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Administrative Aspects of Being an Artist: Writing an Artist’s Statement

 

 

Voices and Visions: A Narrative Series

Today I am challenging myself to finish writing my artist statement for my poetry illustration series, Voices, and Visions. After months of on and off work on this series, I am committing to working on the series at least 1x a week.  Some of the activities that I engage in to get the ball rolling with this series are: to write critiques about work in progress, post paintings and sketches to Instagram on a weekly basis create tonal studies, and to create photo collages in Photoshop for subjects that require complicated themes.

This body of work, Voices, and Visions, is really stretching me, and it is unlike any other series I have worked on in the past. There have been several instances of artist’s block and resistance in general to finish the work. What is holding me back? Are life circumstances to blame for my lack of follow through with this series? Or are family crises taking up the bulk of my time and energy? Do I fear to make a mistake so much that it paralyzes me from picking up the pencil or brush? Or have I spent too much time watching British TV mystery series, such as Vera Stanhope or Inspector Morse?  I’m not really sure; maybe all of these things have played a part in my inertia.

Writer’s Block: Getting started with an Artist Statement

In addition to avoiding completing this series, I have also avoided working on my artist statement for this series, which has not been helpful either. Unfortunately, I have not been reading or editing the artist statement which inspired me to create this series as I do the work. However, I realize that if I want to have a cohesive body of work with a strong message, I need to be sure that the work in progress is tracking with my original artist’s statement.  Regrettably, I have made this mistake before, and as you might imagine the results of that experiment were not good. A few years back, well, more than a few, I applied for graduate school at a number of colleges for a master’s degree in art. Needless to say, I didn’t get any acceptance letters, and the artwork I created did not reflect the artist statement I had started writing because I did not adjust the statement to reflect the artwork as I was painting or vice versa.  So with that in mind, I am trying to learn from past mistakes and catch this lack of synchronicity between my artist’s statement and the work in progress.  I hope that writing about how to write an artist’s statement will get me out of this rut.

Why Should You Write an Artist’s Statement?

According to the Agora Gallery article, “How to Write an Artist Statement: Tips from the Art Experts”, an artist’s statement plays a crucial role in communicating your intentions about your artwork to others (“How to Write an Artist Statement: Tips from the Art Experts”, Agora Gallery, http://www.agoragallery.com, pg. 2)   Sounds good right? But what if you don’t like to write? The author, and art business coach, Alyson Stanfield makes a good point in illustrating why an artist may not want to write an artist statement when she wrote: “My artwork speaks for itself.” (Alyson Stanfield, I’d Rather Be in the Studio, pg. 51.)  But can it really? Can other people follow your art-making processes and really understand what you intend if you don’t give them a map to follow? To illustrate, imagine that you sent out a resume and cover letter that are very general for a specific job posting, rather than tailoring your skills to that job description.

Are you likely to get the job, or even an interview? I think the answer is, probably not, because an employer needs to see why they should consider you as a candidate specifically. In a similar manner, I think that writing an artist’s statement can also help an artist to stand out from the multiple numbers of artist entries and websites, and make their work more personal and meaningful to viewers. Most important,  writing an artist statement can make a connection between you and your audience, when you are not there in person to speak for yourself. (Agora Gallery, pg. 2)   But as an artist, I do empathize with those who don’t like to write and would rather express themselves visually. Despite years of writing research papers as a college student, I still don’t like to write.  Hopefully, the highlights I am sharing from this article will help you to overcome any excuses or fears about writing an artist’s statement,  so that people will stand up and take notice of your art. This is particularly important if you want to make the transition from being a hobby artist to a professional artist who exhibits art in galleries or other public spaces.

Who is Your Audience?

