WHAT IT TAKES TO BE AN ARTIST (Part One)
No, I am not talking about a mastery of color, design and space. I am not talking about your ability to draw or paint what you see. I am not talking about having an MFA, a gallery or the right supplies.
What I am interested in goes much deeper than your talent with a brush, pencil, pastel or charcoal.
In fact, I think the following are way more important than proportion, value, line or color.
A basic desire to create, to express yourself, to communicate and to make something out of nothing sets the table for a lifetime of creating. You must have the desire to dream, think, imagine and paint. You must have an intensecraving to create and make meaning. The good news is that we all have the desire to be creative. It is in each and every one of us. Once you start to draw or paint you are automatically acting upon your creative desires. The goal is to then sustain this desire by creating every day.
The intention to create must be strong. A "YES" not a "MAYBE". You need to have a plan of action. A goal. What do you want to paint today? What do you want to communicate with this next painting? What is your objective with this next series? We all have interests: whether it be nature, politics, the human condition, animals, etc. And we all have something to say about our interests. The goal is to find that thing that we are so passionate about that there is no question that we must create art about it.
Are your interests strong enough to stimulate you into action? They must be in order to really be considered an artist. Are you motivated enough by your chosen subject matter or concept to want to spend hours, days or months alone in your studio space toiling away on paintings that communicate your vision. If you have picked a topic or subject that really, really, really interests you then motivation will come naturally.
A powerful appetite and boundless enthusiasm are required in order to get you out into the studio everyday, day after day, week after week, month after month. You must love to paint. LOVE IT! Be in love with the process. Everything about it. Making good or even great art is not easy. In fact it is downright hard at times. It can often be exhausting, challenging and frustrating. Conversely. it can be energizing, exhilarating and incredibly rewarding. Passion gets us there.
Or rather, SELF-CONFIDENCE. You must trust yourself, your current talents and the process. You must trust the universe to give you the answers, guidance and courage to be an artist and make art. I tell my students to go at each and every painting or drawing as if they know exactly what they are doing. Go at it as if this current piece that you are working on will be the best thing that you have ever done. If the painting takes a sour turn, you must trust that you will be able to fix it and make it great.
I am going right to the dictionary for this one. My old, worn-out, tattered American Heritage (yes, I am old school) defines courage as : "the state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery; valor". Courage is deciding to be an artist, taking a class, converting your garage or that spare bedroom into a studio, calling yourself an artist, showing up in your studio everyday (or as often as you can), staying put and continuing to paint especially if it is not going well, showing someone (your spouse, gulp!) what you are working on, asking for help or advice, submitting your painting to a competition, and trying a new medium or tackling a new subject matter.
Take some time to reflect on these and send me your comments about which of these you respond to, either positively or negatively. In Part Two, I will continue with my list of What It Takes To Be An Artist.