Patiently Painting Walls

Everyone of us have a desire to get recognised for the artistic work we do; whether we are professionals or amateurs; whether we are photographers – like me – or performing artists or something else; whether we are pure craftsmen (or -women) or genuine artists. We all want others to see, hear or feel our work, and we all want to be praised – at least to some extent – for our artistic quality and originality. At the bottom of all this then lies the desire to become great artists – whatever that means.

That’s all fine, as long as it doesn’t become the motivation in itself for what we do. And it’s all fine if this desire doesn’t make us impatient and give up because we feel we get nowhere. I am not going to talk about what is success or not or what it means to be a great artists or not, but I think we all hope for a certain development artistically and for our artistic reputation as well. I certainly know how frustrating it can be when you feel you have an idea or a great vision, but aren’t able to manifest it through your craft, simply because your craft isn’t developed enough. It takes time to understand the underlying rules of your craft or how to bring your creativity to life, it takes time to develop your artistry to a level where you feel comfortably able to express your vision. It might be a frustrating time of development, but just remember that’s how it’s been for all artists, even the greatest of all times.

There is no instant or fast success with creativity. It takes time. And that is part of what makes some artists so expressive, they let time work to their advantage. It’s also part of what makes being an artist so fulfilling; you never stop learning or improving – that is if you don’t make yourself stop.

Artistic development is like painting a house. When you start out you know you have hours – or more like it days – of work ahead you. You keep at because you know that’s the only way it will get painted. You long for the day when it’s all done, but just because you aren’t able to do more than half a wall one day, you don’t give up, and you don’t give up even though you know you will have to give the house three coats of paint. You know that one day the house will be shining beautifully and newly painted. So it is with art and the artists. If you only know that your work won’t be shining from the first day, you will not give, up, but have an incentive to keep developing, to keep working. In reality it never stops. Just like painting. Because, of course, next year it’s the garage, and then the deck, and then the cabin by the sea, and before you know it, you are back painting that house again. It just never stops. And so it is with art. It never stops. You never stop developing as an artists, and isn’t that really what makes creative work so exciting?

You could say, I don’t like painting houses, so I hire someone to do it. Fine, no problem. But would you rather start buying art instead of making it yourself? You know what the really good thing about the cycle of painting your properties is? Next time around you are so much better and proficient than the previous time. And so it is with creativity and artistic work. In the end the development in itself is the reward for those of us who seek to express ourselves creatively or artistically.


91 thoughts on “Patiently Painting Walls

  1. This was very insightful, thank you for writing this. I have some impatient fans over at MusicShake who are anxiously awaiting new music from me. The problems is that I need lots of hours and inspiration to achieve exactly the melody and all that goes with it….to be able to produce the song they will like and especially one I like myself. I never like doing things because of a deadline or impatience, but when I truly feel in my heart that it’s time.

    1. Deadlines are unfortunately part of being a professional creative, but at least for personal work one so avoid it as much as possible, because as you say, that’s when you get the heart involved in the process.

  2. I guess it’s important in creativity, photography or any other pursuit that you stick with it. I remember when I was doing martial arts that there were a few people who started around the same time as me, but didn’t train as often, or as hard, and then disappeared, only to come back a few months later. Sure enough, their skill level was way below mine, and their lack of practice meant a lack of progress and soon they quit. They didn’t have the guts or the patience to stick with it, even though they were surrounded by people at the gym who were local and national champions to inspire and coach them. I’m too old and too injured now to train, photography is far safer, but the lesson I took from martial arts is that there are no shortcuts in any activity worth pursuing!

    1. Thanks for sharing the analogue, and, yes, you are right there are no short cuts if your want to achieve personal growth, be it photography or martial arts.

  3. Thank you for this very insightful post. I, too, liked the painting analogy. And I agree with you fully. The qestion that came up whie reading was: What does going public with one’s work in progress do – to oneself, and to one’s work? I often hesitate, wondering if I should let things mature a bit longer… On the other hand, the public sphere often provides valuable feedback, even if it is only by context: How do the pictures look in a blog, on a wall etc.?

    1. I think going public is a two-edged sword. Yes, it provides – or can provide – valuable feedback as you point out, but if it becomes the goal itself and what you have in mind while creating, it will only distract from you path to creativity. On the other hand no artists wants to live in a vacuum, we want our work to be displayed and made available to a broader audience.

  4. Words to live by! I like painting anything, including houses. It’s the scraping the old stuff first that makes the task so hard, but I guess that’s all part of the creative process too 🙂

    1. Preparation aren’t always the fun part. But you know, one needs to break some eggs… To be honest painting houses isn’t what makes me most cheerful but when I get into it, I do like the meditative state it can provide.

