On 01-April-2015 I transitioned from the corporate training world where I had worked for 19 years and into the world of a full-time painter. Or more like, learning how to be a full-time painter. As Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
Over the past year I have attended several workshops, drawing classes and painted 200 paintings. Every day has been met with the same hard but fair question: “What’d you learn (today)?” It’s a question my former Mentor taught me. If he reads this he’ll smile knowingly because he asked me this question a million times. And because he did, it made me a better person. (Thanks John!)
It’s a simple but deeply challenging question, “What’d you learn?” Answering this question means you own the results. You take full responsibility for your own actions. You also own what you’ve learned and what you’re going to do with the learning. There is no one else to blame.
Once I got past the initial shouldering of my artist responsibility, every “painting day” was presented with this question. What’d I learn? Did I learn about composition? Did I learn to use color appropriately to highlight the focal point? What did I learn from painting this scene? Was it about value?
Notice, I’m not critiquing the painting, that’s best left for others. When I’m asking this question I’m interested in learning from my experience. I want to move from a lesson captured into a lesson learned. There is a difference.
Artists can be guilty of analysis paralysis because we can overthink the simple. I’d caution my fellow artists to walk the narrow path between analysis and action. Using this question creates a teachable moment and then it’s time to get back to work.
There have been many lessons I’ve learned over the last year. Here are a few from my notes, not in any particular order. I share with the hope that maybe one or two will resonate with you:
• Do not compare yourself to other artists, unless you want to feel bad
• Not every painting will earn a frame
• Stay off social media, unless you feel like wasting time that day
• Doing the work is easier than trying to avoid the work
• Be prolific
• Paint even when you don’t feel like it
• Mixing the right color is a visceral feeling
• Learn how to mix color. Practice
• Watching a sunrise or sunset never gets old
• Planning your painting’s composition NEVER goes out of style
• Oil paint gets on everything. If you come near me, I will get paint on you
• Be bold with the brush – you can always scrape it off later
• Be humble when folks appreciate a painting
• Be thankful for the opportunity to be a painter
• A bad day painting beats doing a job task analysis
• Research everything – but make up your own mind on your approach
• Be intentional on who you let speak into your art. Guard your inner painter
• Just because a painting doesn’t appeal to someone doesn’t make it a bad painting
• I should have saved the first plein air painting I did. My wife said to keep it but I didn’t listen. Oops
Year one is done. Now I’m looking to year two. What will I learn this year? A painter only learns one painting at a time. The more you do, the more you know. So let me ask, “What did you learn (today)?”
Onwards and Sideways,