ART TO A T by noula diamantopoulos
Three Things You Need To Know To Become An Artist in Adulthood
You have decided to become an artist and you are a late bloomer. You attend art courses or even art school and you practice. You read books and study from old and modern masters. You watch videos about the artist’s life, read blogs, surf the internet and continue to practice.
Yet the journey you have undertaken doesn’t feel as smooth as it should. Why can’t you immediately create the way you want to? You are an adult, so you should be able to learn new skills and execute them quickly, right? You have the desire. You have the determination. Yet you are not seeing results.
Disappointment turns to anxiety in no time. And then those uninvited thoughts kick in. You begin to question your decision to become an artist. That one thought starts a flood of unhappy thinking that rushes through, leaving you with an even deeper feeling of uncertainty, which has now spread beyond your decision to learn art. You begin to doubt your ability to ever see a creative result that would make you proud, and then of course there is that serious concern about having any talent anyway. Without that, what’s the point?
Hold on and read on. There are three things you need to know about becoming an artist in adulthood.
1. TECHNIQUES ARE TEACHABLE
Art techniques are teachable. Technique is not to be confused with having or not having talent. Art techniques are like learning the alphabet so you can read and write. These are the building blocks to unlocking further wisdom from the writings of others or even your own writing. So if art techniques are teachable, the question then is, are you teachable? You might think you are because you attend class or you self-study, you do your exercises and you are motivated to learn. However there is one big T that may be stopping you from being 100% teachable – those limiting thoughts that live uninvited and rent free in your headspace (how did they get there anyway?).
Pause a moment. Close your eyes. Listen to the voice in your head. What’s it saying? That you are wasting time? That you should be doing something useful? That what you are doing is self-indulgent? That you have no real talent? That you don’t have what it takes to become an artist?
Ask this question of yourself right now. Do you believe with certainty that you are capable of learning? It’s a simple question. Are you capable of learning? Yes, of course you are. Whether you want to learn is another matter. The point is, if you believe with certainty that you are capable of learning then the only uncertain thing is how long it will take you to learn, and does speed matter? Does learning something faster than someone else mean you don’t have talent?
You are an adult who has decided to pursue an artistic life. Perhaps you feel pressed for time because of your age or because you have a job/career that you cannot leave just yet. That’s fine. Just don’t let these thoughts distract you when you are learning. If you do, you are not optimising your time spent learning art. If you focus on your lack of time, then you end up focusing on strategies like step by step instructions on how to take perfect photos every time, or creating a masterpiece in oils or the top 1000 words to use to become a bestseller. Refocus. You have given yourself the permission to study art and to be a student. Don’t forget you are starting from scratch with all the advantages of your late blooming years!
Approach your self-studies or in-class lessons with enthusiasm and joy, and do not lessen the value of the lesson only because it doesn’t help you become what you think you want to become. Instead, take and master each and every lesson, and watch how they transform you into the best of you – a person even better than you might have hoped for. Let the role of education ignite the fire that will fuel your creativity.
2. TRUST YOUR TALENT
Talent means hard work. I’m not talking about the hard work required to develop your talent, I’m talking about the hard work to see the talent you have right now. We are all unique beings. You know this. You have heard it all before but I’m asking you to stop, listen, and then “get it”. There is no other person on this planet right now or ever before exactly like you, nor will there be in the future.
A cat in a hat once said that today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no-one alive who is you-er than YOU – remember?
Do not fail to recognise your own unique spark. Trust your Talent. It is there. You were born with it and it is your journey to discover, nurture and gift it. Do not deny that which you and only you were given custodianship on this planet to create with. Each time you create something go “WOO-HOO,” say “Not bad,” smile even if it’s crap, because you are one step closer to revealing your unique artistic language. Always say “Thank you,” and be grateful for the experience.
3. BE TENACIOUS WITH YOUR TIME
Now here is what you have been expecting to hear. Practice, practice and practice. Put in those 10,000 hours and become the expert. How many stories do you need to hear before you truly accept that this is a journey? Okay, here is one more:
Picasso’s painting Le Demoiselles De Avignon took Picasso ¾ of year to complete with a documented record of 809 preliminary drawings. Surprised? You shouldn’t be, because he was tenacious. He was prolific. He made art his life.
And nothing has changed today. People who succeed (insert your own definition here of success) are tenaciously attentive to their passions, their loves, whatever gives them the juice to self motivation.
Practice is another word for training. We accept this of athletes & musicians. They work hard and for many hours. If you want to be an artist as a profession then the demands on your time are no different to working a 9-5 career. This shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your talent. This should encourage you to not compare your results with those of an athletic artist. Having said all of that, I have seen amazing works of art from the most naïve practices. Yep – the word practice appears again!
Set time aside regularly. Be serious with your time and accepting of your talent as you nurture your voice.
For all those late bloomers who are venturing into the arts: you did not begin as an artist but that doesn’t not mean you have not been creative all your life. Every problem and every challenge you have faced and solved has been a process of creativity. And now you are learning how to learn, learning how to accept and learning how to be disciplined without apparent reward. Whenever you feel discouraged, just think of Matisse, who was 56 when his first solo exhibition was held by the art dealer Ambrose Vollard. And he is but one of many late blooming artists.
Appearing in this Article:
1. William Butler Keats – A poet who used the technique of reading and writing to make and remake prose & verse of beautiful thoughts beautiful to read.
2. Ten Thousand Hours was brought to you by Geoff Colvin – He wrote a book called Talent is Overrated and he is all about rethinking our human potentiality – love that kinda talk!
3. Cat In a Hat is of course the memorable Dr. Suess.
4. Henri Matisse snuck in for he epitomises the three T’s. He originally studied law – go figure.