A common joke in the 1950’s is often attributed to comedian Jack Benny.
“How do I get to Carnegie Hall?”
“Practice, practice, practice.”
Although the joke didn’t originate with him, the comedian did actually play in the famous Manhattan concert hall. And the message of the punch line is true to this day, no matter the instrument.
The same idea holds true in the world of visual arts. The more you do your art, the better you’ll be. And the better you are, the more chance you’ll have of attaining your artistic goals. Whatever your chosen art form is, it requires patience and dedication, attention and repetition. Painters, animators, ceramicists, costume designers, architects and printmakers alike, all need to pay focused attention to their craft, over and over, and over again.
I think that’s why I love this quote from Ira Glass, story-teller, host and producer of This American Life. We’re never too young or too old to learn this lesson.
“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 its 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.”
Photo courtesy of RISD