One of the greatest joys of painting is my artist friends and the beauty we are privileged to see and create. We all must struggle some but the difference is that successful painters find a way of keeping motivation ahead of the meaningful struggle.
We all want to achieve at a very high level and create the next great piece of art. Recent psychological studies have determined happier people are generally more successful.
“Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence” -Aristotle
It bears to reason that we all will paint more often and better if we are inspired, motivated and happy.
My favorite two questions for my workshop artists are:
- What do you love to paint? And
- How would you love for your paintings to look?
I am fortunate to get to teach pleasant artists in my workshops, thanks to all of you. Over the years it has become obvious the number one reason for people not achieving better paintings faster or even painting at their very best is they get discouraged, blame themselves or lose their bliss along the way.
When we are blasted by deadlines and schedules and worries, take some time to be a human being. Just play with the two questions above and you may just start to unravel more of who you really are as an artist and a genuine person. Do not over-commit yourself or you lose both your happiness and creativity. Recent studies have shown when we work too hard we think we are being creative when in fact we have lost both our happiness and creativity to over-burdensome work and time constraints. Often I have to turn off the lights in workshops to cause people to take breaks and bring fresh eyes to their paintings.
When you are unmotivated, don’t ask yourself what the world needs or what would sell, “ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive” – Dr. Howard Thurman
So why not learn from a few notables who have achieved extraordinary success.
I love the comments of, I believe, Everett Raymond Kinstler in one of his videos:
“I start out in this way thinking, ‘this will be the greatest painting of this subject matter ever painted.’ Later in the process I think, ‘this will be the greatest painting of this subject matter I ever painted,’ and finally I think, ‘Hell! I hope I can save this painting!’ [paraphrased]”
Doesn’t this help you chuckle at yourself and free you?
When Richard Schmidt was asked he stated,
“I just paint. I don’t consider my place in history. And don’t blame yourself when something goes wrong. Just learn what you did wrong and don’t do it again. [paraphrased]”
I appreciate Scott Christensen for his help along the way and his piece of advice: “always paint for yourself.” We should always remember this when we are watching others sell a certain genre or style that does not ring true to who we really are.
Most of us can’t see color, values and shapes all at the same time. A wise artist once told me if I did value studies for two years I would advance rapidly. I love color and I knew that would be the end of my career because it would kill my motivation. The answer of course is to do a whole painting but step-process it. I don’t like to draw with pencil. I love paint so I draw shapes with paints. The key is to make it enjoyable for you in the process and use what you enjoy and do best.
Most representational artists know strong abstract design underlies every piece of representational art, and values are the bones. So interesting shapes and design, held in unity by values, are the backbones of all good paintings. The process for being accepted in OPA shows is very fair and when looking at 2000 or so paintings it becomes real obvious how much the above statement is true.
At higher levels most artists are painting spots of color and value and not objects. Painters say a great painting is greater than its sum of its’ parts. The only way that can be achieved is to paint from the heart, for all really great art is created from the heart.
Joseph Campbell’s advice in The power of myth is absolutely true: “follow your bliss and doors will open to meet you.”
Perhaps if we all stay more motivated we will all create better art and most importantly enjoy the process more. This is always something I confess to have to be aware of — because as a past lawyer that only focused on results, and now a reformed artist — nothing is clearer to me than that, if the process is enjoyable, I will paint more often and better.
I find that artists are generally humble, share freely and are kind to one another. I consider myself lucky to have found such a great group of people and friends. I think it important that we, as artists, always share what we know. It is often so hard to paint good paintings, so we all need the fresh eyes and keen advice of other artists — as our friends and colleagues. I encourage you to celebrate the awards and excellent paintings of your fellow artists — that’s what makes being an artist really enjoyable. Hope to see you soon, whether in nature or at a show.