I have been a professional artist for 25 years and a teacher of the craft of painting across Australia and the world for some 20 years. For quite some time I wasted a lot of energy worrying about whether being an artist was something worthwhile. It seemed to be a fairly useless occupation- not noble like a doctor or a teacher. But then I read Pope John Paul 2’s letter to all artists and this had a profound influence on me. In his letter John Paul exhorted : “Artists of the world, may our many different paths all lead to that infinite ocean of beauty where wonder becomes awe, exhilaration, unspeakable joy……… May your art help to affirm true beauty, which as a glimmer of the Spirit of God, will transfigured matter, opening the soul to the sense of the eternal.”
With this new insight I set off on an incredible journey of discovery both of myself and the craft of painting. I discovered that my chosen field, as with life, was one of continual learning. It’s like the “carrot and stick” routine – you never quite “arrive” but you have to keep on trying.
There is always more to learn both through experience and sheer determination. In amongst all of my travels I have met some of the worlds leading artists – ones whom I consider have “arrived” and guess what, they all say the same thing – “there’s more to learn, the next painting is going to be the masterpiece.”
Learning can happen by watching and listening to those who have trod the path and it can happen in solitude. Some of my greatest insights into understanding colour have come simply by experimentation and often by accident. From the very beginning of time we see this again and again – caveman, storm, lightning strike, fire.
I’m often asked for advice on how to progress with an art career and my answer would be to never stop learning. Even someone who is well and truly “up there” needs to move forward not stagnate in their processes. To leap into the unknown every so often is good for the soul, all be it sometimes terrifying and confronting.
Whenever you go into a new learning environment, go with your mind open and your receptors on high alert. Go with a sense of eager anticipation and expectation, not with fear and dread. Nervousness is okay, but harness it as a positive energy not a negative one. Rise to the challenge of stepping outside of your comfort zone and go on a voyage of discovery, even if the end result is the discovery that it is not the direction in which you want to go. You have allowed yourself to put in place one more stepping stone of your life’s journey. Always remember that a perceived failure is simply paving the way to success and a deeper understanding of yourself.