In addition, an artist statement is necessary for consideration in art competitions, art galleries, museums, etc. (Ibid, pg. 2).  Occasionally, an artist’s statement may be displayed as an accompaniment to their artwork at a gallery show, art fair or on an artist’s website. (Ibid, pg. 2). One important thing to remember is to consider who your audience is as you write your artist statement. (Ibid, pg. 2)  Some of the people you are communicating with could be “gallery visitors, students, or potential buyers”. (Ibid, pg. 2). To write an effective statement, an artist needs to use terms and words that are understandable to a range of people, from those who have an art background to others who may have little to no knowledge about art. (Ibid, pg.2)

How Would You Describe Your Art?

Another thing that you should include in your artist statement is an explanation of how you make your art.  (Ibid, pg.2) For example, include information such as your favorite colors to paint with or your medium of choice, such as photography, sculpture, watercolor, etc. (Ibid, pg.2)   What style of art do you practice? (Ibid, pg.2)    Is your art abstract or realistic, or somewhere in between? (Ibid, pg.2) For instance, do you like to include texture in your brushwork by loading your brush with thick paint, or do you like to hide your brushwork and build up tone with thin glazes of paint? (Ibid, pg.2)

What Do You Paint, Draw, Sculpt or Photograph?

What imagery do you use to make your art? (Ibid, pg.3)Explain the content which you use in your artwork.  (Ibid, pg.3) Does it relate to your process, or to the medium that you use to make art? (Ibid, pg.3)  Do you use specific themes to illustrate a story, feeling, or memory, such as figures, landscapes, or symbols? (Ibid, pg.3)   What influences inspire your art? (Ibid, pg.3)   Is it political issues, memories of your childhood or your local surroundings, or formal elements of art, such as line, shape, color, value, etc?

Why Do You Make Art?

Finally, you want to include a section in your artist statement which gives an explanation of why you make artwork. (Ibid, pg.3) Tell viewers what drives or motivates you to create. (Alyson Stanfield, I’d Rather Be in the Studio, 2008, pg, 44)   Be specific, don’t just say, because I have to do it. (ibid) Certain examples might include, I make art to process difficult childhood experiences, or I create artwork to bring attention to political issues I am passionate about.  This article is just a brief overview to get you started with an artist statement and is by no means comprehensive. However, if you would like a more detailed resource to walk you through writing an artist’s statement, I recommend that you visit the link for the article: How to Write an Artist Statement: Tips from the Art Experts: https://www.agora-gallery.com/advice/blog/2016/07/23/how-to-write-artist-statement/. Another excellent resource I would recommend that you read to help you write an artist statement is Alyson Standfield’s book, I’d Rather be in the Studio, which is available on amazon.com or as a pdf download from her website: https://artbizcoach.com/. Chapter 4 describes a system about how to write an artist statement, with some helpful prompts to get you thinking about why you make art.

infographic, hand, writing, pen, artist statement.
This is an infographic from the article, “How to Write an Artist Statement: Tips from the Experts,” Agora Gallery, https://www.agoragaller-gallery.com.

 

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A Life Remembered: Paintings that Helped Me Process Grief

This week I am between projects, as I have just finished the 100 Faces in 100 Days drawing challenge. I also completed some paintings for the Frederick Coffee Company Art show I just finished. So now the perennial question, what do I work on next, and what do I blog about next? I have finally picked up the brush and pencil this Monday and started to revisit the drawings and photoshop files I created for my Voices and Visions poetry illustration series. These works are in the very beginning stages and I started them with evaluating the compositions of some of these files in Photoshop and re-organizing them. After that, I worked on transferring the photocopies of these illustrations to watercolor paper and illustration board. One painting even got to the basic lay-in with acrylic painting stage, but the others need another coat of gesso before they will be ready to paint.

It seems that the bad news I got from the Doctor’s Office on Monday has helped catapult me to action with this series. For the past several months I have been focusing on promoting art shows and administrative duties such as marketing, data entry, pricing, packing up art shows and setting new ones up, etc. However, the phone call I received this Monday, reminds me of all the other times I got disturbing news but had to find a way to get through everyday life in spite of it. This week has really been a déjà vu, of all the experiences and emotions I felt during my dad’s illness from March 2011-September 2011 when he passed.  But with all that being said, the real take away I have had from these experiences is that tomorrow isn’t promised and that I need to make the most of the time I have today.

