Patiently Painting Walls

Each and everyone of us have a desire to become recognized for the artistic work we do—at least to some extent—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 that is what I think—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 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.

70 thoughts on “Patiently Painting Walls

  1. Dear Otto

    It’s again a very inspiring and touching peace.Thank you!

    Best greetings from the Netherlands,when are you passing again😉



  2. Ha, ha…I also pay someone to paint my house!! even to clean the windows outside cause I am too busy thinking about photography!! As always: an excellent post, Otto.

  3. Otto, Did you hear me asking a close friend yesterday “Do you ever wonder what you are doing and why?” I do believe you heard those words from far away…and answered the question perfectly….”In the end the development in itself is the reward for those of us who seek to express ourselves creatively or artistically.” You have no idea how your intuitive musings have hit-the-mark. Simply…thank you. R.

    1. I am just amazed about my abilities, then. 🙂 Thank you for this little story about connecting across thousands of miles (as you can understand, I am not in or around the West Coast right now).

    1. I too, can enjoy the simplicity of painting a house. But I really cannot think about the whole thing when starting out. One wall is the perspective, that can get me going.

  4. I needed this today. Wisdom and inspiration… oh, and a great photographer too! I wish I could like some of the comments because so many people said what I wanted to say — I’ll just add this: sometimes things feel real hard, overwhelming… and then I come across a post like this and somehow, it all feels better and easier to get to the next step. Thank you. One step, one wall, at a time for sure.

  5. Yes, well put Otto, and thanks for the reminder. In for the long haul. Good analogy as for painting a house – I really love it, almost as a meditative practice. And then, change and add a few complimentary colours – thats pure joy. Creativity does take patience, but oh, how rewarding. Lovely cute home there. Good cheers – Bruce.

  6. i keep trying to make it to the end of this article and the end of the day comes first lol… i used to paint our living room every year! i loved it.. you know how colours change your mood? so i run on instinct, go by feel lalala… weird, my comments are not going thru

  7. Great post with thoughts that are often on my mind. There is some underlying advice here I wish all beginners could understand. After trying all kinds of photography and coming around to accepting my niche´ my mantra of late is ‘stay the course’!

    1. Stay the course is a sound advice, in a sense that one should not drift off for every hindrance along the way. Sometimes it’s fun to take a little detour, though. 🙂

  8. Patience, craft, art. These seem, at this moment, to be the messages you have shared of late. Very nice, very apt. Thank you Otto.

  9. An excellent analogy, Otto. It is so true that at the beginning of almost every project, even with excitement anticipating the finished product, there’s a keen awareness of what it will cost in time and commitment. This is a helpful consideration. Thank you!

  10. I particularly like the attention you give to the motivation behind an artist’s creativity – who is he/she wanting to please? How do we each define (for ourselves) satisfaction/success/fulfilment?

  11. I agree, craft and art both take time to develop, and both are areas where we never stop growing, and it certainly is rewarding to realize you’re getting a bit better. The rewards from outside oneself are satisfying, too, in a different way. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts in a future post about that difference. And I like the way you focus attention on the painter in the image, by using light. Cheers, Otto, and have a great weekend!

  12. You are great to find the beef in your work Otto, a common expression used in America, to say you have found the meaty part of the subject. 🙂

  13. Thank you for this blog post. It is interesting and true. Good things need time and repetition to develop – I am fully aware of that. Unfortunately I often lack the patience to go the extra mile. You reminded me that it is worth the work – thanks!


  14. This blog really struck me – I totally get it. It seems to take me a very long time to get an artistic expression to the level I want. I keep wondering if I am just slowing down, or is my creative process more complicated and I have learned a lot of new things? But when I get finished it feels really good.

  15. Thanks, Otto! This resonates with me so much. Another boost I can use right about now . . . Patience, acceptance, and perseverance. And being in the moment. Nice.

  16. Creating a home from the space you live in has always been something that gave me great pleasure. Hiring someone to do it for me never quite gave it the same feel. The imperfections of my painted wall or the one corner out of line on the wall paper. That’s part of what made it “my” home. Of course, it was alway the icing on the cake if someone said, “I love what you’ve done with the place.”

  17. I’ve fallen terribly behind in my reading, but I couldn’t let this one pass without letting you know how much I appreciated it. As someone who “paints” for a living, you’ve expressed truths here that it’s taken me some years to learn and incorporate.

    This sentence jumped out at me: “Artistic development is like painting a house. When you start out you know you have hours—or more like days—of work ahead you. You keep at because you know that’s the only way it will get painted.” When I first began varnishing boats, I was prone to become impatient: to try and hurry the process to get to the end. Eventually, I learned that all that forward-looking was an impediment to both quality and real progress. Imagine my surprise to find that lessons learned while varnishing could apply to writing and photography both!

    1. I think restlessness has become such a integrated part of contemporary life that it’s almost impossible to let the process take the time it needs, whether varnishing boats or learning to photograph. A belated thank you for the comment, Linda.

  18. You have expressed this so well. Photographers are also painters, isn’t it! We paint with light. This is the meaning of photographing. And whether you are a professional or hobby photographer or a different artist, it is always learning and looking for new challenges to give our creativity a boost. It is as you say, it never ends.

    1. Of course, it depends on one’s attitude, but with the right attitude, the learning and creative development never ends. And that’s really the fun part of it. Thank you for commenting, Heidi.

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