Growth Over Production

In my last post I listed a number of intentions for 2022. So I thought I would dig in a little and explain what I mean and what my thoughts are for each of these intentions. As a reminder, here is my top intention for 2022.

Growth Over Production: As an artist it is easy to get caught up in trying to always produce ‘finished’ paintings. Paintings intended to show and to sell. This year I want the overriding focus to be on learning, exploring and skill building, instead of trying to make every painting a salable masterpiece.”

I think it’s natural to want every painting to be your best, or at least good enough to put out there for others to see and possibly sell. We do get better by producing more work, painting more paintings, practicing our craft as we go. However it’s not the most effective or efficient method of improvement. Constantly striving to produce finished works leaves us without the benefit of learning and practicing from what we’ve done, focusing on technique or gaining knowledge. If we only learn as we go, from making mistakes, it’s going to take an awful long time to get to where we want to be.

Of course one hallmark of being an artist is that we never really get to where we want to be, because there is always room for improvement, new things to learn, and we keep moving those goalposts. That is part of the allure. Always moving forward to do better, to try and master something new and different. Only by setting aside time to learn, practice, and improve can we make significant progress.

Setting an intention to focus more on learning and less on producing finished work is only the first step. I need a plan, and the discipline to follow that plan in order to make that intention stick. So here is my plan for growth in 2022.

  1. Limit the number of venues and submission opportunities I pursue. Having galleries and showing in group shows creates pressure to create finished pieces. I currently show my work in three galleries: The Arthound Gallery in Essex Vermont, The Gruppe Gallery in Jericho Vermont, and the Village Frame Shop and Gallery in Saint Albans Vermont. I also belong to, and sometimes show at, the Bryan Memorial Gallery where I work as a gallery manager, The Lyme Art Association in Old Lyme Connecticut, and the Southern Vermont Art Center in Manchester Vermont. I intend to be selective about which shows I submit to, and currently only plan to add one organization to this list, the Rockport Art Association which I hope to apply to in the Autumn of 2022 to become a regular member. Focusing on fewer venues will give me more time to play and explore and more time to learn from other artists.
  2. In-person learning. No matter what level and artist achieves they can always learn from others they admire or who provide a different skill set or approach. In-person learning is a goal that in the past has been set aside to make another deadline or for other reasons. A workshop with a skilled artist provides a level of knowledge, input and feedback that can’t easily be obtained any other way. So this is back on the priority list.
  3. On-line learning. One thing Covid has taught us is that on-line learning can be effective. We thought out online classes or programs can provide access not otherwise affordable or early obtained. I currently have three artists that I am learning from online either through their online program or schools, or their DVD/Streaming options. These three artists are: Andrew Tischler, Michael James Smith and his online school, and Scott Christensen’s Adventure Of Painting. Each offers something different and all offer something accessible and that can help me move my craft forward.
  4. Paint More Outdoors. One of my other “Intentions”, this part of my art practice and education has fallen by the wayside the past few years. Being on-site, in person and painting the landscape that is in front of your eyes offers the richest experience and greatest knowledge of the subject. I’ll talk about this more in my next post on my intention to “Bring the Outdoors In”.
  5. More time painting, and drawing. Another “Intention”, to commit more time to painting, will also be covered in a future post, but suffice it to say the more time spent applying paint to surface, through study, play, experimentation, or prescribed practice is necessary to make gains. The old maxim that you learn by painting “miles of canvas” is applicable. Improving your drawing skills is also a clear way to improve your painting. Easily put aside, a regular practice of drawing and sketching help you not only to render light and objects better when you paint, but hones your skills in composition, teaches you to really ‘see’ the subject, and gives you practice observing the landscape in all kinds of conditions.

Adding these steps together we have an approach that should yield substantial gains in the quality of my work, but only by putting in the time and being deliberate about how to get there. Blogging and posting about these intentions is a level of accountability that helps keep me on track.

I plan share my progress, and what I learn, so that you might gain some insight into what it takes to actually be an artist. Or if you are an artist, perhaps you’ll find some useful advice or information along the way. I welcome any input you may wish to share. Artists as a community are far stronger than an artist trying to go it alone. Thanks for following, and please recommend me, my blog, and my social media channels to anyone you think may be interested.