Forget about the outcome…

I’m a firm believer that unless you’ve had the rare benefit of going to art school (I didn’t) then you’ll have an attitude to making art that always demands an outcome. Well, here’s some considered advice - Stop it! Now!

Think about it  - how we made art as a kid; we sat down with a sheet of A4 paper, maybe some crayons, maybe just pencils, and bashed away in a care-free fashion until we thought it time to go and get a pat on the head from the nearest available adult. Although we weren’t outcome driven about the quality of work then, we did always expect and get a reward for making a drawing, whatever it’s relative merits may or may not have been. We were also told not to waste paper…

Wind forwards thirty, forty or more years and our art practice, at the hobbyist level, remains sporadic enough that we possibly haven’t shaken off some of the echoes of the carefree early years - except now, when we sit down to make a drawing, it’s not a pat on the head we’re aiming for - it’s a drawing that we actually care about.

Caring, in all forms of life, is a good thing, but if applied too rigidly to the difficult business of being an improving artist, it can actually stifle progress. Having an aim, and an ambition for a drawing isn’t a bad thing, but thinking we have some sort of entitlement to just rock up and make it happen the first time we set about it, well, that’s just a nonsensical fantasy that leads to despair.  Being an improving artist is frustrating, because sometimes it’s just impossible to reach the standard we’ve imagined prior to starting.

Ever found some spare time, and set about investing it in making a piece of art, only to  end up wishing you’d never bothered and hating the idea of ever making art again? Yeah, me too!

What’s the workaround? Well, it’s simple:

1) Understand that paper is expendable - if it’s a crap start, chuck it, go again.

2) Don’t care as much about the outcome at all - instead of thinking “I’m going to do this” try using language that says “Let’s see what happens when I try to do this”

3) Be kind to yourself, nobody was good before they practiced and spent time learning. Really. If you think you should be able to knock it out of the park without practice, help or learning, then good luck with that!

4) Go life drawing….

Why would life drawing, drawing people with no clothes on, help?

Well, it’s a big subject, but basically think of life drawing as capable of delivering almost anything you want from having art as a hobby - it can be the gym, a place where you go to repeat exercises that make you stronger, it can be the place you go to harvest (steal) ideas from other artists, it can be highly sociable, and it can be a place you go to experiment your new found skills in a safe and supportive environment. 

Here’s the thing though, it will teach you that drawings are expendable, and every piece of work will be crafted against the headwinds of time constraints and difficult poses that you have no control over. It can be hard, but sometimes it’ll be the thing that makes you feel more like you’re making progress than anything else you can do, artwise. As the Japanese say “A smooth sea never made a skilful sailor”  - so rocking up and having a quiet battle in a life-drawing room is not going to harm your development at all - quite the opposite.

I can’t recommend attending a good life drawing group highly enough, find one, go along, be a regular, learn to throw drawings away and watch your art get better and your attitude to making art relax into a much better place.

Happy drawings

Paul x

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