In March of 2011, I got the phone call that everyone dreads; my father had had a stroke. My sister had called the ambulance and he and was at Montgomery General Hospital where they were testing him for various things. This event ushered in several months of inconclusive tests, different diagnoses, hospital visits, sleepless nights and ongoing stress and uncertainty for me and my family. I felt totally unprepared for this kind of long-term stress and I didn’t know how to cope with it. The situation was also a shock because my father had always been a healthy man and never seemed to have any ongoing illness, other than his recent bout with shingles. I turned to making art as a way to try and introduce some calm and predictability into my days so I could go on working, doing laundry, etc. I discovered that attending art classes every week with a local artist, Rebecca Pearl

introduced some much-needed structure into my days. After my father passed in September of 2011, I was still dealing with a lot of emotions. I decided to create a series of portrait paintings about his life to try and process the grief and to create a meaningful way of honoring his memory, using family photos as references for the oil paintings. Some days I could barely paint and looking at the photos of him in happier times was really difficult. Other days, I was able to paint without feeling so sad. And now, several years later, I am turning to art again as a way to cope while waiting for answers about my diagnosis of a low platelet count.  I have to wait for two more weeks for another round of tests to get some more conclusive answers, hopefully.

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Why Should Artists Create Content Based Work?

Have you ever wondered why some artists, such as Andrew Wyeth, and others create their artwork in a series format? My first experience with creating artwork as a series was as an undergraduate at McDaniel College, taking art classes at the senior level. In this Senior Studio Capstone class, my fellow students and I were given the assignment to create a series of artworks that expressed a theme of interest or importance to us and to write an artist’s statement that described our artwork’s theme.  For example, according to the website The Abundant Artist, some themes that artists might explore in a series include, 1.) texture and color (Faith Ringgold), 2.) politics  (Kathe Kollwitz), 3.) death, (Hirst) or 4.) messages that uplift, like Kelley Rae Roberts.   Prior to that, my assignments in drawing and painting consisted of drawing or painting to try and copy the still life or model in front of me, to teach the skills of observation. At that time, I had no idea how to even get started and had artist’s block for two weeks while I searched for artworks that inspired, all in vain. My Teacher did give us some guidance on the process though. He suggested that we create sketchbooks in which we pasted artworks of inspiration, no matter the medium, and he suggested that we look up art magazines, such as Art in America. Pouring over art magazines and artist websites, such as Forum Gallery, I could think of nothing new to say with my artwork that hadn’t already been said. I felt I had a lot of competition since there have already been many artists who have gone before me, who have created several unforgettable artworks to boot, such as Vermeer’s, Girl with a Pearl Earring, painted in 1665.

After weeks of struggle and seeking out artwork that inspired me, I had a solution. My answer came from an unlikely source, music. I decided to illustrate some of the songs of my favorite musician, Sting, using my self-portrait as a muse, along with color, and composition to portray various feelings of uncertainty, sadness, etc. Some of the songs I illustrated in my self-portrait series were Lithium Sunset and Secret Journey. The first song talks about how medication can help bring a person out of depression and make them strong enough to get back up again. While the second song, Secret Journey, talks about a mystical journey of enlightenment. I printed out the songs from Sting’s website, www.sting.com, pasted them in my sketchbooks, and underlined words and phrases that I thought were good candidates for illustration. And I referenced these songs and artworks of inspiration as I crafted my Artist’s Statement. As I searched through artwork that inspired, it became evident that I was drawn to the subject of the portrait, but I didn’t know how to make my work unique because the portrait has been done numerous times before.