  5. What a coincidence! This post is meant just for me, I feel. Only yesterday my husband and I finished the painting and flooring work. We did not hire anyone. Though it was such a gruelling project, it was so rewarding because of what we have achieved – a beautiful apartment, the money we have saved, and above all the immense satisfaction that it is the result of our own hard work. Great post!

  6. This is a great post for encouraging people to stick with it. I like to think I get better every time I do something more than once. You learn what not to do, you find a better way or other people guide you to improve. You, Otto, have encouraged many to continue with their creative outlet and helped them improve.

    1. Thank you for your encouraging words. And, yes, I have it the same way, it’s such a pleasure to do something again and noticing how well you have improved (hopefully that is).

  7. Another insightful post, Otto…I’ve been round this bend many times…ready to give up because I’m not getting the success or recognition I had hoped for…so sometimes, I do put my camera or pen down for a while…but you’re right, when I do come back (which I always do) I’m better at it and clearer about the process…that it’s the process that counts…what I’m learning along the way is what makes it all worthwhile…:-) Meryl

    1. It’s a good feeling when you know that all the work you have done is all worthwhile, isn’t it? Even if the road has been bumpy and not always pleasurable.

  8. Thanks for the post! This post and several of the ones preceding it have got me thinking about creativity. And it is comforting to be reminded that creativity may not be speedy and may involve lots of ‘house-painting’ artistic development. For me, these posts are providing somewhat of a road map towards artisitic development and creativity. Keep them coming. Thanks.

  9. This post made me chuckle, as it is time to come out of my studio to scrape and paint the house. And garage. And tool shed…..

    You are right, though. I was just musing about a very early painting I did, years and years ago. I thought about all the trials and tribulations I’ve been through since that first canvas and how glad I am that I didn’t quit, and how glad I am to be where I am. I expect 20 years from now I’ll look back at today with the same thought!

    1. You should be looking forward to looking back the next 20 years – if that makes any sense for you. And good luck with getting that house painted.

  10. Great advice! And, as a matter of fact, there are some walls at home that nned some repainting, so I don’t know if I should paint them myself or hire someone to do the job while I do some other more creative things… 🙂

  11. While reading your piece, of course, the movie, Karate Kid came to mind (wax on, wax off etc)…thank you for gently reminding us that, “There is no instant or fast success with creativity. It takes time…’
    It is easy to get lazy and say, to heck with it, and throw in our craft efforts because the effort to perfect oneself sometimes seems so boring, repetitive and seemingly meaningless, but, thank goodness for others, like yourself that ‘kick’ us back on track. Ouch, with appreciation, Otto…lol. 🙂

    1. I am good at kicking so don’t worry. Thanks for bringing new thoughts to the table. Laziness is certainly a leg breaker when it comes to creativity.

  12. This post is so perfect for my husband that I read it out loud to him. He is just finishing painting a large project on silk – something he’s never done before and something that loomed huge before he started 4 weeks ago.

  13. Excellent analogy! I think it does take time and focus to cultivate art. I admire people who throw all of their attention and intention into living an artist’s life. I take a lot away a great deal from what you say. I feel encouraged by your words! Debra

  14. It really is about the journey isn’t it. I know looking back at my work when I first started to today I see that I’ve improved not only technically but creatively. As I hone my skill I see things differently and I now have a vision for what I want the finished piece to look like. Having said that I think we’re all our own worst critics. I’m much more critical of my own work then that’s of others. Maybe that’s what keeps us wanting to improve.

    1. I don’t really know what makes us want to improve. Well, I guess many factors. But as long as we have that drive, we are doing fine with our creative development. It is indeed about the journey – a life-long one.

  15. Excellent post from you once again. I just loved the analogy. I somehow very impatient, while I edit my writings. And you made me realize, I need to work on that. I remember, once you mentioned about setting a target of words to complete with in a certain period is very much important for a person who loves writing. And now in last 11 months I have written more than seventy thousands words in my blog; although I am not sure if all these words were meaningful or not. And I replied to more than 3000 comments. And if I will add all these words, then I hope I have written more than 1million words. And to be honest, I can realize it myself that, there is a huge improvement in me; now I am little bit more confident as a writer. Now I am ready to try different things, rather than sticking to the same thing, which people like in my writing.
    So I am very much sure this advice of yours is going to help not only me, but many people who like to be part of this creative process. Thanks a lot for being such a wonderful inspiration.

    1. Thank you for a fantastic feedback. And you have indeed be doing the work. The work that makes you develop and become a better artist. I do see the difference in your work from earlier posts to recent posts of yours. So, yes, keep doing the work, and shift direction and try different things as well, as you say yourself.

