructor what you like about your piece and what you have identified as not working. For example, let’s say you feel your colors are working well but you’re not happy with the perspective on your painting and you don’t know how to fix it. Simply say “I’m pleased with the color harmony but I know my road surface looks like it’s running uphill, how can I correct that?” If that sounds like simplistic advice, you’d be surprised at how often students have difficulty articulating what they don’t like about their work. I often hear in class “It’s awful!” or “I’m just not good at this.” Statements like that don’t allow the instructor to put you on the right track, you have to be an active participant in the critique in order to improve.
Also, we often associate only negative comments with critique. I try to stress the importance of identifying your strengths and building upon them. The more often you tell yourself you can’t do something, the more likely that is to become true. So lighten up, experiment and have some fun!!!
Important Reminder! Register by Sept. 3 to Avoid Late Fees!
I have a great new class that focuses on experimentation using acrylics and pastels on a variety of surfaces, it’s called Works on Paper and it’s offered at the NJ Visual Arts Center for 10 weeks on Tuesday afternoons. Best of all, materials are included! You don’t have to drag a bunch of supplies with you, just come to class and have fun! For more info on this class and my other courses at NJ VAC, please click here to visit their web site.