Inspiration is for Amateurs
I recently attended an abstract workshop taught by nationally recognized abstract artist Charlotte Foust. Having suffered from a creative rut, I attended this workshop thinking this would be the catalyst for new and exciting work.
I remember really struggling the first day as I attempted to mimic Charlotte's unique and graceful approach to building a painting. By the end of the workshop with just a few hour to spare I was able to finish a painting using Charlotte's approach and was satisfied. I drove home eager to begin painting in my studio using my newfound skills. I grabbed my least two favorite paintings and began this solo journey of exploration with much anticipation. And to my dissatisfaction within hours I ruined both these otherwise decent paintings.
At this point I am even questioning whether or not I rate to continue painting. After an extended dry period I think a lot of artists question their ability. But then I began to think about the 10,000 hour rule. For those not familiar, the principle holds that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice are needed to become world-class or expert in a field. The engineer in me says that even if I was painting 2 hours daily I could not be considered expert for another 13+ years.
I then began to think about athletes. A baseball player may expect to hit a home run each time at bat. However that logic is unrealistic. Similarly an artist cannot expect each painting to be a masterpiece! In addition, a baseball player practices many thousands of hours in a lifetime and then utilizes those skills during games on the ball field. An artist can use a sketchbook, paper, or practice canvas oftentimes considered "studies" in order to discover new techniques or perfect existing techniques.
All too often as an artist I showed up to the ball game having little to no practice. Even more often as an artist I showed up to the tournament expecting to hit a grand slam having little to no batting practice. Now, I take time to sketch in a journal or on paper prior to beginning a new painting. I also understand that unrealistic expectations will ruin everything. I will find joy in the process whether it is a study or masterpiece.
Strangely, as I was pondering all of this post I stumbled upon a quote on Instagram that perfectly summed this post. "Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightening to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself." - Chuck Close
In closing my lesson is to go easy on myself and enjoy the process. Not every day will contain a breakthrough and not every painting will be a masterpiece. If you put in the work you will reap the reward.
And Buy original art.