Thursday, April 02, 2009

Improving Your Art

While doing a presentation recently I said some things that apparently came out of my subconscious. 

Most of the voices I hear are in the well recognized and overwhelmingly unhelpful form of self doubt, depression, paranoia, ruminations, and that type of junk. But occasionally I will hear ideas escape my lips that my brain had not arranged ahead of time. That sort of thing comes out with great confidence, like unintentionally blurting out something you well know the answer to. You don't have to think about it, you just let it fly. 

My epiphany, which may sound like an obvious conclusion to you, was that the single most important difference between my art before and my art in the last ten years is this: stubborn persistence. No brainer, eh? Well, for whatever reason and maybe because my dad is an artist, but I guess I assumed that if you are an artist, your art will just flow out of you in a perfect finished state. Just like Matisse. (I guess I forgot that Matisse had been making art for like eight hundred years!)

I painted tons of stuff as a teenager but I guess I was lazy. I expected my art to come out right. It was all One-Take. If it didn't turn out how I liked it right out of the chute, I would throw it away and feel bad about myself. I did a couple great pieces but for the most part my work was mediocre. Or worse.

Perhaps all life's problems and pain have simply made me a stubborn, grumpy bastard, but I just do not take no for an answer nowadays. If a painting looks like crap, I will just work even harder trying to pull it around. I still have paintings doomed from conception that I end up abandoning and painting over the top of. But I have found that if I suck at drawing or painting something in particular, I no longer avoid it. Hands, for example. When I started doing illustration, Art Directors probably wondered why my characters were always turned just so that you could not see their hands... or why so many of them were wearing baseball mitts. Now, when I see something that is really hard to do I just do it a lot. I do it until I get results I am looking for. Hands are still hard, but after doing a hundred, it gets a little easier. After a thousand, it might start being effortless. 

Visual art is no different in this regard than Theatre, Dance, Music, Sport. It requires practice. It requires sweat and time. There is no SKIP button. Just like my dad told me when I was fifteen and seventeen and twenty and twenty six and twenty nine. sigh. Now nearly an old man, I understand.