To become an artist you simply must decide what is most important to you, make your art about THAT, and allow everything else to fall away. Easy, right?It’s actually true – too many artists, philosophers, and psychologists have said the same thing for this not to be true: to find yourself as an artist, you have to know yourself and what moves you, and you have to find a way to get that into your art. Another way of saying this ism in the words of poet Denise Levertov, “The artist must create him/herself or be born again.”

Most people who continue with painting long enough discover an amazing thing: it’s not about how “good” people say your work is. It ends up being about how much of yourself you can get into it and how much your work changes you in the process.

Frederic Edwin Church, Niagara Falls from the American Side, 1867

Artists are people passionate about discovering and rendering what moves them most in the clearest and most expressive way possible. This means dedication to acquiring the necessary skills, yet it’s the risk-taking and the feeling that keep the engines roaring.

Eventually you’ll form an opinion about what kind of art should exist in the world and find yourself obligated to try like blazes to make examples of it.

It helps to make friends with the paint, to work in a kind of partnership with the medium,  negotiating between your own limits and the medium’s possibilities. It’s good to explore possibilities, work our crazy ideas, and push the boundaries of what expressive means the medium makes available to you at your current level of abilities.

William Trost Richards, Seascape, watercolor, 1901

It’s good to go all the way down the rabbit hole and learn the history. Find the art you love. Become a sponge: You need to know everything you can about what’s been done so you can fall in love with what you like best.

Great originality comes from new and unexpected combinations of already existing things. Flat out make copies. Stock your visual memory with the techniques and the works that almost stop your heart, because combining that material in new ways is where your work will come from. 

So find out who you love and go out of your way to see their work in person. Learn everything you can about them (especially who influenced them and who they influenced later on). Working with a knowledge of the tradition, the best of what’s been done by the world’s greatest artists, helps both to empower and delimit your own expression in paint. Finding your work is the goal. 

Albert Pinkham Ryder. The Toilers of the Sea, c. 1880

Your work will tell you why you are doing what you’re doing and it’ll tell you what to do next. Your work will become horizon, wind, and keel.

Vandal attacks Mona Lisa with cake

Police have arrested a young man for attacking the Mona Lisa. The vandal entered the Louvre disguised as an old woman in a wheelchair. Once close enough to the painting, he leapt from the chair and attempted to smash the bullet-proof glass surrounding Leonardo’s portrait of Maria Giacconda.


Instagram screenshot

The vandal then threw rose petals and smeared cake across the painting’s case before being tackled by guards and escorted from the museum, shouting about the destruction of the planet. The Louvre has said they are pressing charges against the man, whom this column will not dignify with a name.