The imagery of Sting’s songs provided the perfect solution to my dilemma and I was off and running. My then boyfriend, Dan, took photos of me to provide the source photos for my oil paintings. To make a long story short, I finished the series in time and even made a power point presentation as part of the project requirements of my finished works. In addition, I crafted an artist’s statement, which helped me to define the artwork by describing what the artwork would be about and what influences had to lead me to the finished work. I learned a lot about myself as an artist, such as how to distill ideas through writing artist statements and creating sketchbooks to illustrate my ideas by pasting artwork that inspired onto its pages. In particular, I discovered that I liked to make artworks that had a message, even if the search for the solution was far from easy. But back to my main question, “Why should artists work in a series?”

To investigate that question more fully, I did what many people would do, I googled it.  The websites, Abundant Artist and Art Business.com,  shed some light on the subject of content-based art. According to the authors, some of these benefits include: 1.) Making artwork in a series gives the artist a platform to connect with their audience on an emotional level because the artwork is focused and personal, 2.) Creating artwork in a series format helps others to understand what an artist’s work is about and who they are as a person, 3.) Artists who make artwork in a series are more likely to find art galleries to exhibit their work

because they know how to market the artist and this format follow their business model, and 4.) Working in a series format helps artists to understand what topics/subjects are important to them, and which they like to draw or paint.

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How to Stop Procrastinating and Get Things Done

This week’s topic focuses on a behavior that many can probably relate to, and I include myself in that number. The behavior of which I speak is procrastination. I confess that I seem to have only two settings with regard to task completion, and they are hyper speed and snail speed. At times I am hyper focused and hyper busy on whatever the project at hand may be, such as completing an art project, or writing an artist’s statement, etc.. However, at other times, I start and stop and ultimately avoid the task, if it seems too difficult or unpleasant. At present, I am battling with the dreaded enemy of time, procrastination. I procrastinate on the mundane, such as de-cluttering my studio and organizing hard copy art business files and paper work, to the more critical, like updating my web site, and balancing my checkbook, or finishing a complete body of work that features some sketches and Photoshop collages that illustrate favorite poetry quotes.  As to that later, I have started and stopped the drawings and paintings and Photoshop collages for the poetry illustration project numerous times since I came up with the idea in the summer of 2015.

Lately, I have been trying to finish one work from this series in particular, and it is an acrylic painting, entitled, Waiting: Creative Block. It has been a very challenging art piece to work on in terms of choosing the right composition and color scheme. I am being really stretched beyond my comfort zone with this series, as I have never attempted to illustrate something as ambitious as abstract thoughts and feelings such as creative block, creativity, childhood wonder, overcoming life obstacles, etc.! And though I know the stretching is good for my artistic muscles and that I will be happy with myself for completing the work, I tend to avoid the hard part. And the moment comes when you decide whether to press on despite the difficulty and finish the “run” or you give up.

Other things that I have procrastinated about completing are cataloging and watermarking my art work, getting art work framed and matted for an upcoming art show, writing this blog post, printing out my bookkeeping files for this year’s profit and loss sheet, (what fun!), to name a few. I need to find a balance between procrastination and workaholic tendencies when I don’t take time to rest and regroup. When I am unbalanced, I have very little physical energy or creative energy to finish the art work I start and all the other administrative tasks that I need to do to help support my business and market my art work.  I need to create margin in my schedule so that I can get these things done and set some deadlines for each task so that I am motivated to complete these projects!

One more thing I also need to do now is to not schedule any further art shows, and just take some time to regroup so that there will be time to get these things done, such as finishing the poetry series and updating my web site. To date, I have scheduled 9 art shows this year, and one possible art fair is currently in the works. This leaves me with little time to get these other tasks done, since I often have to get my art ready for distribution by pricing it, framing it, and marketing it on social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, in addition to making print postcards in Photoshop to give out to potential clients, fans, family, and friends. On the other hand, I have gotten to make more sales, more exposure for my art, and have met more people, which is always a good thing!

