Artists’ Rules to Live and Die By

I wanted to compile a list of maxims or rules that I have learned the hard way over the years.  Enjoy!  And if you can think of others, drop a line in the comments box.

  • Do something creative every day–make creativity a habit
    • Maybe one of the hardest tasks to accomplish as an artist is to not fall into the procrastination/discouragement rut.  By creating something–it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece–every single day, you will have an incredible amount of imagery to draw upon, no pun intended. 
  • Be prepared to fail and don’t take it personally
    • You will fail.  It’s a fact of life that will not go away no matter how much you hope for the opposite.  Think of Edison when he said, “I have not failed 1000 times. I have successfully discovered 1000 ways to NOT make a light bulb.”
  • Be prepared to succeed
    • Conversely be prepared for success.  I exhibited in a local ice cream shop after an invite from the owner and on a whim I put together some pieces.  Lo and behold, I sold nearly every darn one of em and found myself without the usual business paraphernalia such as invoices, an available contact number/e-mail, or even a way to thank the buyers face to face.  So, always prepare for success.
  • Persistence pays off
    • I cannot count how many pieces I have abandoned over the years because I was bored with them, frustrated, became interested in something else, etc.  A painting instructor of mine noticed this trend and forced me to pull out some older pieces and finish them.  Initially, I was less than cooperative, but now see that a few of those works became some of my best pieces.  It’s ok to set a work aside, but never give up on it.
  • Be true to your own voice–don’t create someone else’s vision
    • It is tempting to tailor your work in order to garner the praise of others.  It is apostasy and it will over time slowly eat away at your soul.  Don’t do it.  Commissions are another story but for your own work never betray where your heart leads you.
  • Don’t dwell on past successes or failures–continue to look forward
    • If you win the blue ribbon for your piece, that’s fabulous!  However, as Picasso said, his favorite work is always the next one that he paints.  Keep moving forward and learn from what you have accomplished.  Likewise, do not let past failures tarnish future endeavors.  Every new day presents a clean artistic slate.
  • Write down ideas and inspiration immediately or they’re gone
    • If you wake up at 2am with a great idea, write it down immediately otherwise you can kiss it goodbye.
  • Behind every great piece you create there are probably four or five pieces that suck
    • Photos are blurry, paintings just don’t come together the way you want, your dog eats you jump drive with all of your work on it, etc.  It happens.  Every piece that you create you learn something that will contribute to your ability to do better next time.  It’s just part of the process.
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  • Ollin Morales  On June 4, 2010 at 21:57

    Number one is the hardest. Even for artists, but it is definitely true. I’m a writer, but I also draw, make songs, and dance to help with my writing. I’m horrible at singing and dancing, but every art form feeds into the other doesn’t it? Creatives need to be creative, it’s who we are. Thanks for the great list!

    • Stirling  On June 5, 2010 at 08:00

      Thanks for the comment, Ollin. Creativity is definitely bolstered by exploring as many media as possible–something I often neglect but always try to improve upon.

  • hamlynart  On June 11, 2010 at 03:07

    Here’s another one perhaps: No starting point is any better or worse than any other – the point is to start rather than getting caught up in cycles of self censorship.

    • Stirling  On June 11, 2010 at 08:30

      That’s a particularly good addition to the list because I started thinking about the ideas for this post as I was in the process of starting to paint again after a year and a half hiatus. Self-censorship was certainly a key factor in the dynamic that kept me from painting. I guess it one of those things that was so close that I didn’t see it.

  • hamlynart  On June 11, 2010 at 09:47

    “…so close that you didn’t see it.” – now that immediately makes me think of another one: Stand back and get an overview.


  • By Recent Posts « Musings on June 4, 2010 at 19:20

    […] Artists’ Rules to Live and Die By By Stirling, on June 4, 2010 at 19:19, under Art. Tags:art,, recent posts. No Comments Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. « Artists’ Rules to Live and Die By […]

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