I look at students and try to evaluate their future potential, the
most important factor is not something you see in their work, it's
only something you can start to evaluate after talking to them for
a few minutes or having them in a class. That factor is
their desire to improve, and their capacity for discipline in
pursuing that desire.
NO artist is born with
the skills they need to succeed in the arts. There is no
such thing as genius. What
makes artists great, or skilled, or average, or insignificant is
the amalgam (thanks Courtney :) of their attitude,
intelligence, perseverance, and
their applied studies .
I would bet that every
successful artist can recall someone they knew when they were just
getting started who was a LOT better than they were, but who never
really made it as an artist. The reason those people didn't
make it is they didn't want to do it badly enough, period.
The flip side of that,
is that ANYONE of normal intelligence, and normal physical
dexterity CAN learn to be a competent, skilled artist if they want
to learn badly enough. Imagine the analogy of reading: very,
very few people cannot be taught to read to some degree.
Some choose not to learn, some have varying degrees of dyslexia,
but almost everyone can be taught basic to moderate
reading/writing skills. Does this mean that everyone can write
like J.D. Salinger, Shakespeare, or Stephen King, absolutely not;
but realize that great writers are not remembered because of their
grammar. They're remembered and admired for their ideas, and
their skill in communicating those ideas. The same is true
in the visual arts.
Questions & Answers
I read that handout on your web page about bad habits
forming. I've heart a lot about bad habits but never any
examples. What bad habits are there, and how do I avoid them?
Nori Moris, Los Angeles, CA.
Regarding your question,
off the top of my head, I would say these are the worst
1. Being dishonest or lazy in your
By this I mean not drawing or painting with a disciplined mind.
When you're working, especially if you're tired or distracted,
you'll find yourself drawing or painting what you know about an
object (the apple is red) rather than what you're observing. (in
THIS LIGHT, the apple appears a dull, grey violet, etc.)
Every art form I know of is rooted in superb, impeccably honest
observation. I see students in my classes look up at the
model for 5 seconds, then look down and draw for a couple minutes
without looking up again. These students are drawing what's
in their head, not what they're observing. This is probably
the worst bad habit of all.
2. Relying on a technique or medium for effects, rather than
investing the time to learn to draw well. I'm reading a book
right now where the author keeps showing his little
"shtick" that he uses to "give the paintings
life." It's the biggest bunch of crap. His
paintings are AWFUL. He's got his little set of techniques
to make the paintings look "artistic". The ONLY
trick that ever works is to observe something well, and draw it as
faithfully as you can with the abilities you currently have.
When I see painters using Technique A or Technique B to do
something, it makes me think of bad movies with extraneous car
chases, hokey plot twists, etc. Tell your story or painting with
honesty and you have nothing to worry about.
(For both of the above...think about this. Think about the
last time you saw a really funny stand-up comic. What was
the difference between him and a
lame stand-up comic? The difference? He was telling
you something truthful that everybody else is afraid to say.
If you can learn to paint what everyone else isn't painting---what
you really observe about something---you will be way ahead of the
3. Allowing your ego to get wrapped up in your work. You
can't allow this to happen. If you do, the following
happens: If you're doing a great piece-you notice it and are
afraid of screwing it up. This GUARANTEES you will screw it up!
If you're doing a horrible piece-you get embarrassed and want to
stop working on it or throw it away. Either way you lose.
Don't think about the results until AFTER you have finished.
THEN pat yourself on the back/chastise yourself.
4. The last major bad habit I would say is not practicing
every day. To be a good artist you have to practice what you do
every day, and practice with discipline. You will get better
in direct proportion to how much you draw/paint/think about art.
It's as simple as that.