Things I Learned as an Oil Painter: Thing #10

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maccski's avatar
Double figures! The big one-oh! Yes, its thing #10:

Do something for your art every day. It doesn't matter how small. It can be preparing a canvas, posting a piece on the web, etc., etc.

AKA "Staying on the horse".

I think a LOT about painting. In a previous post I claimed that painting was more thinking than doing. I have also said that nobody painted a masterpiece by leaving the paint in the tube. In my case there may be a lot of thinking, but the doing part is extremely important. So much so that I make sure I do something every day to inch towards my dream of making my living out of my art.

There's an adage that says something about how people learn - if you tell them how to do it they learn a little; if you show them they learn more; if you get them to do it themselves they learn the most and they retain what they learn. In my opinion, the physical act of "doing" art translates into "being" an artist. In other words, to "be" an artist, you have to "do" art. If you spend a day not doing art, you are not an artist for that day. It sounds harsh and a lot of people would disagree with me on that point, but that's what I tell myself and its how I beat the procrastination blues.

To keep it real I make sure that my daily "art act" is relevant. It can be the actual act of painting; it can be increasing my exposure (like this post); it can a logistical task in organizing a show; or it might just be replenishing art materials. Rearranging brushes doesn't count. Pondering sagely doesn't count. Sadly, surfing DA doesn't count. You get the idea.

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maccski's avatar
I forgot to mention that a key part of this is keeping a journal of your daily acts. Even if it's just for a short while, it helps get you into a routine...then (hopefully) it becomes a habit. It doesn't need to be elaborate - I used a Google spreadsheet with 2 columns: date & act. The gaps quickly become apparent helping you strive to avoid them.
LauraHolArt's avatar
:highfive: I don't always have time to paint but I try to update my facebook page or write a blog post on those days to keep things ticking over. Great advice! :hug:
maccski's avatar
That's exactly what I'm getting at! I used to beat myself up if I didn't paint - but then I realized there's more being an artist than just painting. Admittedly I start jonesing if I don't paint for a day or two, but at least I'm inching forward...
TomOliverArt's avatar
So true. Thanks for the list!
Ristia's avatar
Thank you for this post. In the last seven years I've been fading in and out of actually doing art, but still calling myself an artist. Things like full time jobs and family have been getting in my way. But lately I've been putting in the effort to prove that I'm an artist, by DOING the art. I'm making cuts in my life that have been getting in the way of it (such as wasting my time on the Internet doing literally nothing) so I can hopefully become the artist I've always wanted to be.

Thank you so much for your inspirational posts (:
maccski's avatar
No worries Kerstin - glad you like 'em!
21stCenturyDamocles's avatar
i say the exact same thing though i do think if your are planing in your head that counts as doing art. i have to think about how i'm going to paint a thing quite a bit at least a week if not more how ever i paint in a more academic style then you do and my works are perhaps not so of the cuff as a pleinair work might be though i know you do lots of studio works too. now im rambling sorry LOL
Heliocyan's avatar
I can partly agree with you, but only partly. ;) Yes, it's important that you think about what your are doing and even plan it, but that doesn't mean you can't do a 5 minute quick sketch that day. That's what he is talking about.

I think it is very dangerous to 'stay' in your head. I tent to do that, I am full of thoughts all the time, and suddenly a week has gone by and have done absolutely nothing (so it appears to the outside world), although I have thought about it every minute!

One of my tutors always said: do at least one sketch every day. I often fail there and find even this hard in times.
21stCenturyDamocles's avatar
to each his own. i am a highly disciplined artist the time i spend planing is part of my process. as a rule i do not do sketching im 50 years old and have been creating most of my life drawing is something i can do well i do not feel i need to practiced at it. every painting i do starts with a drawing i draw much more complex under-works then most check my gallery out i post some of them to show my process. i believe my work speaks for its self i'm glad you have the time to sketch good for you do what makes you happy. but don't tell me how to live my art life just like i won't tell you. my statement was about my own way of working i was not telling you or any one what you should or shouldn't do. there is nothing dangerous about thinking about art! that is a gross overstatement of the impact of such a process. i love your passion for your positions but its a bit lopsided and a touch to dramatic we are talking about art not a life or death action. if i were a child then i find your advice vary practical but i am many decades past that stage in my life and though it is up to the world to decide if i am a good artist i feel in my hart that what i do and how i do it is a vary pleasant and rewarding way of approaching my art its balanced and fits well with in the contexts of a work life balance. i paint about 5 to 7 paintings a year all of which are over 36x48 or even larger i think this is a good level of production. that is my position every one needs to do what they need to do plain and simple.
JennyMoedKorpela's avatar
I had an art teacher who once said that you need to practice your art to stay good, to improve etc as much as an opera singer needs to practice her singing or an athlete needs to exercise to keep on top. I thought it was quite a nice way to say it, and I agree!
glunac's avatar
You are right, actively doing art is the defining part of being an artist.
Though I admit I love pondering & browsing...
maccski's avatar
I'm right there with you on that one! Pondering can become addictive.
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