Artistic Goals

The First of Three Elements of One Artist Goal Plan

By Roger Dale Brown, OPA

This article is the first of three, in which I will outline the way I set goals for my business. My goals include: artistic, marketing and business. Setting these goals gives me something to strive for, they help me stay organized and they hold me accountable to myself.

Artistic Goals, for me, are the most important of the three categories. It helps me to improve what I have to market, my art. Subcategories under these three elements help me compartmentalize specific areas I want to concentrate on. They are:

  1. Get better
  2. Painting from life and on location
  3. Seeing better as an artist
  4. Continue developing a critical eye
  5. Expanding my boundaries.

These will put my goals into action.

(1) Get Better:

How do I get better? I acknowledge an area I am weak in and study that area. It is important for me to schedule time to do this. I am easily distracted with life situations and business. I also take advantage of an opportunity when it arises. I keep a drawing pad with me so I can draw anytime. Studying is not limited to painting. Drawing helps improve hand–eye coordination, seeing value and developing an intuitive response to my subject.

I also adhere to the theory of frequency, intensity and duration. If you do something often, you will get better at it. If you study with intensity there is a higher chance of retaining what you study. The longer you work on something, the more likely your task will become intuitive.

It coincides with a quote I read in my classes:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
- Calvin Coolidge

(2) Painting from Life and on Location:

I decide how many on location or from life study paintings I want to paint that year. I schedule the time as much as possible but many times it is spur of the moment. Realize that every painting is not started with the idea that it is going to be a finished masterpiece. Most of the time I paint on location to study. I can read, study, take workshops every month, but if I don’t put theory to test I will not grow. Most times I paint from life with the intension of studying a specific problem area or theory, not to create a masterpiece. Paint with a plan!

(3) Seeing Better As An Artist:

Before I touch my canvas, I try to see the subject in its’ simplest form or as an abstract.  Then I mentally build the scene back up and visualize the end result of my painting.  I have discovered when I visualize the end result of my painting, the likely hood of succeeding increases.

Sometimes I leave my paints at home and observe how light falls over a subject, how things reflect off each other. I look through the detail and see large simple shapes or masses, the value of those masses, patterns of light and color within those masses and all the other nuances. I simply practice seeing and remembering.

The ability to “see as an artist sees” is one of the most important elements of learning and developing. Cicero once said, “Art is born of the observation and investigation of nature”.

(4) Continue Developing a Critical Eye:

It is very important to become a student of art, to develop a critical eye. I have collected a library of art books, I look at magazines and visit museums whenever possible to study. Having a group to critique each other’s work regularly is also very helpful to start understanding what makes a good painting. To know a good painting when you see one, you also have to see the mistakes. The old masters, contemporary masters and our piers make mistakes. It’s just as important to see what they did wrong as it is to see what they did right.

Frank Dumond told his students: “I am not here to teach you how to paint, I am here to teach you how to see”. He did not just mean seeing the subject your painting and the nuances within but also the ability to know what a good painting looks like. By developing a critical eye you will develop the ability to critique your own work intelligently and then you can take the necessary steps to correct the problems.

(5) Expanding My Boundaries:

I put a lot of importance on being a well-rounded artist. My passion is landscape panting. I love the outdoors and the beauty of nature. But, I also like other subjects and I know that one of the ways for me to grow is to be diverse in what I paint. I also venture to try new techniques, new mediums and tools and I even make tools and equipment to help in certain situations. At the end of the day I always bring something new back to my art.

The idea of being a well-rounded painter has been important to the masters for centuries.  In 1901, John Singer Sargent wrote about it in a letter to a student.

“You say you are studying to become a portrait painter and I think you'd be making a great mistake if you kept that only in view during the time you intend to work in a life class, for the object of the student should be to acquire sufficient command over his materials and do whatever nature presents him. The conventionalities of portrait painting are only tolerable in one who is a good painter.  If he is only a good portrait painter, he is nobody.  Try to become a painter first and then apply your knowledge to a special branch or you will become a mannerist.”

This is how I start each year. I set my goals and come up with a plan to put them into motion. You have your own temperament and know what works for you. Develop a method to get better and never compromise on quality and most of all enjoy the process of being an artist.