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  • On being an artist

       Once there were four blind fellows who came upon an elephant. The first fellow felt the leg and declared - "an elephant is like the trunk of a tree". The second, grasping the trunk said - "why it's not like a tree at all. It's like a great snake". The third, feeling the elephant's stomach said - "you're both wrong, an elephant is like a great curved wall". The last fellow, holding the elephant's tail, somewhat confused by his friends descriptions said - "I'm a bit lost by you fellow's descriptions when an elephant is merely a short length of rope." They were all correct in the little bit they had of the whole.
         Art is a very big thing and I by no means have it all. Not sure anyone can even come close to encompassing the whole thing...........but I have been at it for decades so I do know a thing or two. Here's my observations/suggestions and helpful bits of the elephant.
         Do what interest's you. If you don't like or aren't interested in what you're doing, you won't last. I was utterly captivated, mesmerized by some art I had seen. Even at a young age I can remember being at a museum and being VERY moved by a piece of art. I wanted to be able to create that same excitement.
         Try to know how interested you really are. There was a magic in art that I REALLY wanted to be able to do. I wanted it bad enough that I was willing to stick with it. Even though I got REALLY frustrated (I was painting a landscape of an orchard, became frustrated and actually tore the canvas from the easel and threw it across the orchard) I kept coming back. The desire to capture that 'magic' was just overpowering. You may be less interested it it than you think............or not. Knowing where you're at can help you to not be expecting something you really aren't cut out for.
        Be willing to try something new. This is a good thing that has caused me quite a bit of problems while at the same time having real good benefits. I've tended to be interested in so much that I got very overwhelmed and at times didn't get much done because I just had too many things going at once. That said, even though I didn't pursue many of those things long term, I did learn a lot and have some knowledge on a very broad range of things. Seems that each thing pops up now and then. Stuff that at the time of learning may seem obscure or arcane will fill a little niche.     Bite the bullet and take a drawing class.  I see so many artist's who simply can't draw. Good drawing skills are foundational. I didn't plan to become an artist but at an early age took a drafting class, a little bit of architecture and sheet metal layout/triangulation. About the most solid foundation I could ask for. So much of art talk is about feeling.........just feeeeeellll.....ummm OK, then what? It's like having the inspiration to be a poet and knowing only 3 words. You will be able to express a little bit, and if you yell it will get people's attention but in the end, not much of substance has been communicated. The more you know, the more 'tricks' you have, the more different shades of ideas and emotions you can articulate. You can whisper and have it be deafening. A lot of infinitesimal things, stuff most people won't even notice will add up to having a huge impact. Really truly learning the CRAFT of art seems to have fallen by the way side in favor of being 'cutting edge'. Sad, because a  lot of art's soul has been replaced with flash.
        Try even what may seem absurd. I had an art teacher many moons ago who would encourage us to push a painting to the point of ruining it. The point being - don't let fear of wrecking something hold you back. There are MANY things that are discovered when you pursue "what if". Yup, you will often not like what happens but you will also have times where you will discover things no one else has and it will be unique to you............and it will be cool.
        Look, look, look. Without even trying, I tend to almost always be in 'observe' mode. This is one of the ways I got good at OSL. I'm always looking at what is around me and measuring/calculating/deconstructing why something looks the way it does and what made it look that way. Just so happens that light is something I really like capturing. Did it on canvas LONG before mini's.
        Time. This is a tough one. This is why I threw the canvas across the orchard. I had seen an artist who simply knocked me out - Robert Daughters - 2%26hl%3Den 
    and I was so turned on by how fantastic his stuff was that I was determined to go out and duplicate it NOW!! I was quite new to painting and had no concept of how long it can take to get proficient at it. Patience.
          You will do things no one else will do. This is one of the problems I had with Robert Daughters and a bunch of other artist's. I wanted to paint JUST LIKE THEM.  It was a real hard thing for me to accept that maybe my own 'voice' was valid. When I first really stepped out and simply let go of what I thought I should do I was shocked and thrilled at the result. That was 17 years ago and it's still the best thing I have ever done..............and I lost it!!! Arrrrrrgggghhh!! Luckily I have it photographed, large format so I can still get a good print.
        Shut yer mouth and listen. Always listen to what people have to say.....even the not so nice one's. Can't remember what the fellow said to me but many years ago some fellow in a very snide way made a criticism of a picture of mine. REALLY ticked me off......buuuttt, what he said was correct. If I let my anger get in the way I would have lost out on that little bit of wisdom.
        Similar to the last one, submit yourself to criticism.  This too can be tough. If you can look beyond the embarrassment of being told what your faults are and focus on the wisdom you will gain then that will be a BIG asset. I don't always accept or use the criticism's I get but I do listen, and think/consider what's said. Sometimes even if you don't agree with what's being said, you might go ahead and try it. Never know, something that SOUNDS not so good may actually be better than you think.     Expose yourself to as broad a scope of art types and styles as possible. You won't like them all, and IMO many are pure BS/publicity stunts, but many will have things to learn from. I would encourage paying attention to the Old Masters. They didn't get that name by being lousy at what they did.      You will learn a lot about yourself. If you really take art seriously and pursue it hard, the path will teach you a lot about your outtake on the world, obstacle's and how you deal with them and how you personally overcome them. I have found, on the whole, that I have a hard time with big, complicated pieces. Smaller, simpler works much better for me. I have a knack for taking a large canvas and putting something small on it and yet in an odd way, it fills the whole canvas. Sometimes, when faced with something big and complicated, if I can at first reduce it to something simple and then elaborate on that it comes out better and easier. Same holds true in my life. Simple works much better.     School is fine and there is definately a place for it but there will come a time when you NEED to step out on your own and simply DO IT. Don't ask for advice, don't look at reference material......dig down in yourself and find the solution. This is the point that really seperates the men from the boys. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.......once taught, you need to go out and learn what it really means to fish. School is only the very beginning of real learning. I had some schooling then went for many years without, just struggling to master the canvas......with much sucess. I hit a few walls and simply felt I was stuck so I went back to school for a brief time where I had a teacher who moved me in a direction I really didn't like - abstract. Not too long into it I 'made it mine' and new avenues of creativity opened up for me. That was about 20 years ago and while I still am learning I haven't yet hit a real wall of boredom............yet.     Remember to have fun. Shoot for the stars but enjoy the view along the way.
    Comments 3 Comments
    1. shuddemell's Avatar
      shuddemell -
      This article is right on the money. That being said, remember, anything in your life can be an art. You just have to approach it with a sense of wonder and strive for excellence.
      In professio illic est verum.

      Well done!
    1. graymouser17's Avatar
      graymouser17 -
      when you said the old masters did you mean as in Rembrandt or Adrian Bay?
    1. Wizard Workshop's Avatar
      Wizard Workshop -
      if you love it, do it
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