November 23 – Creating art is not an easy task. It takes a lot of courage and sacrifice. Artists must have the courage to start, learn, make mistakes and try again.
Civil rights activist Maya Angelou believes that each of us is born with some degree of innate creativity, but it is up to us to nurture and develop that creativity.
We all have the capacity for creative greatness, but it requires sitting in the uncomfortable place of allowing our art to grow.
Before our art can grow, however, we must have the courage to begin.
Courage to start
Getting started is often the hardest part of being an artist. It’s easy to be put off from the start by the financial investment an art requires or by self-doubt. It’s scary being an amateur at a new skill, not knowing if your investment will ever pay off.
The American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that “every artist was once an amateur.”
Every great artist has had moments early in their career when they didn’t know if what they were doing would really change the world. They didn’t know if anyone would ever touch their art.
Despite their insecurities and worries about whether their art would reach people, they released this debut work anyway.
Recognition for your work is not the only indicator of artistic success or reason to begin your artistic journey.
American modernist Georgia O’Keefe said: “Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. What matters is to reveal your unknown.”
However, before great artists were known to the world, they had to spend years learning and developing their craft.
Courage to learn
American writer Kurt Vonnegut Jr. said, “Practicing any art, no matter how good or how bad, is a way to make your soul grow, for God’s sake. So do it.”
For most artists, their chosen art medium will require a lot of practice and continuous learning. While it’s easy to assume that prolific artists have mastered their craft with ease and performed perfectly from the start, this is rarely the case.
In August 1838, the English diarist Ann Lister said of his wife Ann Walker, “[Ann] she was not very happy with her sketch – but she is certainly improving especially in colouring.” Mentions of Walker creating art are found in both Lister’s and Walker’s diaries, indicating that Walker was constantly engaged with her selections art forms to grow in her craft While Walker wasn’t always satisfied with her sketches, she continued to let her art grow.
With the courage to learn, you must also have the courage to be dissatisfied with your work and still continue to learn.
Courage to make mistakes
To learn, you have to make mistakes.
American cartoonist Scott Adams said: “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” Before Adams, American sociologist Charles Horton Cooley said, “An artist cannot fail; it is success to be so.’
These mistakes should not discourage you from continuing to learn, as they are a vital part of the creative process. Many artists give up before they even have a chance because they let the discouragement in the early stages of learning get the better of them.
As you continue to overcome this discouragement and build your artistic abilities, you succeed as an artist. The only artistic failure is to give up.
When you make a mistake, try again.
Courage to try again
American basketball coach John Wooden said: “The eight laws of learning are explanation, demonstration, imitation, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition.”
Many musicians claim that for the first year of learning how to play the guitar, you should only play scales and do chord progression exercises. This practice allows you to become familiar with the fretboard of the guitar and how each note relates to one another. They’ll swear that repetition at the beginning is the difference between a good and a great guitarist.
Regardless of the medium, there are exercises that teachers will encourage you to engage in to hone your craft, especially in the early stages of learning as you get to grips with the basics of the medium. While these exercises are by no means as fun or glamorous as learning your favorite Hozier song or publishing a selection of short stories, they are necessary to the creative process.
Many of these early exercises will not come naturally. They often contradict the way we are used to manipulating our bodies and the world around us. This, combined with the excruciating boredom of repeating the same exercise over and over again, often causes budding artists to give up.
We must have the courage to keep going through the mundane and the mistakes in order to keep practicing, learning and growing.
Taylor Lane, an artist herself, is the author of the Artists’ Angle column. Dedicated to preserving Appalachian culture and artistry and advancing the fine arts in vulnerable communities, Lane writes stories featuring various art forms and local artists, as well as her own art and how it relates to Appalachian culture and history.