I wondered what others had to say about procrastination and how to stop doing it, so I listened to a podcast by author and art biz coach, Alyson Stanfield. In a podcast called, Getting Difficult Things Done, Alyson Stanfield and a guest, Cynthia Morris, also a coach, as well as an artist, discussed some strategies to tackle procrastination. Source: Alyson Stanfield, wwww.artbizcoach.com.  One of their main points was to envision how you will feel after you complete a challenging task, rather than settling for feeling good or just having fun.  Another idea that was mentioned in the podcast was the importance of setting deadlines and thinking about how to reward you after completing a difficult task. Alyson shared that one of her dreaded tasks as an art business coach is working on bookkeeping. She tried to start a ritual of doing her books on Monday but found that that was not the way she wanted to start her week. She was helped by some advice that her husband gave her, which was to re-frame her situation by thinking of this task as counting her money. Bookkeeping is definitely not one of my favorite tasks either. On the other hand, I am realizing that by doing my books, I can understand what is working and what isn’t in my business, rather than being in denial about how much spending I am really doing, in relationship to my sales.

In a similar vein, I also looked up goal setting and anti-procrastination strategies on a Google search, and I found an article called, Why Do You Procrastinate, by Margie Warrell, on www.forbes.com. Warell shared that many of us procrastinate on things both large and small, whether it is getting our personal files organized or updating our resume. She discussed the ways in which we avoid doing things that need to get done with excuses such as, “I don’t have the skills for that,” or “It’s too difficult.” I have definitely made those excuses and avoided tackling difficult tasks, like working on my poetry series. But this week, I made the decision to set aside time for creativity and put in some time coming up with solutions to the compositional problems plaguing my Waiting: Creative Block painting. And I could see that this progress from a much-cluttered composition to something more pleasing is going to take time, but that it is well worth the effort. I know it is stretching me as an artist to do more challenging art work that requires different solutions from my older more simple pieces.

In closing, I would like to share some strategies Warrell suggested to avoid the procrastination trap. Here they are in order: 1.) Set a deadline, and write down your goal (s), 2.) Simplify your goal (s) into smaller pieces, 3.) Envision your ideal life, 4.) Get an accountability partner, 5.) Reward your progress, and 6.) Take the first step toward your goal. Source: Why Do You Procrastinate, by Margie Warrell, on www.forbes.com.

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Art Shows

Hello Family, Friends, and Followers,

I’m writing to tell you about my upcoming art shows. I’m excited that I’ve been able to secure these new opportunities to show my art work at two great venues and I hope you can stop by to one or both of these art shows! This month my painting,  Magenta Rose , will be featured along with the art work of several of my fellow Artist Angle Member friends at Frederick Community College from September 9-October 4th at the Mary Condon Hodgson Art Gallery. For more information about the Artist Angle Member’s art show, follow this link:  http://calendar.frederick.edu/site/arts/event/artistangle-gallery—members-exhibition/.

Next month, my art will be featured at the Frederick Coffee Company in Frederick, MD, as an artist of the month from October 1-31. The cafe graciously features local artists every month of the year, free of charge.  Stop by for coffee, tea, a sandwich, or live music on the weekends. My exhibit will feature landscapes and still life which was inspired by the art work of the Impressionist artist, Claude Monet. Here is the web site for the Frederick Coffee Company if you would like more information about the art show location, or cafe hours of operation, http://fredcoffeeco.com/. I’m working on an art show post card to advertise the Frederick Coffee Company art show since the cafe does not make marketing materials for the artists, like an art gallery usually does. I will add a blog post with the completed post card soon!

