The Laws of Nature

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Gift of Persistence

Vincent Van Gogh

I'm going to take a brief excursion from Wendy Richmond's book to discuss an article from the most recent issue of Art Calendar magazine, entitled "The Gift of Persistence" by Matthew Daub. This article really resonates with me and I think it will with many of you as well.

Daub writes: I have come to believe that the primary gift involved in the making of art is the love of making it - the fascination and drive that keeps an artist involved and working throughout the course of a lifetime. In the art world, where the prize often goes to the last person standing, persistence trumps talent every time. Here are the major points the author uses to support his thesis:

Being "gifted" is not enough -
without drive, "giftedness" is inconsequential

Successful artists have unstoppable drive -
how badly do you want it?

Successful artists push themselves -
maintain a strong work ethic

Just show up -
make your creative work a daily priority and set aside time for it

The author concludes with sage advice: Great ideas and good intentions are meaningless if they are not acted upon. Artists without discipline seldom succeed. Artists with lesser gifts may succeed through the consistency of their labors. There are no guarantees in life or in art, but we can be assured that whatever gifts we have become stronger the longer and harder we work, and our chances of advancing professionally are multiplied over time. Persistence is the greatest gift of all.
Folks, this article is important to me because I'm one of those people who works very hard to achieve. There are few things that just come to me naturally - that I can put very little effort into and still succeed. So, Daub's opinion, which is informed by his experiences as a seasoned art professor, is a comfort to me. I hope his words are meaningful to you, too.

Your thoughts?


Casey Klahn said...

Yes. I agree.

I am interested in studio practices. I am being persistent, but the groove...whither the groove?

Stan Kurth said...

I'm quoting myself on a comment from two posts back:

"I've been an artist all my life and when I have repressed it, I have suffered for it. It is what I was born to do. It is me. I can no longer even pretend to deny it. My creative process is simple: I work. I don't suffer from creative block. When I start working the excitement meter is like a Geiger Counter oscillating between a tick-tock and a high pitched scream as I create art culminating in a representation of a variety of places, people and things that have induced a squealing pitch on the excitement meter over the years, months, days, minutes or seconds (I often listen to music while I work). I pursue the path. I don't compromise in the creation of fine art. It is freedom. My audience wants to see it. It is my only chance to make an impact. For the remainder of my life I will not miss that chance."

I persist.

-Don said...

Hi Kathy,

Mr. Daub's article was the first one I read in this latest issue of Art Calendar and I loved it. I've re-read it a couple times and now I get the pleasure of discussing it with my friends!

I agree that persistence trumps pretty much everything. I now work really hard at what I do, but I just wish I had taken this attitude towards my fine art 25 years ago. I was one of those Daub talks about who had lots of talent, but no discipline or consistency. For me, I think it was lack of maturity at first. And then it became distractions. And then I didn't "feel" like it. And then I put it off. And then... and then... Now I realize every excuse I have ever used was just that - an excuse. Andy Warhol always said, "It's just work." Lou Reed wrote a wonderful tribute album to Andy Warhol titled "Songs for Drella". One of the songs is called "Work". I LOVE IT! Give it a listen sometime - but until then, here are the lytics:

So, here I am, past the middle of my timeline finally doing what I should have been doing all along - pushing, driving, showing up, working, networking... and, damn it, I WILL arrive. That is the word I chose as my mantra for this year, ARRIVE... It's written on the top of my computer screen. It will happen.

Articles like Daub's and blogs like yours help keep me focussed and inspired. Thank you.


hw (hallie) farber said...

I love making art but always felt that the primary gift was in "seeing" art. I must have been absent when persistence and drive were doled out. Most likely, I was off someplace looking at the clouds, finding faces in trees--seeing art in the ordinary.

Does the last one standing really get the prize? What is the prize? If your life is filled with art you are already a winner.

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Unknown said...

Hi Casey - for me, "the groove" is when I immerse myself in my work for long periods of time. This can last for months/years and then I step out of it to see if I'm really in a "groove" or in a "rut."

Hi Stan - you said it all!

Hi Don - I had a feeling that you'd like the article as much as I did. But, in your case, the author is preaching to the choir. You work very hard and you've got the talent. I think you have "arrived," you just don't feel like you're there yet :-)

Hi Hallie - I guess it's just a matter of goals, and everyone has a different set. Vive la difference!!

Hi Pam - indeed, it is a process, as you point out. I like a challenge, and I like hard work. But, there are days when I wish I didn't have to work so hard at it. But then, I just dive back in again.

hw (hallie) farber said...

I am older; I fought long and hard for time and space to make art. I appreciate where I am and what I have--art is the joy in my life. I don't think I'll be the last one standing--more than likely, I'll be the first one lying down. I admire those like you, Kathy, who can set goals and follow through.

Joyfulartist said...

Even those with talent have to practice, it doesn't matter if it's playing an instrument, painting or sculpting; learning a skill takes time and practice. Practice takes persistance. An old proverb says "Steady plodding brings prosperity." It's not glamorous but it is rewarding.

Dan Kent said...

I spent years thinking, "there's always tomorrow", "I'll have time to do that". With this attitude, there is no motivation, no drive. Decades passed before I knew or understood. Whoosh! Really, like that. Whoosh.

Now, middle aged, I finally get it. This, I guess is what they call wisdom. Now I do not want to waste a minute. (Problem is I only often now have minutes not to waste, because of the walls - some of them wonderful walls, but walls nonetheless - that I have built during my life.)

So all these points in the article are true. And if any young whippersnapper is reading this - and I hope you are - get off your butt before you are ancient (40's going on 50's, cryptkeeperish, like me), and there's no limit to what you can accomplish!

Unknown said...

Hi Hallie - don't underestimate your contributions to the art world! I love your work and so do many others.

Hi "Joyful" - well said! Thanks for the quote; it's a great one.

Hi Dan - a great admonition! I wish I had twenty years of my life back again.