We live in a very consumerist society today. As I write this, there are constant ads appearing from all corners of my screen inciting me to spend and consume. To keep up with our ever growing spending, manufacturers have accommodated by offering an increased product line up. It is no different in the art world.
I recently watched a very insightful TED talk from a famed psychologist Berry Schwartz on why the belief of ‘more is more’ is a myth and a dangerous one at that. He incites that creating greater choices for consumers is a good thing up to a certain point after which the effect can be an opposite one, creating insecurities amongst them. The choices that we do end up making for purchase often leave in us a sense of doubt whether we made the right choice. Ultimately this can leave us not appreciating what we have and constantly searching for the next best thing.
From an artists perspective it is no different. No matter where you find yourself in your art career, you can be assured that there are dozens and dozens of courses/books/workshops/etc… that will supposedly help you along your path. There are hundreds of choices when buying brushes, paints, paper, frames, and varnishes and there are more and more choices popping up daily. How are we to ruffle through all of the noise and buy what is perfectly suited for us? What art workshop should we take? The simplest answer is to take classes from artist whose work you admire. Learn from them and them alone. Then as the late Robert Gann said: “Lock yourself away for 6 months painting unencumbered. Only then can your true voice show through your work.”
Another concern I have, keeping with the ‘more is more’ paradox is how some of these how to books are written. In researching for this article, I looked at how a lot of these ‘beginner’s guides’ are written and can sum it up in one word – overwhelming. I’ve been painting professionally for 16 years and can tell you if I had one of these books back then, I never would have started. The books are written trying to cover every nuance of possibility with that particular medium. For me it would have created a sense of confusion and possibly dissuade me for even working in the medium.
I’ve wanted to write this article for some time now as this paradox of choice affects all of us artists. There is always something new that is released that peaks our interests forcing us to change our habits, assuming for the better. With social media, email and smart phones we are constantly being interrupted, so that it has become impossible to paint undisturbed. My advice would be to learn your medium of choice from someone you respect; then go and create with your own style, limiting your interruptions. Make your art about you, on your own terms. It is never an exact science and it should not be quantified or measured in any way. Happy painting.