Back when I was in my previous band, we had a bass player try out. Super nice guy. We’ll call him Jim.
Anyways, Jim had the absolute best equipment on the planet. So good in fact that if the Rolling Stones’ trailer that carried their bass equipment got lost or stolen, they could have asked to borrow Jim’s equipment. Yup, absolutely top of the line gear.
But, when we asked Jim which covers he knew so we could jam with him, he didn’t know a single one all the way through. You can’t exactly jam partial songs.
Needless to say, Jim didn’t make the band. Like I said, super nice guy though. Had a beer with him. But we didn’t hire him as our bass player.
“What does this have to do with art?”
What does this have to do with art? Everything. Same concept.
You could have the best paint brushes on the planet. You could have the best paints on the planet. All the right gear. A gold plated easel made of the best wood. But if you can’t paint, you can’t paint.
That’s why I strongly suggest that if you’re limited on funds, buy the bare minimum amount of paints and take a lesson or two. It’s more important that you actually know what you’re doing with crappy gear, then having the best gear on the planet and can’t paint.
In fact, there’s a guy who I follow on YouTube that doesn’t even use high end paints. Yet, he’s a big influence on me. I’ve borrowed a technique or two from him. (More like three or four).
If we’re talking watercolors, I suggest buying good paper and decent paint rather than the other way around. I couldn’t tell you the game plan for oils or acrylics though. I can however tell you that you’re better off taking some lessons than buying the top of the line gear.
Get into the mindset of an artist
If you want to really get into the mindset of an artist, first, you have to call yourself one. If you’re still paying the bills as an accountant, but your heart is really oil painting, then when someone asks you what you do, say “artist.” Sure, it doesn’t pay the bills yet, but you have to start believing you’re an artist before you become one. And for Pete’s sake, start calling yourself an artist!
After convincing yourself that you’re an artist, you have to do the work. That means every day, you’re practicing.
My personal work is as a fantasy pinup artist. To keep my skills sharp, I’m sketching a live model at least once a week. I’m constantly working with either Allie or Roxy, despite being at the point where I can sketch a nude woman in five minutes flat.
That doesn’t mean I should ever let my guard down. The best sports teams decline when they start becoming overconfident. They think that nobody can beat them so they start to slack.
The same concept applies to art. You always have to be pushing yourself. Nobody knows every art technique on the planet. You can always hone your skills. There’s always room for improvement. Always.
Every modeling session, I’m getting a fraction of a percent better. That doesn’t seem like much to outsiders but I know how important it is to improve every single week. I have to stay hungry. Even when I sell my first seven figure painting, I’m not going to slack.
I love sports analogies because most people know at least one sport. They make for great analogies.
I worked with a guy who worked a Los Angeles Stop and Rob that two Hall of Fame baseball players used to frequent. You’ll have to forgive my ignorance here. I could name every top 20 fantasy football player, but I simply don’t know baseball at all.
If you’ve played baseball though, you’ll know their names. They grew up in the Los Angeles area.
Anyways, he’d tell me that every single day, they’d practice together. One day, the guy I worked with asked “are you guys any good?” They looked at each other and smiled and one of them said “yeah, I guess we’re pretty good.”
The guy I worked with explained their hunger. It was on a whole different level.
Hunger. A chip on your shoulder. Something to prove. All those things are good things. If you’re doing it for fun, more power to you. But the ones who will make it will take every hate message, every failure, every person who tells them to quit, and use it for fuel.
Do you think anyone ever told those two baseball players that they should get real jobs? By the way, they’re both Hall of Famers today.
Offended by everything
Of course, you can use this mindset for anything. But we’re specifically talking art. You and I are artists. That’s the aspect of our lives we want to improve.
Also I wanted to add, I think one reason why artists struggle is that most of today’s artists are very thin-skinned. I’ve never seen a generation as thin-skinned as my son’s generation. I intentionally raised him not to be, but I see his peers.
You’re going to have your haters, especially once you get your work really out there. You can’t just quit because someone makes fun of your work.
I’ve already had one feminazi call my art “porn.” Rather than getting offended, I’m using that as a marketing tool.
The mindset of the artist comes down to working. And improving yourself. And not getting offended because someone who doesn’t matter hates your work.
Also, if you go into this thinking it will be fun and have a laissez-faire attitude with it, you more than likely won’t make it. But if you’re absolutely convinced that you’re not only going to make it, you’re absolutely obsessed with it and it’s all you can think of – yeah, I’ll buy your paintings and hold them until they go up 10 times in value.
Keep busting ass, my friend. Don’t ever let your guard down. There’s always some aspect of your artistic resume that you can improve.