Friday, November 7, 2008

Drop By Drop

After Degas' Cassatt
oil on prestretched canvas
12 in x 9 in

Are you looking for that 4 hour chunk in your week where everything quiets so you can sit down and create a masterpiece?

Are you looking for that “aha” moment when suddenly, like a rushing waterfall, art knowledge and skill just pours through you and out the end of your brush into a masterpiece?

What We Dream

As humans I think we dream of these days and moments. We want space to do what we want and we don’t do anything until we get it. As well, I think we dream of waking up one day as Michelangelo, Monet, or Sargent. We want skill and talent to just descend upon us, wave on wave.

Why Those Dreams are Lies

The trouble is most of us don’t live lives where we can just create great chunks of time in our week. We also don’t have minds that can absorb great chunks of complicated, intricate knowledge.

Why Reality Isn't So Bad

To return to the water metaphor, we actually learn in “drops”. We learn one drop at a time. What we forget is that if we learn that first drop and then the second drop, we don’t just have 2 drops of water beneath. Each subsequent piece of artwork we do has both those drops of learning consistently running through it.

With each drop (or skill) you learn, you add to your supply. At some point, you suddenly hear the sound of rushing water, but it isn’t a sudden gush, it is a drop by drop process that results in masterpieces.

Stop Dreaming and Start Doing

So what does all this mean? It means stop looking for huge chunks of time to do your art. Stop waiting until you know “more” to pick up a brush.

Give yourself 15 minutes a day, every day, regardless of how you feel. Rain, shine, happy, sad, tired, or full of energy – just get your 15 minutes in.

Evidence That It Works

I recently gave this advice to a pianist friend of mine who has struggled to play since her twins were born. She called the other day and told me in an excited voice that she had memorized half of a major piece – all because she gave herself 15 minutes a day.

This patient, “bit by bit” learning is recommended all over in classic drawing and painting textbooks. It’s evidenced in the daily painting phenomenon – those artists get better really fast. And I have seen it personally in my own artistic journey.

I think an old adage in gardening applies here: When is the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago. When is the second best time? Today.


Stacy said...

Good points Rose! The first year I started making time for art I tracked my hours and found I worked 75 hours IN A YEAR. I know there are artists who put in 75 hours a week, but that year 75 hours was a major accomplishment for me. And it gave me something to build from.

Jo Castillo said...

Rose, you write with great instinct. Very helpful post. Stacy, you should be proud of yourself, too.

Rose Welty said...

Thanks Stacy and you've got it exactly. And Jo is right, you have done well with all that you are accomplishing lately!

Thanks Jo!

A Reason to Paint said...

What a wise post Rose. Before I began painting I suspect I wasted many a 15-minutes on wishing I had more time. The wishful thinking kept me from painting for many years.
I still don't have regular large chunks of time, but I do aim to paint something at least every week, and you're right the small amounts of practice can make a difference.

Laure Ferlita said...

Love this post, Rose! I've started getting up early to paint. Since painting is one of the most important things in my life, it didn't make sense to leave it until the end of the day. A lot of the time I was too tired, too stressed, to angry at someone from work, or simply not in the mood (whatever mood that would be?!).

Now, by getting up early and painting for at least 30 minutes a day, I see great strides in my work; I "feel" like I've accomplished something important - to me; and even if the session doesn't go well, I have the day to the think about it and I often come home and try to get back in the studio!

Thanks for a great post - well said, and something we artists need to hear on a regular basis!

Rose Welty said...

Triecia and Laure,

Thanks for visiting the blog and commenting! "Bit by bit" has been as revolutionary in my life as it sounds it has been in yours.

Thanks again.

Valerie Jones said...

Great advice, Rose!!!

Carol said...

Hi Rose, thank you for such a great article, I just read it via empty easel and had to come over and say "Thanks"! Just this month I was lucky to find a wonderful artist: Leah Piken Kolidas who leads an online project called: "Art Every Day Month" so for the month of November all participating artists create and share their works on a daily basis, great fun and fantastic motivation & inspiration!
Thanks again Rose!

Rose Welty said...

Carol, thank you for visiting and for taking the time to stop and leave me such a lovely comment!

marlaakajake said...

Hi Rose,
I read this article from Empty Easel. I think you have a good idea here. Maybe i will give it a try. I usually paint only three certain months a year when i crave it sooo much, but when i was strapped for time years ago, I would make the most of that bottled up time when the freedom occured. Nice work and blog! marla