  16. Several good thoughts in this post. For me, buying someone else’s art, hanging it on the wall and ‘looking’ at it often engenders in me a form of inspiration that feeds my own. However, my own creativity is a natural progression of practice and experimentation. Often after having created something, maybe a week or two later I will say to myself, ‘now what did I really like about this? I could have done it differently if….’, and so on. Often, after having that conversation with myself, I will do something different to that piece and, thence, I have an entirely new work of ‘art’. As I am a work in progress, so too is my creative activity.

    1. Thank you for sharing the way you work. I think a lot of artists work in similar ways. And buying art or having art is indeed a great source of inspiration.

  17. I like this Otto. I have sometimes found it helpful to separate achievement from success. By that I mean that I think of success as being some form of public recognition – perhaps an examination passed, a diploma awarded or something like that. Achievement,I regard as the path of progress – a private journey of improvement (much as you describe the process in your article).

    1. I like this idea of separating success and achievement. And as much as we all want success, I think what is important is really achievement. Thank you for the comment.

  18. Since I don’t expect to be “discovered” for my humor, Otto, it certainly helps to get daily feedback from other bloggers I admire and respect. What I do for a living is pure drudgery, but my blog is the “funnest” thing I’ve ever done. I’m glad I hit on this unique creative outlet, but it wasn’t until after I turned 60.

  19. I agree with you about marinating in the process and working patiently at out craft. In my younger days, I was impatient and my output showed the impatience…. Now I take my time and nurture myself… Perfection is not required, effort is. TY for this beautiful piece… 🙂

    1. Your are so right, the one thing that really matters is effort. Hopefully the rest will come, but if you put in the work, you have done your best. Thanks for contributing to the dialogue.

  20. Well said! The only way to do something well is to MASTER it! And to MASTER something, you have to continue LEARNING. The moment you stop learning and finding ways to improve something is the day you “give up”.

  21. Words I especially needed to read today as I continue to chase down those who have stolen my images from me. Yes, I have thought many times of giving up…”what’s the point?”, I think to myself. I have to get back to THAT place where I photographed things because I LIKED them, not because I think (or care) that someone else might. It is a rough journey. I hope I get there.

    1. It is sometimes tough to be convinced about doing the right thing. But if you can indeed get back to photographing because you like it, you will be back on the track. And of course it’s still gonna be a bumpy ride. Copyright infringement is unfortunately one of the drawbacks of the digital revolution. There are just too many who doesn’t respect other’s creative work.

  22. TIME I couldn’t agree more maybe I would add patience as well. I remember when I first started to draw I was aware of the thought that I would have to draw lots of what I thought were ugly drawings. It was either give up because I didn’t want to be a part of drawing ugly art or be willing to see that it the proccess to get to the art that I really wanted to do. I think that thought has helped me in other mediums. Now I look at how time seem to for me move so slow, but to trust the creative proccess and to know not to give up but to always push forward and try harder. To not be lazy to not think of my projects as easy but to push forward slowly and be willing to learn more along the way. Those are my thoughts on this subject this morning as I drink my coffee. Your analogy reminds me of when I use to pull weeds there were several flower garden plots I would get done weeding all of them and then I would have to start at the begining. :+)

  23. We live in a rented apartment so we don’t spend any time decorating anything, but earlier, when my father had a house, I used to help him paint it. You get a lot of time to think when you paint a house, and it’s always nice to get some peace and quiet in a stressed world.

    1. As said early, I am not much for painting house, but I do it and I do like that opportunity to be with your own thoughts and be in a peaceful state of mind.

  24. I agree, the reward is in the development itself. Our growth, learning, the journey towards mastering our artistic self. To express and appreciated for it does bring a sense of inspiration. Thanks.

  25. Otto, I have been musing over your wonderful words for some time now and I am not sure whether to laugh or cry! I have painted so many walls, ceilings, everything, in my time, and as you say it never stops. The stories I have written, the photos I have had printed, framed and placed during those many hours of taking the brush or roller up and down across the empty spaces of thought. However, as we all know, thinking about anything doesn’t get the job done and your analogy is certainly a great motivator, thank you!

    1. If you have painted so many walls and other stuff, you obviously know what I am writing about. No work has ever come out of thinking in itself. 🙂

  26. “It takes time to understand the underlying rules of your craft or how to bring your creativity to life, it takes time to develop your artistry to a level where you feel comfortably able to express your vision. It might be a frustrating time of development, but just remember that’s how it’s been for all artists, even the greatest of all times.” – Thank you for putting these to words, sir. And yes, it’s heartening when you said that that is the point about and with art – it never stops.

    have a good weekend, sir Otto. 🙂

  27. You are a philosopher. It’s just too easy to blame absence of “inspiration” if you don’t get results. And it doesn’t apply only to making art.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s