Saturday, November 1, 2008

On being a better artist

As an aspiring artist of sorts, I've always asked advice to those who seem to have been succeeding in pursuing their artistic dreams and at the same time cope with life while they're at it. Every time there's a different answer and not one, I felt, really related to me in a sort of way.

However, some time ago, a fellow forum member to a web comic I frequented often posted the most detail (and I believe thought provoking) list to date. The list was compiled by an agent for artists who goes by the name of Leslie Barany. Rediscovering this list has gotten me thinking about my aspirations and how to realize them in the future. Some points are better than other but I believe every point has some degree of importance to becoming a better artist.

Dear Aspiring Artist:

Here is my advice. Think of it as a five-year plan:

Take whatever courses you find the most interesting.

Study closely the work of the Old Masters.

Stop making art that originates only from your own imagination.

Stay with one technique until you perfect it.

On any given day, always be in the middle of reading a book. When you finish one, start the next. Fiction, nonfiction, biographies, autobiographies, history, science, psychology, or how to build a kite. Anything but go easy on the comic books.

Buy and read the first 6 pages of newspaper every day and also the editorial commentaries. Skip the entertainment section. Su Doku is fine. Do the crossword puzzle.

Fill up a sketchbook every month with pen or pencil drawings of the world around you, not from your imagination.

Buy a book on figure drawing. It's the only art book you will ever need.

Until you can draw an accurate portrait of someone, you don’t know how to draw.

Stay away from the airbrush. You'll never master it, hardly anyone ever has.

Visit every museum in your city. Often, until you have seen everything in it. Every kind of museum. Not only the art museums but, of course, those as well.

Forget about contemporary art by living artists, at least for the next few years.

Stay away from most art galleries. Go to art auctions. That's where the real action is.

Learn to play chess.

Take a business course.

Talk to you mother or father at least once a week.

Stop going to the movies until you have rented and seen every film on this list. [link]

Do not watch television unless it’s the news or documentaries.

Do not use an Ipod.

No video games, either.

Learn a foreign language.

Learn to cook.

Spend 8 hours in a hospital emergency room.

Save up money so you can travel to a foreign country within the next five years.

Do not litter.

Avoid politically correct people.

Vote in every election or never dare to utter a political opinion. You are not entitled to one.

Buy a digital camera and take photos every day.
If you see nothing interesting to photograph, you will never be a good artist. Keep only one photo of every ten you take. Delete the rest. It will force you to learn how to edit the garbage from your life, to make choices, to recognize what has real value and what is superficial.

Visit an old age home.

Listen to classical music and jazz. If you are unable to appreciate it at least as much as contemporary music, you lack the sensitivity to develop into an artist of any real depth.

Go to the ballet. Classical or Modern, it doesn't matter. It will teach you to appreciate physical grace and the relationship between sound and movement.

Wake up every morning no later than 8 AM, regardless of what time you went to sleep.

Learn to play a musical instrument.

Learn to swim.

Keep your word.

Never explain your art. People who ask you to do so are idiots.

Never explain yourself. Better yet, never do anything that will, later, require you to explain yourself or to say you're sorry.

Always use spell check.

Stop aspiring and start doing.

This will keep you very busy but it can't be helped.
In my opinion, this is how you might, possibly, have a shot at becoming a good artist.

Hope this helps,

Les Barany

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Anonymous heather goodman said...

Great advice! Live, learn, and do.
I'd love for you to submit this to the Artuality: A Festival of Art and Life carnival by entering your link at this post.
Also, this month features movies: how movies or a movie has influenced you artistically or spiritually. You can find more here, or the Mr. Linky post will be up this Wednesday on my blog ( Thanks for submitting!

November 2, 2008 at 3:12 PM  
Anonymous heather said...

I have a friend who swears she can teach anyone to draw. It just takes patience to learn the skill. One of these days I'll see if she's right.

November 5, 2008 at 7:56 AM  

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