Saturday, September 8, 2012

Holding your own in a Competitive World

"Dainty Diva" 20x24 oil on canvas

 I’m currently reading “Turning Pro” by Steven Pressfield; a quick entertaining read that helps an artist confront his demons. I’m reading it partly for inspiration and partly for needed motivation.

The premise of the book is that most of us find every excuse under the sun to avoid pursuing what we really love. Why? Because of fear: fear of success, fear of work, fear that we’re inadequate and doubts in our own abilities. We “pull the plug” whenever we get close to our dreams, sabotaging our own efforts to achieve success.

Failure becomes a mindset. Negative thinking becomes our mantra: “we’re not good enough, talented enough, smart enough, or hardworking enough to succeed.” When we receive criticism, we fold. When other activities, voices, the “rat pack” of our lives dumps on us, we “pull the plug.” 

"Home at Last" 16x20 acrylic on canvas

We follow after the crowd. We want to fit in. We want to appear normal when actually we’re not. We’re driven by the beat of a different drummer. It calls to us from time to time, but we put it off; feeling guilty that we’re different or that we want something more than just keeping busy and being swallowed up by insignificant trivia.

I’ve been putting off a new painting. I had images and visions in my mind, but I just couldn’t find the right composition to pull things together. I put it off. I didn’t even tone the canvas. I had feelings, but no loud voice telling me what to do. The painting was inspired by a photo of a woman praying in a war torn area of the world. She represented the horrors of war.

"War Torn" 18x24 work-in-progress
A work-in-progress is posted today, but I’m not finished with it yet. I haven’t captured the feeling of pain I want in her eyes or face. Her skin color is not defined and her hands blend in with the background. There is much work left to do.

What propelled me to finally begin? I simply forced myself to put brush and paint to canvas and lay on some color. I wanted texture, and I wanted words. Although we all want peace, we continually involve ourselves or others in confrontation, arguments, war. “History repeats itself” became my theme. Sometimes all you need is action.

Steven Pressfield listed the qualities “that the professional possesses that the amateur doesn’t:
  1. The professional shows up every day
  2. The professional stays on the job all day
  3. The professional is committed over the long haul
  4. For the professional, the stakes are high and real”
There were other qualities he listed and countless suggestions and advice. I recommend the book to artists of every stripe.

Featured Artist
Jon McNaughton is probably best known for his political art. As a skilled muralist and painter, Jon began turning political when he saw what he felt was a “downward slide in the American Way of Life, a disregard for the Constitution which has made America great, and a blatant disregard for the rule of law.” You may not agree with McNaughton’s political POV, but it is hard to argue with his skill as an artist.

Love it or leave it, political art is here to stay.