Monday, April 8, 2013

Fight your way through it

Suzanne McDermott

Fight your way through it

I applaud my students at the end of every workshop or course or tough exercise. Regardless of the particular results, it takes guts to make a new drawing or watercolor. Every time. It gets easier to summon the guts with practice. We get better with practice but it's not a straight ascending line. Improvement is more like a wave. And no matter how masterful you may become, creative disaster is always waiting just around the bend.

People rarely talk about how the practice of creative process trains our emotional behavior. With drawing, and more so with watercolor, we do not make masterpieces from the get go. Even when we master a creative form or medium, we do not always make masterpieces. What we make can be excruciating for us to look at and embarrassing to share.

We make drawings and watercolors that aren't so great at the beginning, while we're learning.

I've looked at so many beginner's drawings and watercolors that I can see, right away, the merits of each piece, no matter how crude. I see exactly what embarrasses the student, explain the particular problem that's causing the embarrassment, that it is totally normal and can be worked out — with practice — in what simply amounts to a matter of time and volume. I point out the underlying merits of what appears, at first glance, to suck.

If you choose to fight your way through the embarrassment and self criticism, I guarantee that, eventually, you will start to produce work that pleases you. Along the way, you will train yourself emotionally to fall down and get up again with increasing ease, to forgive yourself for short comings, to summon courage to make something out of nothing, to let go of failures.
"Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it's normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through."
Ira Glass
Click here to watch the original video interview with Ira Glass from which the above quote is excerpted.

You will be fierce. You will be a warrior.

My job as a teacher is to explain, instruct and shepherd you through exercises designed to allow you to understand what you are dealing with when you make a drawing or watercolor.

That's a part of my job. That's the easy part.

The sometimes challenging part of my job is to help you learn to love and appreciate yourself and your work through the early training process, through the embarrassments and discouragements and impatience. Like the fundamental elements and concepts of drawing and watercolor, that emotional guidance is designed to stick with you.

You need to learn how to pat yourself on the back. When you do, the process becomes much more fun.

My courses provide you with a rare foundation in drawing and watercolor. In the process, you awaken and develop a forgotten emotional and spiritual strength.

Visit my Online Drawing and Watercolor site for more details on my next course. Put your name on the waiting list for advance notice and special offers.
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