how does an artist get better?

The two questions that come up most often in my work with artists are, “How do I know when I’m finished”, and “How do I find my voice?”.  Perfectly good questions that I would set aside to consider the all-important question:

“How do I get better”?

Answer: Take any perceived weakness you might have and work at it until it becomes a strength. Then go after another weakness, and so on.  You have unlimited opportunity to be creative here.

Like Degas’ practice of placing his model and work-in-progress in separate rooms – shuttling back and forth between the  two.  Or my favorite exercise of trying to draw a current subject completely from memory.  Try to think of what is hard, even impossible, go for it,  then throw the results away.  Let it look terrible – you’re growing!

No work of art has a finish line.  You’re finished when you feel finished. Even if you overwork something and want some of the freshness back, you can simply put a layer of paint over parts of the canvas and Voila, you’re back to an earlier stage.  It’s a little like hitting the back button.

Take the fear out of the process, your attention off the work itself, think of yourself as your own artistic creation and focus on getting better.  Your voice will then emerge without any effort on your part!


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