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The Great Talent Debate

As an artist, I often hear comments such as, “You’re so talented,” or some variation on that theme, whether it is a comment that is posted online or an in person encounter.  I’ve gotten this remark from friends, family, strangers, etc.  And while it is always nice to hear such ego boosting compliments, I feel the need to pull back the curtain on the mystique of the talented artist conception. In fact, when others interpret my completed paintings and drawings as evidence of a natural talent for art, that I was born with, my facility with drawing and painting has been the result of a systematic and long-term method. This process is composed of some of the following ingredients: a strong passion to master drawing and painting skills, bloody minded determination not to give up on art, failure (not everything I draw or paint is successful), an extensive education in art technique and media, weekly practice in drawing and painting, just to name a few. And perhaps most importantly, I grew up with parents who were very supportive of my pursuit of art. For instance, my mom was the first one who introduced me to painting when she enrolled me in a watercolor class at the age of 9. I’ve been hooked on making art ever since! In fact, this summer I have embarked on a long-term drawing challenge to improve my drawing skills and I am realizing there is still so much I need to learn, and that I need the discipline to get better at my craft.

With regard to my weekly drawing practice, I have been working on a drawing challenge since June of this year, called, 100 Faces in 100 Days. In this challenge, I practice drawing on an almost daily basis. I focus on sketching celebrity portraits with paper and pencil, keeping the drawings simple so that they can be completed in about 45 minutes.  Some days the portraits seem to come together almost magically and I have very few drawing errors to correct, but on other days like today, I really struggle to get things right with the portrait measurements. On days such as these, I make a lot of revisions to the drawing, erasing, measuring and standing back to compare my drawing to the reference photo, until I am happy with the result, or the kitchen timer dings. And this phenomenon is nothing new. As an art student at McDaniel College, I had a lot of ups and downs, with paintings and drawings. Some were successful, others were not.

But to return to my initial question, Does natural talent exist? Although I am not a scholar or even a cognitive scientist, I theorize that many factors play into whether a person is able to show exceptional skill in drawing or painting, or any other impressive level of aptitude in a given domain. For example, in specialties such as singing, playing an instrument or sports, etc. I think it is a combination both of one’s environment, (the conditions you grew up with), specific personality traits, such as a strong work ethic, and a strong desire to master a subject. I think if I just relied on my innate talent, (whatever that may mean), I wouldn’t grow artistically because I would feel that no effort was required on my part to achieve greatness. The question of whether natural talent comes from has been discussed by  Kauffman, (2013), who states that there has been an ongoing debate about whether natural talent exists or not. Kauffman, 2013, states that in ancient time’s people believed that individual talent was linked to divinity, and that interest in this topic took a scientific turn in the nineteenth century, with the publication of the work, Francis Galton’s Hereditary Genius, which was published in 1869. Source: The Complexity of Greatness, by Scott Barry Kauffman, 2013.

For example, Kauffman (2013), states that  Galton made a study of “eminent lineages” and based on his findings, he theorized that talent was passed on to families from one person to another (Galton, 1874). According to Kauffman, 2013, Galton, also acknowledged the importance of not giving up easily, but he discounted the significance of environment as a determining factor of personal greatness for the individual, specifically with regard to celebrated scientists. The basis of Galton’s theory was that individuals were born with talent (Kauffman, 2013). On the other hand, Alphonse de Condole, (1873), “a French-Swiss botanist”, made the assertion that environmental factors play a critical role in the creation of exceptional talents, such as political conditions, religion, economic, social and cultural factors. ( Source: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/the-complexity-of-greatness-beyond-talent-or-practice/) and www.wikipedia.org.

Other theorists, such as the 18th-century painter, Sir Joshua Reynolds, argued that art students should not rely on their talent alone to produce great art, but that they should practice their craft diligently, (Kauffman, 2013).  The contention about where skill or natural talent comes from has continued to be debated and studied among Scientists, scholars and researchers even as recently as the 2000s. For example, According to Lynn Helding, author of, Innate Talent, Myth or Reality?,  2011, the topic of greatness was more recently discussed by Psychology Professor, Anders K. Ericsson, who teaches at the University of Florida (Helding, 2011). Ericsson studied both the quality and amount of time it requires for an individual to achieve greatness in a specialty (Helding, 2011). In addition, some of the research he published on this topic was published as recently as 2015, in his article entitled, The effects of experience and disuse on Crossword solving, published in the periodical, Cognitive Psychology. Source: https://psy.fsu.edu/faculty/ericssonk/ericsson.dp.php.  His studies into this topic have formed the basis for “the magic number 10,000 for the number of practice hours that it seems to take for anyone (including “so called prodigies”) to attain a level of mastery at such high-level tasks such as tennis, golf, chess, piano, and violin. This term is also known as “The Ten Year Rule of Necessary Preparation.” (Helding, 2011).

