Category Archives: Making Better Art


For the artist, there is a seemingly endless list of fears, misconceptions, and excuses that get in the way of making art, and it is only by recognizing and facing these demons that you will be able to realize your goal to become a good artist.  I’ll just lay a list of some of the most common demons (as I see it) today, and then deal with each one in greater depth in upcoming posts. They are not in any order of importance or seriousness, and while some artists have to deal with only one or two of these issues, some find themselves suffering from nearly all of them. The first step is to consider each issue in relation to your own situation, and determine, honestly, what impact it has on your art-making.

1. Fear of failure/criticism

2. Unrealistic expectation

3. Self-doubt (lack of confidence)

4. Self-discipline

5. Success

6. Choice of medium

7. Time

8. Procrastination

10. Lack of focus

11. Multi-tasking

12. Misunderstanding of your intent

13. Misunderstanding yourself

14. Packrat

15. Perfectionism

16. Inertia/lethargy


“Striving for success without hard work is like trying to harvest where you haven’t planted.”   David Bly



Unrealistic expectations

In my earlier observations on artistic talent, I said that there are 4 primary reasons that everyone doesn’t make good art.  One of these reasons is unrealistic expectations (belief in art myths). And one of the most damaging of these myths is that if you are a really good painter, a painting will flow effortlessly from beginning to end.  Anyone who is an accomplished painter will find this thought laughable.  Yes, making art is often exhilarating and flowing, but making art is frequently hard, frustrating work.  If you don’t have the self-discipline and confidence to power through those difficult times, your work will never improve.

The only way to get better at making art is to make art.  It is that simple.

You can read books and magazine articles, watch videos, take workshop after workshop, assemble the finest and most comprehensive range of art materials that money can buy, build a state of the art studio, but until you have done 1000 paintings you won’t be a good painter.  Until you have done 1000 drawings you won’t be good at drawing.  (I just made those numbers up to make my point…….999 paintings might do the job)

The Nike slogan applies here……”JUST DO IT!”

“Artists today think of everything they do as a work of art. It is important to forget about what you are doing, then a work of art may happen.”Andrew Wyeth


Wyeth quote

Artists today think of everything they do as a work of art. It is important to forget about what you are doing, then a work of art may happen. — Andrew Wyeth

Talent: more thoughts

After my ramblings yesterday on the subject of talent, it seemed very timely that my teabag offered up this quotation this morning:

“Your talent is as great as you practice it to be” Keisha J. McLean

I have no idea who Keisha J. McLean is…..but in my Googling attempts to find out (which I never did) I came across several other bloggers who were also struck by the wisdom of Keisha.

It meshes rather nicely with one of my all-time favorite quotes, by Sydney Harris:
“Self discipline without talent can often achieve astounding results, whereas talent without self-discipline inevitably dooms itself to failure.”

I have had this posted in my studio for many years. I need to read it regularly, as self-discipline is not my greatest virtue.


My theory is that everyone has the talent required to make art…….to make good art.  Everyone- your dentist, the guys outside mowing the lawn, all of us- have the talent to make good art.  There are, however, four factors that keep that from happening.  The most obvious one is, of course, interest or desire.  Your dentist probably has no interest in doing a painting, good or bad. #2 is lack of self-discipline, #3 is unrealistic expectations, and #4 is lack of self-confidence.

Before I discuss these factors, let me get back to my theory regarding talent.  My dictionary’s definition says that talent is “a native ability for a specific pursuit.”

I think we will all agree that every child loves to make art… color, to paint, to cut and paste…..with delight and enthusiasm. Every child shows talent for making art.

Now let us look at two children:  Child A and Child B.

Child A’s parents believe that art is an important part of life.  They make sure he has paper and crayons, paint and markers….as much as he wants.  They take him to galleries, museums, and concerts.  They have good art on the walls of their home.  They send him to Art Camp.  By the time he is in high school he can comfortably do a drawing for the school newspaper or do a painting for a CD cover for his friend’s band.

Child B’s parents’ choice is to plop her in front of the TV rather than deal with the mess of art materials.  Gallery and museum trips are not a part of their lifestyle.  When she gets to kindergarten the teacher hands out pre-drawn sheets for the kids to color, and when she colors the sky orange she is told “No, that’s wrong. You’re supposed to color the sky blue.” She is never encouraged to try drawing or painting.  She has never met an artist. Art is a non-factor in her life, and if you asked her about it she would tell you that she couldn’t draw a straight line.  And she has no interest in trying.

If you met these two as teens, with no background information, the common observation would be that Child A is talented in art, and that Child B is not. But I don’t agree.  I believe that Child B’s “native ability” is still there.  It has just been buried.

So once again I say: We all have the talent required to make good art.  The hard part is to dig through the layers of crap that have buried it, and to once again make this talent (and excitement) accessible.

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