Wednesday, 5 October 2011


Hello again folks.

I enjoy contributing to a marvellous   Recently, someone came to the threads, very discouraged by her lack of progress, which brings me to today's blog post - a little about "growth" as an artist.

When I was teaching classes of students, I often came across people very discouraged by their own efforts - they could "see" in their heads what they wanted to achieve, but what they actually did achieve fell way below their expectations.

I tried to explain it this way.
We adults have well-developed brains (well, most do anyway. Sometimes I look at my husband and wonder about that, when he stands in front of the fridge and says "the butter isn't here" and lo and behold, there it is, one shelf below where he expected it to be.)   What we don't have is well-developed abilities when we begin drawing and painting. Some people have a great natural "facility" and painting seems to come easy to them, others have to beaver away for ages before they begin to produce work which they are pleased with.   I believe this is because we have a filtering system going on, between brain and hand.  I tell people that there are various "sieves" all the way down your arm.  !!  You listen, or read;  you think you have absorbed what you have heard or read - you probably did understand it after all;  it starts to trickle down your arm, but gets held up by the little sieves along the way, and often does not reach your hand until months, or sometimes years later, when you will then have a "light bulb moment".  I can remember myself thinking one day "Oh THAT is what she meant!" when suddenly the penny dropped and I understood what a tutor had tried to explain to me months earlier.

The gap between our expectations, and our abilities, can take a LONG LONG TIME to bridge. It slowly closes as we work, and produce lots of work.   For some people, it never quite happens - I for one long for my work to be as good as Degas' work, for example!!!

What you need is the three P's....patience, perseverance, and practice.   Remind yourself of this every day.

It has taken me many years to get from those early sketches at the top of this post, to the work below.I am embarrassed to say how many, but I did have brown hair then, and it is silver now! Many, many tears were shed along the way.  Light bulb moments occured now and then, giving me hope. Occasionally, I would produce a sketch or painting, and would wonder where on earth it came from.....had I been channelling another artist?  Whatever happens, you must relish the journey.    Keep reminding yourself of this when you feel discouraged. It is just a step along the way.


  1. Hi Jackie, followed your link through EdM. Welcome to the land of blogging! Love your blog and your art is superb.

  2. I lost my comment...Waaaah! Hi Jackie, I followed your link through EdM. Welcome to the land of blogging. I love your blog and your art is superb!

  3. Jackie, thank you for this blog. I have students that you can just see how disappointed they are in not "being better" after taking art lessons for sooooooo long. My favorite saying is "It's the journey" and they all give me jabs about saying it so much. I love it so much, I names my last solo show that very phrase! It is, and the sooner someone can realize this philosophy, the sooner they can just let go and let it happen all by itself. Your three P's are perfect.

  4. Great post, Jackie. I plan to send my students over here to read it. It is all about the day-to-day work, your three P's.

    I often remind myself that it's not about what I want to become, wherein lies great dissatisfaction, since it's out there in the unreached 'tomorrow.' No, it's what I'm learning TODAY that matters most to me.

  5. thank you all so much for your comments.

  6. Wonderful article! Thank you for addressing this. I ran into a similar idea on a writing blog and one phrase kept coming back to me. "Your taste is higher than your skill."

    That's just what it is. Exactly.

    I've had a lot of lightbulb moments when something I knew intellectually finally reached my hands. That's something that makes it easier for me to take practice in stride. If I see improvement, I'm happy.

  7. All that frustration neatly explained. Loved the analogy of the sieves.

    Thanks Jacqui

  8. Very well said. I gave up long ago trying to make the painting turn out the way it looked it my head and have learned how to just go where the work takes me. It allows for more inspiration and discovery, more of an adventure perhaps.

  9. Thanks for the post , Jackie. A lot of good advice here. I have come back to view it several times. Keep up the great work!


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