Despite all of our differences, it seems like us artists are unified in the things we don't like doing. Not that I blame us - many of these activities are no where near as exciting as putting pencil to paper. But I think we're putting ourselves at a disadvantage by avoiding them. So let's examine the five things artists avoid and why we shouldn't.
This might be cliché at this point, but failing is amazing. It leads to unimaginable growth and discovery. And yet, so many of us do anything and everything to avoid failing. But if history has anything to show us, it's that failing is important. By making more work, we're statistically more likely to make something beyond our wildest dreams. If we strive for perfection and treat every piece of work with a sense of overwhelming preciousness, the odds of making something groundbreaking severely diminishes.
To prove my point, let's take a look at Pablo Picasso. In his lifetime, Picasso is thought to have created over 148,000 pieces of art. He was extremely prolific and is one of the most famous artists of all time. But out of thousands of pieces, only 44 of them are considered to be famous. So if someone as renowned as Picasso has a success rate of nowhere near close to 1%, how do we expect ourselves to knock it out of the park every time? It doesn't make sense. So make lots of work and accept that some of it is going to be terrible. It's those terrible pieces that lead to success. And for more info on how to overcome the feelings that come along with failing, you can check out last week's post here.
I know, thumbnail sketches are boring. But thumbnails are useful, and I highly recommend you start incorporating them into your process. I use thumbnails to figure out compositions, but they can be used to determine lighting, color, and perspective, as well. If you don't know what thumbnails are, they're small sketches that don't take a lot of time to make. Essentially, it's an easy way to plan out your next painting without investing a lot of time in the initial stages. This is crucial for ensuring you don't get to the final layers of a piece only to find a huge compositional mistake. You could consider it a failure and move on, but why put yourself through that stress when it could have been avoided through proper planning. It doesn't always guarantee success, but it's a quicker way to fail than completing an entire painting. (For an in-depth look at thumbnails, check out this post where I share my process for creating a still life painting.)
Raise your hand if you hate drawing hands... Too much? But seriously, this is a running joke about artists for a reason. Hands (and feet) are incredibly difficult to draw, so many artists try to avoid them. But that isn't doing us any favors. By avoiding hands (or whatever your weakness might be), we're just reinforce bad habits and denying ourselves the opportunity to further develop our drafting skills. The more we practice and develop our skills, the better we get at drawing. And that trickles into everything we make. So if there's something holding you back from reaching your full artist potential, spend some focused time studying and practicing so you can overcome that hurdle. Your skills will vastly improve, making everything you create even better than before.
Artists hate writing, or at least that's the general sense I get from talking to my peers. And, to be honest, I kind of get it. Writing can be difficult and intimidating, especially if you're not used to making it a part of your artistic practice. But writing is a very useful tool in understanding your work. Not only does it help explain your work and process to others, but it can help you make sense of your process, too. I know that when I'm writing artist statements, I'm often surprised at how much I uncover during the writing process. Plus, it's a great way to document my work for the future. I recommend every artist get into the habit of writing. If the idea of sharing your words with the world freaks you out, feel free to keep a private journal for yourself. Over time, you'll become more comfortable writing about your work. And when the time comes for you to submit an artist statement, you'll be prepared.
I know far too many people who never take breaks. They eat at their desks, they don't take vacations (or if they do, they still check their email), and they don't let themselves relax. All of this eventually adds up and leads to burnout. And this applies to the arts and artists, too. Just because we love to draw and paint doesn't mean we should avoid taking breaks. On the contrary, breaks are an important part of the creating process. They give your thinking mind a break, allowing your subconscious to continue puzzling out the problem at hand. Moreover, creativity is an exchange between input and output. We can't constantly be creating without seeking inspiration. Give yourself a break. It will be okay, I promise. And you'll probably find you're more creative and refreshed when you get back to the studio. If you need some ideas about taking some creative rest, check out this post.
I hope this convinced you to finally tackle those more challenging aspects of being an artist. It truly is for our own good, and we'll be better for it.
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Thanks for reading and happy creating!