However, since the well known and wealthy author and motivational speaker, Malcolm Gladwell, coined the phrase, “the 10,000 hour practice rule,” he frequently gets the credit for this theory and not Ericsson, or the eleven researchers “whose own deliberate practice, spread over more than a century, provided the data for the theory.” Source: http://scholar.dickinson.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1078&context=faculty_publications. Innate Talent: Myth or Reality, Lynn Heliding, 2011, Mindful Voice. Journal of Singing 67, no. 4, pgs 451-458.

The question of whether natural talent real continues to be debated on discussion threads in Quora and Reddit, which are some forum type websites. Users ask such as: “Does natural talent exist or all skills learned?” cited in www. Reddit.com, in 2013. In addition, this question is much like the nature or nurture question in determining how a person will turn out, and what determining factor plays the most crucial part in that process. We may never know the exact percentages of how much genes or environment can affect individual outcomes, or even if there is some type of gene that gives people an advantage in subjects such as math, athletics, music or art. But one thing I know for sure, I am going to keep practicing and not give up my painting and drawing practice, because I want to continue to grow as an artist. What about you? Do you think greatness is a skill that is solely learned by deliberate, ongoing practice or are some individuals born with some type of gene that gives them an advantage others do not have?

Note: To read more about Professor Anders K. Erickson’s fascinating studies into “deliberate practice and expert performance” go to

https://psy.fsu.edu/faculty/ericssonk/ericsson.dp.php.

 

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The Lost Art of Drawing

About a century ago (well I exaggerate a little); I was a college student studying art at McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. I had a brilliant and successful art teacher who was able to make the practice of art making and the hatching of new ideas come alive like no other teacher I had before.  He taught me many useful things, such as how to keep an art sketchbook pasted with photos of art work by artists I admired, and how to write about my art in a way that expressed the message I wanted to share with it. Above all of the tips and advice, he gave I remember him telling me that I should draw every day. At the time, that task seemed quite difficult. I was always an impatient artist as a student and I often rushed through the drawing stage to hurry up and get to the painting, especially oil painting, because I enjoyed working with the buttery texture of the oil paint and I loved working in color. Now that many years have passed since my graduation from McDaniel and I am a professional artist seeking out new avenues to showcase my art and making custom pet portraits, I can truly see the value in his advice.

With hindsight, I can see that he was so right about drawing every day. I no longer rush art work projects and I have learned to love drawing, whether it becomes a painting or not. A few years ago, I took a drawing class at Frederick Community College, with instructor Cynthia Bausch, who taught me how to use charcoal, pastel, and pencil to create compelling drawings with a high degree of finish. This experience started my love for drawing, even though getting the drawings right was extremely difficult. Frequently, I would do the sketch over and over again until I was pleased with the result. For instance, the self-portrait in charcoal, pictured in this post, was drawn a total of three times before I  handed in the final piece to the art teacher. Since then, I have embraced my former art teacher’s advice, Steve Pearson, from McDaniel College,  to draw every day. at present, I am working on a drawing challenge I like to call 100 faces in 100 days. In this challenge, I draw a pre-selected photo from the Internet or a coffee table book, Icons, of a celebrity using only pencil and paper. I do not add in a lot of detail or shading and I limit myself to 45 minutes a day. This time frame for drawing sessions tends to be more like 5 days a week for me since I often work on weekends and feel pretty fried when I come home. The drawings are strictly for practice and not intended for sale at this time.

