Trust Your Gut

Just reaching out, but not so much as to open my front door over the past week. It was too hot out there! Did you go out there? Jeez. It was crazy hot and humid here. It’s finally cooled down to the freezing upper 80s, so now it’s “nice” outside. I know I should not comment on the weather here when, A. us Californians have no right to do that, and B. the country has suffered enough already. However, I do not comment on news or current events on this blog. I try not to anyway. But I think it goes without saying that I feel horrible about these disasters. I think we all feel horrible.

I’m pretty used to feeling horrible though. Or is that miserable? Yeah. Miserable. What is it that Woody Allen said? Something like, (I’m paraphrasing, of course): There are two types of people in this world: the miserable and the horrible. The horrible are the people that have been impacted by bombs; they are missing limbs; they are blind or deaf, starving in poverty, dying in pain with disease – and the miserable – are everybody else.

Am I painting? Hardly! I work on this God forsaken painting whenever a moment strikes me. And I’m not kidding when I say, “a moment.”

I’m still in writing mode, but nothing good has come of it. I got rejected from one of the magazines I submitted to, but it’s okay. I didn’t have any expectations there. The other magazine is pending and I won’t hear from them for another couple of months yet. And I’m still thinking about a new book, a novel (fiction), or possibly a book of short stories, but I’ve been doing more organizing on the novel than actually writing it.

To be honest, I’ve been wasting a lot of time on various online forums, which I’ve always been addicted to – for as long as I’ve been on the Internet. It’s how I do all my social engaging while being an anti-social shut-in. I’ve talked about it before here and there, and I always mean to publish some of my posts from those forums here to my blog, but then I forget to do it. Or I don’t know how to put it into context.

One thing I do on these forums is give out a lot of advice to new artists. I know that must sound pretentious, but it’s in the spirit of wanting to help, and the other day I was thinking, Duh. Maybe my four readers would be interested in this stuff.

A couple things that come to mind were about photographing your own artwork; the other was a thread titled, “What advice should you never give a beginner.” That particular thread got very interesting. There were so many artists with opinions – a lot of “rules” came up, like how realism and anatomy need to be a beginner’s foremost foundation. Or, how you must learn all the rules before you can break them. I guess there’s an art mafia that comes to your door if you don’t abide by these directions? They rough you up or break your legs or something.

So, personally, I’d advise a beginner not to take too much advice, and if they do, consider the source. “Other” artists and teaching artists are two totally different types. One may not have your best interest in mind. Not only is your best interest a real teacher’s goal, but a good one will address the specific artist that’s right in front of them. Because it depends on their strengths and weaknesses. There are no “one size fits all.”

I’d also suggest instead of focusing on what you “shouldn’t” tell new artists, think about what you”should,” or “always” tell ’em: Always draw. Always be training your eye. (And show them how.)

If you want to learn the all the basics, and basic media, and you think you need a college education for that, think again. Unless you intend to teach adults on the university level – which is a fine paying job by the way – you do not need a piece of paper/degree to work or land representation as an artist. It would be cheaper and more educational to find a trustworthy and knowledgeable mentor that has the skills and time to show you.

Something I have also noticed on these forums are topics that come up again and again about artists having a hard time with their own work – comparing themselves to other artists, struggling with jealously, being shrouded in self-doubt, feeling like they should be further along than they are and wondering when their “style” is going to emerge. These feelings are all pretty typical of of new artists. Most of the former are typical of all artists. The culprit is usually impatience for newer artist, when worrying about style. Style comes with time and there’s nothing purposeful you can do about it except make art and wait. Watch and wait. Experiment as much as you can too. Eventually things will get clearer. It won’t matter what you paint either. Trust me.

Try not to worry about what other artists around you are doing. Easier said than done, I know. But if that is distracting you in a negative way, you’ll need to find ways to accept those feelings while disregarding then during your working process. However, if other people’s work is inspiring you – as sometimes jealously can take a turn this way – perhaps you can learn from it and glean what you can from these other artists that are on your mind all the time.

If you think you should be further along than you already are, join the club. I think we all have felt this way. Personally, I have had terrible breakdowns trying to “catch up” to an ideal in my head of where I thought I was “supposed” to be. That is, until I realized how stupid it was. That doesn’t mean that this anxiety went away. I still have it sometimes. I’m neurotic. But I have forced myself to slow way, way down on the time I put into each painting. I’ve done this on purpose and it’s really helped my mind and soul. There are times when it bothers me that I’m not cranking out 100 paintings a year, but that’s just the way it is. I think you learn this sort of patience with age, or experience. Maybe both.

What makes an artist anyway? New or experienced? Does it really have anything to do with how many paintings you produce? I really don’t think so. Is it about how much anatomy you know? These are stupid questions, aren’t they? And who of us makes the decisions about how a person should or shouldn’t advance when art is such an individualized path? Not me. These are all just my silly opinions. Do not listen to me! One thing I do know for sure is that you need to trust your gut.

Thank you and good night.

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