Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Top 5 Ways To Be A Better Artist

I don't typically create lists of stuff, though maybe it's something I should do more often, like for going to the grocery store or getting errands done, rather than wandering around aimlessly with an annoying thought in my skull that I'm forgetting something, like having a rock in my shoe. When it comes to artistic creation, sometimes lists are good - they can serve as reminders, or directionals, as you meander through the unexplored wilderness.

 
The Revenant, 37" x 48", oil on canvas, 2012.

So, here is a list I made of the top 5 ways on how to be a better artist. It's by no means an effort to preach to the world. I ain't standing on any platform, and I ain't sayin it's true for everyone. I'm simply setting a series of markers for myself in this labyrinth... 
 
Number 1: Be prolific. An artist must always keep working. The idea is similar to an athlete going to the gym or taking hundreds of swings in the batting cage. It is indeed okay to take some time off (and probably required), but when the season is in session, an artist must be 100% dedicated and all in. Slumps do happen, and at times it feels that art is pointless or your efforts are futile, but it's not an excuse to stop working. Ask yourself, "How bad do I want it?" The answer should be simple. An artist must continue to work through hard times.

 The Revenant, (detail):
 

Number 2:. Craftsmanship matters. Some conceptual artists have almost entirely eliminated the craft from their work, even attempted to distinguish the "high" artist from the "lowly" craftsman. But I believe good art, even conceptual art, still requires a certain high level of craftsmanship. An artist must pay attention to every detail in his work. This does not mean that every work of art needs to be realistic or appear pristine, but there can be no mistakes in the final piece. Regarding painting, I think good craftsmanship requires an advanced ability to draw, even if the artist is creating work that is completely abstract or expressionistic. Drawing practice is basically the training of hand-eye coordination to create exactly what you want, rather than hoping something interesting develops haphazardly, even if the finished style appears random, dirty or gestural.

The Revenant, (detail):
 

Number 3: Study all subjects, not just art. In the early 20th century, United States Supreme Court Justice, Felix Frankfurter, was asked by a young man how to become a great lawyer.  He advised the young man not to limit his studies to the law, but to embrace the study of all fields, including history, art, literature, science, sports, other cultures, the economy, and the environment. I believe Justice Frankfurter’s wisdom applies to those who wish to become great artists. Art represents culture, and these other fields of study embody who we are on this planet.

Globalization continues to develop and refine a global culture, thus artists should think globally. The timeless pieces of the past are those which appeal to populations everywhere. Artistic creation is an ongoing practice and lifelong study, and this study encompasses all fields which make up the global population.

The Revenant, (detail): 

Number 4: Continue to develop your taste in art. By taste, I am referring to the ability to make comparative judgments of art. The more a person develops his taste, the more objective he becomes in his analysis. Often times a person will disregard certain types of art, declaring, "I know what I like, and it's not that." Such a mindset gives the person an excuse to remain close-minded, essentially reaching a plateau in his appreciation of artistic experiences. While it is obviously acceptable to dislike certain works, an artist should always keep an open mind and continue to refine and develop his taste in art by studying other artists, attending exhibitions and museums, and expanding his life in general by studying all fields, as discussed in Number 3 above. Just try not to be snobbish or pretentious about it.

Number 5: Stick with your own voice. This one probably sounds cliche, but it is true and easy to forget. It is easy for an artist to be influenced by the work of famous artists who are successful monetarily. But the attempt to imitate others usually results in banal and stifled work. The challenge for any artist is to bring something game-changing and new to the table. This can only be done by sticking with the artist’s own voice, and standing by his work, even when others criticize it. 

An artist must continue to develop his own voice, just like continuing to develop his own taste and continuing to study other fields. The more the artist develops his taste, the less likely he will be to try to imitate others, and the more likely he will be to venture into unexplored territory. On the flip side, simply creating work that people expect, or that appeals to the artist’s past collectors, his critics, or people he knows, will certainly result in stagnant, repetitive art. No matter what an artist creates, there will always be people who criticize it. An artist must simply remember to stay true to himself.

Thank you for reading about the paintings, sculptures, drawings, works in progress, reviews, Doodle of the Day, and other art by Los Angeles artist Lucas Aardvark Novak :) To see older blog posts and other doodles, click HERE.