You’re Not Going to Have the Time

It’s very tempting to believe that you can’t even attempt your art until you have all the knowledge you know you’re going to need and all the gear.  You want it to be good and you’ve thought the process through and so you’ve decided that there is a course of study you need to complete first and a whole lot of shopping you are going to have to do, in small stages, because it’s going to take some time to be able to afford all of the stuff you know you are going to need to complete the work to your own satisfaction.

Sound familiar?

I think we all fall into this trap at one time or another.  Here are the facts, though.  There is too much to learn.  You’re never going to have the time to learn it all, if you try to do that before attempting your art.  More to the point, learning isn’t very effective if you don’t practice what you learn.  Your retention will be very poor.  You might as well have not bothered, if you learn without doing.  It’s not an appropriate gating item for the commencement of making your art.  By the time you have learned everything you think you need to know, assuming that is even possible, your remaining time on earth will be too short to have an effective career as an artist or to assemble a body of work.

The other fact is that despite thinking you will need this piece of gear, or that sound effect or the right brush, most of the gear you amass never gets used in full.  You might dabble with all of it, but the things that become your core tools get used much more.  In painting, there will be some colours that always run out first.  There will be one brush or palette knife that becomes your work horse.  In essence, you will gravitate to what makes most sense to you while you are doing, so the intellectualising you did beforehand will not count for as much as you might think.

I agree that sometimes the comfort of having one of everything extends a range of choice to you that can be quite motivating and there is always something relatively unused that you can experiment with, when stuck for inspiration, but it is a mistake to think that having everything you think you need is a pre-requisite to starting (or finishing) a piece of art.

Knowledge and a huge collection of gear can be a double edged sword.  They can be enablers of your art, or they can present you with such overwhelming and conflicting choices, that they paralyze your art.  Sometimes, it really helps to get back to basics and simplify.

If you think you don’t have enough time to create your art, you’re going to have even less time if you spend it studying things you might not actually need to know to create your works or in waiting to acquire that perfect last piece of equipment or material.  Life is too short.  Your creative faculties are too short lived.  You have to get on with it.

Commercial artists that work quickly gain considerable advantage, remuneration-wise, over those that work at a glacial pace.  The reason is that they get more things made.  You might argue that the time taken is proportional to the quality and for some techniques, that’s true, but there are perfectly high quality paintings that were made quickly.  Van Gogh’s catalogue springs to mind.  If you want to make a living as an artist, it pays to choose a technique that doesn’t take forever to execute – unless you can command massively more money for the finished, intricate work.

So take what you’ve got, apply what you know and make some art.  It might not be perfect.  I guarantee that the Beatles would have loved to go back over some of their early recordings, with the benefit of modern technology and cut some new tracks or overdubs.  Perfection is not the goal.  Adding imperfections is not the goal, either.  There will be enough imperfections in your art, which you make with the knowledge, tools and materials you’ve got, to make it really interesting.  You won’t have to deliberately add a single imperfection, I can assure you.

Meanwhile, you’ll learn a lot more.  But the most important benefit is that inspiration doesn’t always come to you before you make your art.  It comes to you while you’re making your imperfect art, with all its perceived flaws, made using the knowledge and gear you already have.  Inspiration is not a pre-condition for starting.  Inspiration is what happens while you are doing.  It’s more the result of your practice, rather than a starting point for it.

Don’t forget:  when the song is finished, nobody dances to the gear.  They dance to the song.  The gear is in the service of the song.  It has also been said, by a famous record producer, that he made the best records with the worst gear and the worst records with the best gear.

To quote the late Stephen Covey, “What does it matter how much we do, if what we’re doing isn’t what matters most?”  I would add that not doing what matters most, matters most.

About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
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