I was thinking about Shaya last night. She’s almost ten, and a pretty good little artist. She’s not a prodigy, but on a scale of one to ten, compared to other ten year olds’ artwork, she’s probably a six or seven. I was thinking, though, that if I slapped a frame on her picture and took it to a museum and hung it up next to, say, the Mona Lisa, or some other artistic master’s painting, her picture would look very amateur and childish.
Because she is still a child, no one would ever think to compare her current artwork to a master’s painting, but if Shaya were to compare her own painting to a master’s, she would likely feel very inferior. When I feel inferior, I tend to give up. But Shaya is a better person than me, and she fights to improve, and works hard to get where she wants to be.
Let’s say that Shaya decided that she wanted her artwork to be in a museum someday, what should she do to accomplish that goal? I think there are several necessary things to improving in anything, but the first possible step would be to begin to study the work of the artistic masters. Maybe she would gravitate toward a certain artistic period, possibly one specific artist, and begin to study that one thing/artist in particular.
If she could manage it, in addition to reading books about her chosen artist, she would probably want to go see actual paintings in museums, so she could study the brush strokes up close. She would also read about general artistic techniques, and maybe even contact the artist, or if her chosen master is dead, someone who paints like him/her to learn specifics about their painting technique [one example of a living artist might be Thomas Kinkade. He has a way of painting that is unique, so she would need to learn the mechanics of how he gets the paint to reflect the light like that].If she could manage to meet with someone who can paint like her chosen artist [or the master himself], then she might be able to take lessons from the person, and that’s a boon to anyone looking to imitate a master, because you can actually watch him work.You probably already know where I’m going with this, but I hope you’ll continue to indulge me a little.
The catch here is obvious. She can study and read and watch for years and she will never grow in her actual painting ability unless she practices what she’s learning. It is only through watching and physically imitating the master’s brush strokes that she will ever be able to paint like her chosen painter.
By the same token, if she wants to paint like Michelangelo, but only exposes herself to Picasso, she’s going to end up painting like Picasso, even though she wants to imitate Michelangelo. You can’t imitate one master while living with the other.
Also, she can’t be a perfect imitation when she first starts out. To become as good as the master [or close to it] it takes watching others who are like him, learning from them, and imitating what they do, and it takes studying the master himself to see how he did it. You gotta have some self-discipline and practice, or you will always only be a wannabe, and fall short of the goal.
Let’s say Shaya studies her chosen master for years, and gets a phone call one day from a museum. She finds out that she’s being granted the privilege of hanging some of her work next to the master’s in that museum. Included with that honor, she actually gets to meet the master himself, to talk to him, and he is going to see her work.
If she’s prepared herself, learned from others who imitate his work, been self-disciplined and studied and practiced like crazy in those years, that’s all going to be obvious in her artwork. Even if she’s not quite up to his standards, she can stand tall, because she knows she’s given it all she’s got, and more than likely, he’s going to be pleased with her.
But let’s say that she hasn’t practiced, but only thought about it for all of those years, and she gets the same call from the museum. Her master artist is coming to town, and she’s invited to show some of her work, right next to his, and she’s going to meet the master himself. She’s probably a little nervous, but thinks, “Well, I’ve been studying all these years, I should be able to whip something out, no problem.”
She tries, but her hands are clumsy, and she blots paint all over the canvas, and finds that in spite of all her studying, her actual work is much the same as it was when she was ten. It’s impossible for her to get out of the showing at the museum. She’s going to have to face him, even though she isn’t ready.
She goes to the museum and is mortally ashamed of herself. She can’t look the master in the eyes, because she knows she isn’t worthy, and hasn’t even tried to be. It’s then that she finds out that the master himself had heard of her years before, and knew that she was studying him and his work. He tells her that he himself would have helped her, if she had but asked. Now it’s too late, though. The years were wasted, and her work is going to be hanging in the museum, right next to his, and she’s never going to be able to forget that when the master came, she wasn’t ready.
Well, anyway, Shaya doesn’t want to be an artist, as far as I know, but I had fun writing this. Hope you liked it.