It's Not What You Think
I think people sometimes have the wrong idea about artists. Since we're doing something that we are compelled to do and are creating a product that we love, they think time in the studio is spent in a glow of peace and creativity. "It must be so relaxing to paint!", they say.
Well, no. At least not for me. Painting is work, like any other job.
It Doesn't Get Easier
For me painting at its core is problem solving. I start with an unclear vision of what I am trying to produce. As I work toward realizing that vision I follow a path of uncertainty, false starts, and frustration, as well as inspiration and satisfaction. Every day when I go into the studio I ask myself, "How can I make this better?"
As I was starting to learn how to paint, I often thought, "Oh, it will be so much easier once I learn how to do this. Then I will paint without struggling." But then I read, "It doesn't get easier, you just get better." Fortunately, reading that didn't deter me, and years later I can confirm the sentiment. I am more accomplished than I was 20 years ago, but I demand more of myself and my work, so it's just as challenging.
Trial and Error
My time at the easel is one of complete trial and error. Each painting is a record of corrections on top of corrections until the image is mostly what I intended and no longer has anything that really bothers me. Sometimes that's the best I can do. Most often I am pleased with the results, and sometimes I create something that's wonderful. Often after I live with a painting for a while I discover more aspects to appreciate and a few more things to correct. And then I move on to the next challenge.
Along the way I have learned techniques that help me to avoid pitfalls and produce better work. Here are some of them:
In the end I think that persistence, curiosity, and drive are at least as important as talent in advancing as an artist. I feel privileged to be an artist and to work at this challenging and rewarding profession. I look forward to many more years of trial and error, learning, and creativity.
Your turn: when you're stuck in your work what techniques do you use to change your perspective and problem solve?