Giving your art a chance to grow

Nov. 23—Creating art is not an easy task. It requires a great deal of courage and sacrifice. Artists must have the courage to begin, learn, make mistakes, and try again.

Civil Rights activist Maya Angelou believed each of us were born with a measure of innate creativity, but it is up to us to nurture and grow that creativity.

We all have the capacity for creative greatness, but it requires us to sit in the uncomfortable place of allowing our art a chance to grow.

Before our art can grow, though, we have to have the courage to begin.

Courage to begin

Beginning is often the hardest part of being an artist. It is easy to be swayed away from beginning by the financial investment an art requires or by self-doubt. It is frightening to be an amateur at a new skill, not knowing if your investment will ever pay off.

American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson once said "every artist was once an amateur."

Every great artist had times early in their careers that they didn't know if what they were doing would really make a difference in the world. They didn't know if anyone would ever experience their art.

Regardless of their self-doubt and their worries about whether their art would reach people, they still released that debut work of art.

Being recognized for your work isn't the only metric for artistic success or reason to begin your artistic journey.

American Modernist Georgia O'Keeffe said, "whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing."

Before great artists were known to the world, though, they had to spend years learning and growing their craft.

Courage to learn

American writer Kurt Vonnegut Jr. said, "to practice any art, no matter how well or how badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. So do it."

For most artists, their chosen medium of art will require a great deal of practice and continual learning. While it is easy to assume that prolific artists picked up their craft with ease and performed perfectly from the start, that is rarely the case.

In August 1838, English diarist Anne Lister said of her wife Ann Walker, "[Ann] was not much satisfied with her sketch — but she certainly improves particularly in colouring." Mentions of Walker creating art are found throughout the diaries of both Lister and Walker, indicating Walker continuously engaged in her chosen art forms to grow in her craft. While Walker was not always satisfied with her sketches, she continued to allow her art to grow.

With the courage to learn, you also have to have the courage to not be satisfied with your work and still continue to learn.

Courage to make mistakes

To learn, you have to make mistakes.

American cartoonist Scott Adams said, "creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep." Before Adams, American sociologist Charles Horton Cooley said, "an artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one."

These mistakes shouldn't discourage you from continuing to learn, as they are a vital part of the creative process. Many artists give up before they even have a chance because they allow discouragement in the early stages of learning to take over.

By continuing to push through that discouragement and build your artistic ability, you succeed as an artist. The only artistic failure is to give up.

When you make a mistake, try again.

Courage to try again

American basketball coach John Wooden said, "the eight laws of learning are explanation, demonstration, imitation, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition."

Many musicians assert that for the first year of learning how to play guitar, you should only play scales and perform chord progression exercises. This practice allows you to become acquainted with the neck of the guitar and how each of the notes relate to one another. They will swear that this repetition in the beginning is the difference between a good and great guitarist.

Regardless of the medium, there are exercises that teachers will encourage you to engage in to hone your craft, especially in the early stages of learning as you are introduced to the fundamentals of the medium. While these exercises are in no way as fun or glamorous as learning your favorite Hozier song or publishing a selection of short stories, they are necessary to the creative process.

Many of these early exercises won't come naturally. They are often counterintuitive to the way we are used to manipulating our body and the world around us. This, coupled with the excruciating boredom of repeating the same exercise over and over, often leads budding artists to give up.

We have to have the courage to keep pushing through the mundanity and the mistakes to continue practicing, learning, and growing.

Taylor Lane, an artist herself, is the author of the Artists' Angle column. Dedicated to the preservation of Appalachian culture and artistry and the advancement of the fine arts in vulnerable communities, Lane writes stories showcasing various art forms and local artists, as well as her own art, and how it relates to Appalachian culture and history.