Saturday, April 14, 2012

Advice to a "New" Artist

What I was working on today... The panel is 30"x40".
This weekend is open studios in the Mission District of San Francisco and while I am not participating officially, I was at my studio painting all day. People seem to really like watching me paint and asking me questions about my process and, of course, the most asked question is always "So why do you block out the eyes in your painting?". While I am used to answering that question and have gotten it down to only one sentence, I was not used to answering the question asked by another aspiring artist who was just starting his adventure in oil painting and was a newbie to the art world as a profession.

This artist had spent a good amount of time looking at my work. After asking many technical questions and getting to know me and my work, he asked a question I had to think about for a moment before answering. He asked "what is the one piece of advice can you give me as an artist trying to break into the art scene?" Like I said, I am not used to being asked this question. I am by no means an expert. I still feel like a newbie myself and I am often asking more established artists their opinions on business and art matters I come across.

Detail of one of the women...
So what was the one piece of advice I gave this guy? I told him to paint, and to paint a lot. Don't wait until inspiration hits in order to paint. It may never happen and if it does, it may be days or months before it happens again. You have to create your own inspiration, not wait for it. You must paint often without expectations. Don't worry about painting a masterpiece. It won't happen anytime soon. You might like one out of ten pieces you paint, if you're lucky, and that's okay. It's part of the process. The important thing is to JUST PAINT. It is only through painting often that your style will naturally emerge. It is only through painting frequently that you will truly learn to be an artist.

I feel like I had to learn this the hard way. When I first started painting, I would paint every few weeks. I felt like I had skills but lacked inspiration. I couldn't find a style that wasn't derivative of someone else's. (BTW, it's weird to use the word derivative in a non-calculus sense. Lately, calculus seems to make up most of my vocabulary...) I only wanted to paint beautiful, inspired art and it wasn't happening. My expectations were too high and I wasn't living up to them. Finally, after much frustration, I quit painting. I stopped for almost seven years.

It wasn't until I forced myself to go to my studio and put paint on canvas without any expectations that I was able to find my passion for painting again. It wasn't easy, in fact, some days it was damn near impossible. But I was determined to paint again, and I did. Fast forward six years later and I now have a series of work that I love painting. I still have moments where it's difficult for me to get into the studio, but I know that if I am going to make it as an artist, I need to keep painting.

I am hoping to have this underpainting done tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Great advice. I too stop for a period of time. It's so hard to get back to the studio each day but when I do paint I'm happy at the end of the day whatever the outcome. The ACT of painting is enough for me.

    I love your work, I think we might have showed at the same gallery year ago in San Diego.