A student’s husband recently asked “Where are you headed with your painting? What are your goals?” She hadn’t really thought about it up until that point, and replied, “I’d just like to keep painting for the rest of my life.”
Personally, I think that’s a great goal. What else can we truly say that about? “I’d like to keep eating chocolate for the rest of my life.” or “I’d like to eat a really great meal at least once a week for the rest of my life.” (I must have been hungry when I originally jotted this down!)
Besides health issues (you’d like to keep it), and, if you’re lucky, partnership issues (you’d like love to last), truly, how many things can you really say that you’d like to have around, or keep doing for the rest of your life?
Often, other goals come into our painting lives, for better and for worse:
“I want to paint better.” This is a good one and should never be fulfilled.
“I want to paint like So–and–So.” An understandable goal if not taken too seriously.
1. You never will paint like So–and–So.
2. So–and–So would not be happy if you really painted like him/her.
3. You may paint better than So–and–So.
“I want to be in a Gallery.” Be careful what you wish for. You can be in a gallery. Just make sure you really want to, and that you’re ready to consistently produce high quality work.
“I want to paint more.” Another ever-present good goal that never goes away.
We painters are incredibly fortunate in that we have chosen an activity that we can participate in and improve upon for our entire lives. The act of painting can follow us around the world or stay in our own backyards. And the mercurial satisfaction that we find from a “successful” painting is just that; slippery, temporal and fleeting. Just enough to keep us grasping for the “silver liquid feeling” each day we paint. Much the same as hitting the sweet spot on a golf club.
Corny as it sounds, as long as we stay true to our hearts and paint what we want to paint, the various goals we set can be helpful. I can say from personal experience that every time I’ve painted an “experimental” piece just for me, it is the first piece that sells and that people respond to. The minute I get trapped into a “this might sell well” kind of thought, that painting sits lifeless on the shelf.
“I want to paint work that sells.” Not a good goal. Don’t even go there, as in “Devil get thee behind me!”
“I want to sell my work.” This is a healthy goal. There are several good books out to help you get started. I’d highly recommend “Taking the Leap” by Cay Lang.
Wanting to sell your art and/or be in a gallery can be tricky. Just be sure to stay true to yourself in the process, or you may get lost and the energy will fall out of your work. If the client/gallery wants sunflowers and you love painting sunflowers, you’re set. Hopefully when you’re ready to paint Dalmatians, they’ll go along. If not, it’s time to move on.
Ultimately, the signed canvases have your name on them, and are, for better or worse, your offspring. Just like our children they are a reflection of their “parents.”
Paintings will be around long after we can speak for them. Be sure your work carries your own voice and vision. And, most importantly, Keep On Painting!