Apr 13, 2010

Art from the Heart All Play?

A few days ago, I had a visitor come into my studio, some remarks she made started me thinking.

The first thing she noticed was all the art supplies; yes, I admit I do have a bunch! Nevertheless, I need them so that is justifiable; however, her next remark was a bit offensive. Not one nice comment on my art…but instead she said,” I wish I could make a living just playing like you do”. Excuse me….a living? Well right, there she made her first mistake. How many artists can make a living with their art these days? Well maybe if you consider a “living” to be barely putting food on the table then the statement is right on. Now let’s look at the word “playing” in terms of a working artist. I don’t ever feel like I am just playing unless I sit down and paint something that is just for me which is not very often. No most of the time, I am designing something that will sell. I consider my time in my studio a full time job; I am in there most days from morning until dinnertime.

I have to admit that I do enjoy what I do, that is good isn’t it? I was told early on to not get involved as an artist as it would not take me anyplace. It was a good “hobby’ but I should never expect to make money from it. I am happy that I didn’t take that advice to heart, I would have missed out on some of the greatest moments in my life.

I know deep down that I would never last in a “normal” job, my personality just won’t take orders…I need to be my own boss and I don’t feel guilty for enjoying what I do, however I consider it a “job” most of the time.

As I sat and thought about her comment a few days later I started to realize that the best thing I could do was to ignore a comment like that from a non-creative person. They don’t have a clue as to what makes us do what we do and they are completely in the dark if they think all of the creative energy and ideas are just “playing”. It is sort of like the time I was painting in a gallery and a man walked up to me and asked me how long it took me to paint what I was working on. My answer was “about 25 years”, He didn’t get it and thought I meant it actually took me that long on one painting when I really meant that it took me that long to acquire the knowledge to paint what I was painting.

Many think artists are just naturally creative, they think we don’t have to work at it. In reality, we know that to be a great artist you need to educate yourself in art. It may take years of working and discovering who you are but eventually you can achieve it. There is no way up that ladder that is faster than just climbing it one rung at a time. There are no short cuts in the art world, you are either willing to work hard to become a great artist, or you’re not. Period.

For an artist who is into doing projects for others to paint and books on their techniques it is a lot of hard work. Let’s take a look at a day in my studio. First, I have to come up with an idea that will be salable; this may take lots of research on my part. What is popular now? What colors are the “in” colors? My ideas have to be my own “original” ideas.No copying here.....if you can't come up with an original idea you cannot be called an designer! Once I have a general idea of what I want I can sit down and sketch my idea onto the canvas or other surface I am going to use. The next step for me is to paint it; I cannot paint and take notes at the same time so I put swatches on a notepad of the colors I use as I go.

After I have refined the painting to the point where I call it finished, I will spend hours writing detailed instructions on my method. Then I will proof this several times to make sure I have it right. Next, I must make a line drawing of the project first in pencil and then with ink. If I make a mistake with the ink, I have to start over. The last thing I do is to paint step-by-step examples. By the time, I have finished one project I have invested lots of hours into it.

When I was just selling my art in a gallery, it was a bit different. I was into creating paintings that would move others. That is what painting is all about. That is the heart and soul of painting. Of course, there were times when it seemed harder than other times but generally, it was more fun to be painting, there were no worries that I would need to figure out how to explain what I was doing for a book or pattern. It was more freeing in the creative sense, however times could get stressful if the gallery needed more paintings and I didn’t have any that were finished or dry enough to ship.

Therefore, you ask why I do this if it is not so much fun. For one thing, I love to share what it has taken me years to learn. I love to share my gifts and talents. I believe that God, blessed me with a creative talent and He meant for me to share it, not hide it away. It is always great to hear someone make a nice comment on my work but to me that is not all that important. Nevertheless, for someone to think of my work as all play well that’s another story!

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