The late, multifaceted painter Paul Strisik had this to say about becoming a good painter: "Hard work and determination make the painter. Talent isn't that important. In fact, I dislike the word, for it suggests that if you're born with ability, you can achieve great things without working. Talent makes life easier, but as Leonardo da Vinci said, it doesn't guarantee success. It's like the grease on a wagon's wheel: The grease makes it easier to get to town, but you can still get there without it- you just squeak more along the way!"
I like Paul Strisik's quote because I've witnessed the truth of it in my own life. And not just with artists. I've seen people of average talent achieve great things because of their focus, discipline and work ethic. And that's encouraging, because it supports the proposition that much can be achieved without raw talent.
Painter Kevin MacPherson reminds aspiring artists that they can improve and grow, but not without painting "miles of canvas." Author Malcolm Gladwell is well known for his writing about the 10,o00 hour rule. Namely, that it requires approximately 10,000 hours of practice to become a true expert in a discipline. Some have disputed this, but the point remains that hard work and effort are vital elements to achieving success.
We live in a day and age where people crave instant gratification. We want the perfect body, financial success and all the trappings of a life well lived. But achieving great things usually requires serious effort. And serious effort demands focus, discipline and hard work. Three things that many people have a hard time sustaining.
I've written about blogger James Clear before. He speaks and writes about optimal performance, backed up by real science. He often points to the unreliability of goals and the need to create habits and routines to achieve our dreams.
Want to become a remarkable painter? Craft a routine of daily painting that takes precedence over TV shows, wine parties and hours wasted on social media. The same principle applies to any goal you have, be it fitness or career advancement.
Aside from my artwork, I'm also a writer who takes advantage of social media to share my content. Social media like Facebook and Twitter are a great way to share your thoughts and keep up with friends, family and interesting people. But social media can be a serious time drain, especially if you want to chisel that amazing body, paint some remarkable artwork or write the next great American novel.
As much as I enjoy some of the on-line, social media networks shared by fellow artists, I've noticed something. Many of the top painters I admire aren't active on these social networks. They're too busy painting in their studios. The majority of their discipline and energy goes into their work. Which in turn catapults them to greater success as artists. The rest of us are texting, commenting and chattering about this and that. But the pros are spending hours at their easels. Honing their craft. Reaching new heights.
I just got back from a two week vacation in Costa Rica. The last few nights I was tempted to get lost on-line, but instead I spent my evenings in the studio. I worked on a simple barn painting inspired by a few visits to Idaho. I must have repainted that piece several times. I changed the color of the trees, the value, the barn structures. I don't know if the final result is better or not. But man, I learned a lot in the process.
Talent makes life easier, but hard work is the key. If you want to succeed, you have to work your butt off. That means sacrificing stuff. Simplifying your life, so that you don't become a jack of all trades and master of none.
Figure out what your thing is. The passion or pursuit that, instinctively, you know is your thing. Then, work out a schedule and habits that support it. Make television, Facebook and other time wasters secondary to your passion. If you do that and stay the course, you'll edge that much closer to your dreams.