3 Things No One Tells You about the Creative Life

  1. It takes time, effort, and persistence to develop creatively.
Ollivander Watercolor on Artboard 2012

Not everyone is a born artist. Many artists don’t start making art until later in life. This doesn’t make them any less of an artist.

I took a 3-day seminar from a very well-known artist once and he kept referring to us as “hobbyists”. We were painting trompe l’oeil paintings from life. Trompe l’oeil is intense realism and is not for the faint-hearted. I was frankly insulted that he referred to us (evidently because we were taking a class) as hobbyists. I believed that I was a serious artist, even if I hadn’t been drawing and painting from the age of 5.

Believe in yourself even if no one else does. It’s not always easy because…

2.  Artists tend to be self-critical.

Over the last 40+ years I have created  many pieces that I just didn’t love, or consider good or worthy. Often I thought I didn’t have a discernible “style”, or maybe the piece wasn’t up to the professional quality that I look for, I judged my work as “less than” good, even though feedback from others was supportive, and I sold a great many of these pieces.

Here’s a quote attributed to Thomas Hart Benton: “The artist’s life is the best life… if you can get through the first forty years.”

Take it easy on yourself, and just keep going with your creative process, whatever it is. 40 years from now, look back and see how far you’ve come. Right now, I am blessed in enjoying and valuing what I am creating.

3.  Does practice always make perfect?

There are a lot of opinions about this from Malcolm Gladwell’s now-disputed 10,000 hour theory to every art teacher I ever had saying that real artists have to draw daily for 15 minutes.

I haven’t always been able to create art due to life’s circumstances. I knew a very well-known female artist who would lock her children out of her studio so she could get her art done. I chose deliberately not to take that path and found creative time when my kids were asleep or at school.

Sometimes, I didn’t create art at all, for months or even years. Surprisingly, I didn’t lose the progress I had made. It’s almost as if my life experiences outside of doing art informed my work and made me a better artist when I was able to come back to it.

“Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.” —Henry Van Dyke


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