It’s about work, not luck

People say that I am lucky because I pursue my passion every day. Quite frankly, luck has nothing to do with my achievements. I work on my skills every day. I practice my craft 365 days year after year. I take very few vacations, and I am in the studio almost every day.

I am skilled because of my devotion to my craft.

Change is good

I often ask myself the very same question that Steve Jobs did. If this was the last day of my life, would I do what I am about to do today? When I get a no too often, I decide that I need to change too.

  • Change is refreshing.
  • Change is good.
  • Change keeps us young.
  • Change keeps our work fresh.

Staying focused

Another thing that keeps me focused is the untimely death of the many late-blooming artists I have met and taught.

Far too many people put off their passion for art and creativity too long. This is especially true for the many men I have met in my art classes. Men seem to feel that they have to put off their desire to create until they retire. Most seem to get no more than a year or two before succumbing to disease. It’s such a tragedy.

Aggressivity

Most of these men aggressively try and catch up on all the time they’ve missed. They buy art books and watch endless hours on YouTube, looking for something to move them to the front of the pack. Unfortunately, the ten thousand hours of practice at the easel still applies no matter how successful they have been in their other career. They fail to understand that they still need to spend at least five years of 40 hours a week of practice to be good. Not great. Just good.

Practice isn’t everything

The other thing is that this “practice” has nothing to do with creative thinking either. Five years of copying from life will give you skill, but it won’t give you one ounce of creativity. Creativity is another thing entirely. The creative act requires far more time.

Copying is not creativity, nor is it art

Anyone can learn to copy well, and I mean anyone. However, not everyone can be creative even if they have tons of skill and a good ten thousand hours under their belt. Creativity is not a skill that you can learn. It may take another ten thousand hours or even one hundred thousand hours to begin to think creatively. Unfortunately, most get so absorbed in the skill part that they ignore the creative part entirely. They misunderstand the true nature of art.

Art is unlike anything else

Art is not a competitive field. Here too many men miss the point. Income from your art doesn’t equate with success, nor does a certain skill level. These benchmarks don’t apply to being an artist.  Making art is not a dog and pony show. Art is about authenticity.

Life is not a competition either.  Living an authentic life is life.

Joining the circus

There are many distractions, sideshows, charlatans, smoke, and mirrors in art. The lower-level art world is a circus with many people developing routines and recipes that make them appear great.  Many of these folks can whip off a lovely painting in minutes. They skillfully mix their colours and make things look good. They know that if you stick to doing the same thing repeatedly, then your chance of failure becomes less and less as time goes on.

The recipes

Paint a few barns in a landscape, and you become an expert barn in a landscape painter. Pump out variations on these landscapes, and presto, you appear outstanding. Commercial artists are good at this sort of thing. It’s a sleight of hand trick. There is nothing wrong with what they are doing. Heck, they make a lot of money doing it, and people aren’t anymore the wiser—Bravo to them.

The need for accolades

We all have this innate need to be appreciated, yours truly included. I love selling my work like every other artist. I love it when people connect to what I am doing, even though my work is very different from my surroundings.  I get nervous when I get too many accolades.  I fear having a recipe because you get stuck making the same thing repeatedly for years.

Who exactly is an artist?

The artists I admire often use research, project or exploration to describe what they are doing. They never speak about sales, nor do they brag about their income. Instead, these artists turn to the research they are doing. They write extensively on their work and do a tremendous amount of research to achieve a goal. True art has more in common with science than it does with decoration.

Life lessons

The life lesson I’ve learned so far is that it’s better to pursue your passion now than to wait. We have a limited time on this planet. It’s crucial to work on your ten thousand hours of skill and creativity. Stop paying so much attention to what others are doing. Focus on your progress and work every single day.

Be authentic.

Quote of the day

“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

~ Steve Jobs ~

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