This post is by Clint Watson, former art gallery owner and founder of BoldBrush, known for FASO Artist Websites, the leading provider of professional artist websites, the $38,000+ BoldBrush Art Contest & Exhibit and the free art marketing newsletter, FineArtViews. As a self-proclaimed “art fanatic”, Clint delights that BoldBrush’s downtown San Antonio, Texas office is full of original art, as is his home office. You can connect with Clint on Twitter, Facebook or his personal blog at clintavo.com
In creative endeavors, continuous practice and improvement is essential to growth, particularly if you’re looking for rapid growth.
The late Robert Genn of The Painter’s Keys once wrote, “We’re all familiar with the problems associated with Sunday Painters. Cranking up the old machine once a week may be okay in the vintage car hobby–but it’s bad news in the creativity game. The steady worker who applies his craft daily is more likely to make creative gains than an intermittent one.”
If this “law” of creativity weren’t true we could all just recline by the pool for four days a week and go to work on Friday and complete our responsibilities with a tremendous blast of productivity. But life doesn’t work that way and trying to work against the natural law of creativity would make as much sense as passing a resolution to skip winter. While we’re at it, why don’t we just make life easier for all those scientists and just round off pi to the next whole number?
Unfortunately, practicing our craft daily can be quite a challenge. Real life intervenes for so many of us. I think, for those who are serious about making strides in their art (which probably includes everyone reading this newsletter), the old adage is true, “Practice makes perfect.” The good news is that a little bit of practice will go a long way. If you’re currently a weekend warrior, find ways to hone your craft at least a little bit during the week. Perhaps it’s just a sketch pad during your lunch hour…perhaps just a 30 minute study. Creativity begets more creativity so it’s critical to maximize the number of times your mind gets in the “zone.”
In painting, experience can be looked upon as a function of the number of paintings an artist has created. In effect, the more paintings you’ve done, the more experienced you are. Quality is born from quantity.
In the book, Art and Fear, Ted Orland relates the following story:
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”.
Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
A way to achieve quantity, while working around time constraints, is to work small. Kevin Macpherson recommends working small as a way to gain experience rapidly. In his book, Fill Your Oil Paintings with Light and Color, he wrote “When you step up to a small canvas to try something new every day rather than working and reworking a large painting for weeks, you see progress. You learn to master techniques such as brushwork and texture, which boosts your confidence. Painting on a small scale also forces you to ignore inconsequential details and look for larger shapes, broader color relationships and overall composition. It gives you the ability to look at a scene as a whole.” He recommends committing to paint 100 small paintings as a means to rapid growth.
When you get in the creative “zone” more often, you strengthen the neural pathways that allow you to be creative, thus making it easier to be even MORE creative. It’s sort of like developing a habit to be creative.
Nietzsche identified two different kinds of knowledge. On the one hand you have the things you know from personal experiences and from personal observation, which he called “erfahrung.” There are also the abstractions you think you know – the kinds of things that you read about in art books and from viewing the works of others – which he called “wissen.”
Although wissen teaches us ideas in the intellectual realm, experience based knowledge; erfahrung catapults us up the growth curve so much faster. Trying to become a better painter through wissen alone would be like spending your Sunday watching home improvement television instead of just fixing that leaking faucet.
Now that I’ve given you a bit of wissen on the subject, get out there and get some erfahrung!
BoldBrush/FASO Founder, Art Fanatic
PS – “No one can draw more out of things, books included, than he already knows. A man has no ears for that to which experience has given him no access.” (Friedrich Nietzsche)
PPS – Kevin Macpherson took the recommendation in his book to commit to 100 small paintings even further for himself. He committed to paint the pond near his home 365 times. Once for every date of the year. The photo with this post is Kevin painting his beloved pond. You can learn more about the Reflections on a Pond project and see the paintings at reflectionsonapond.com.
Today’s post is an updated version from a few years ago, but we’re republishing it again today because it’s still a timely and relevant message. Enjoy!