The one book I never tire of recommending to artists has nothing to do with painting at all, and more to do with the act of stepping up to the easel.
We all know people who love art, but never paint.
Because they have a day job. Family gets in the way. They don't have a studio, or their studio sucks. It's hard to paint well when life is stressful. They have an unsupportive spouse. They're fighting health problems. Etc etc.
These are all completely valid excuses. I get it. I really do.
But here's the deal - if you want to be an artist, you have to MAKE ART. And the best way to make good art, is to make lots of it. I have a friend who tells his workshop students, "Keep your brushes wet!" A good reminder that you should be painting all the time. ALL THE TIME.
All the knowledge in the world about how to paint isn't going to help you if you never actually paint. And believe it or not, the actual act of getting yourself to the easel is often the hardest part. And surprisingly, this is the part that a lot of people skip over when they teach people how to paint.
So, here's the deal. => The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. <= Read it.
"Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.
Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever quit a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice? Have you ever bailed out on a call to embark upon a spiritual practice, dedicate yourself to a humanitarian calling, commit your life to the service of others? Have you ever wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless; to run for office, crusade for the planet, campaign for world peace, or to preserve the environment? Late at night have you experienced the vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn't write, a painter who doesn't paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what resistance is."
- Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
If you know that art is your true calling but can't seem to make yourself paint more than every once in a while, do yourself a favor and buy this book. The first two sections of the book deal with what Pressfield terms "Resistance" - that invisible power that seems to constantly keep you from stepping up to the easel - and how to squelch it and make art.
"There's a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don't, and the secret is this: It's not the writing part that's hard. What's hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance."
- Steven Pressfield, The War of ArtI've got kids, and a crazy schedule, and sometimes life just gets in the way. And sometimes when I find that my painting time is slipping, I'll flip through the pages of this book just to remind myself to get back at it. My copy is a little bit worn.
So, read this book, and keep your brushes wet. MAKE ART, so you can learn to make good art.