To see what others in the art world had to say about the importance of drawing, I did a web search, with the query term, Why Artists Should Draw More.  Artist and blogger, Lori McNee, states that drawing can give the artists a multitude of benefits to help them improve their craft as an artist, not the least of which is learning to observe a subject, which is a skill that is important both to the practices of painting and drawing. Source: http://www.finearttips.com/2012/10/10-reasons-why-artists-should-draw-more/.  Drawing more can also help you plan out your compositions better and give you a road map to follow for your design before you get to the painting stage when it is more difficult to make changes.

McNee, (2012), also states that many children enjoy coloring with crayons. For example, I have observed this tendency in the day care setting, (McNee, 2012),  when I was working as an Assistant Teacher at La Petite Academy when I was a high school student. However, over time many children stop drawing or making crafts and self-consciousness drifts in, stealing the spontaneous joy of creating something new. I observed this tendency when I volunteered as an assistant in a middle school art class back in the early 200s. A lot of the kids in this art class would say, “I can’t draw this,” or “You do it,” to me when I walked around to work one on one with the students.Picasso-quotes-every-child-is-an-artist  In fact, even artists (such as Mc Nee) who have been trained to draw, often let this essential art practice slide over time, (McNee, 2012) and may come to rely on tracing, especially if they need to get a project done quickly for a client. I admit, I am guilty of this tendency and until a few years ago, I rarely had a daily drawing practice, and I often struggled to get my proportions in portraits correct, often giving up in futility to join all the other drawings on the reject pile.

However this summer, I was inspired to tackle my fears about drawing and making mistakes by the drawing challenge artist and blogger, Julie Fan Fei completed which she called, 100 15 minute Balzer Faces, in which she made a daily drawing practice using a variety of media such as ink, acrylic paint, and jelly plate printing, among others. Source: http://balzerdesigns.typepad.com/balzer_designs/100-15-minute-balzer-faces/.  This challenge and my art teacher’s wise advice, motivated me to complete my own drawing challenge which I like to call 100 Faces in 100 days.  I post progress photos of my celebrity sketches on my Instagram account almost every day, but it tends to be more like 5 days a week because of my work schedule, in which I often work weekends.   I spend 45 minutes on each sketch, with minimal sketching, and I simplify this process by working only in with paper and pencil.

I also keep a visual photo file of celebrity imagery I would like to draw from. One important note of caution here: If you want to sell a portrait or sketch, it is best to use your own photos if possible to avoid copyright violation, or to visit the Wikipedia web site, http://www.wikipedia.org, where you can do image searches by the name of the celebrity and find out the photo’s provenance, such as the name of who took the picture and whether it is in the public domain. Here is a link Wikipedia with a public domain photo of Cary Grant: https:enwikipedia.org/wiki/Cary_Grant#/media/File:Grant,_Cary_(Suspicion)-01_Crisco_edit.jpg. I have attached my sketch of Cary Grant based on this photo.

 To be on the safe side, you want to choose photos in the public domain if you plan to show your work or sell it or publish it in any way unless you can get written permission from the photographer to reproduce their work.  If you’re drawing is just for practice, no need to worry. But do try to give credit to the photographer if you can find out that information, and include that photographer’s name in your sketch when you sign and date it. Here are two web sites you can refer to learn more about copyright violation and terms: https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-fairuse.html, and https://blog.kenkaminesky.com/photography-copyright-and-the-law/.

In conclusion, I am still working on my drawing challenge and I am really enjoying the process.  I feel like I am getting more comfortable with drawing and the pressure if off because this work is not for a custom art order, or for an art show entry. I am learning how to slow down and not be in a rush to finish a project. What really matters is that I have passion, determination, and am willing to put in the time to learn to draw, paint, etc.  It takes time to acquire these skills and is similar to learning a sport or an instrument, which requires hours, days, weeks, and years of practice. I’m trying to be patient with the process and remember that most of what I know how to do now with ease, had to be practiced and (and often!), whether it was walking, talking, reading, writing, cooking, etc., etc.  to reach a level of mastery.