Wednesday 7 December 2016

putting in the time : talent vs determination

Chaffinch - watercolour, collage and ink on paper

Here is a Chaffinch. He's the smartest dressed bird in my garden. He never goes out unless he is perfectly groomed :-)

And here's what I read about Chaffinches. They make lots of chip and cheep calls, followed by a long musical flourish that can last several seconds. They may repeat this song up to 3300 times a day!

Now that is dedication to your art! Who could fail to succeed in what they do if they put that much time into something? With that kind of repetition you're bound to achieve something awesome.

So that got me thinking about my art and how I (like most artists probably) often get complimented on my talent. But here's the thing ... it's really been dedication.

From 1999 to 2016. It's been a long journey.

The above picture is of 3 of my sketchbooks. The top left is my first sketch of a building done on location. It was done in 1999 and is of a cottage in Glencoe in Scotland. Pretty childlike, no? And very tentative too. But this was when I first decided I wanted to learn to draw on location and that I wanted to learn to paint watercolours. David bought me that little palette in the picture soon after this and I was so excited. That palette has been absolutely everywhere with me since.

Fast forward a bit. Running a business and a long stint of making pottery, I finally started putting the real time into urban sketching in 2007. We took break from our business that year and went to Europe for 3 months. The lighthouse sketch was done on our first morning, waking up in Mallorca. I sketched so much on that trip. I had no real plan, no real style, no particular choice of subject. I just tried everything. I sketched many, many, many pages.

Since then we've travelled a lot and I've filled heaps of sketchbooks. The right hand sketch is from this year (2016). Each year I seem to sketch more than ever. It is really this year that I have felt it all coming together. I finally feel I'm starting to understand watercolours, that I'm getting a strong, intentional drawing line and I'm brave enough to try pretty much any subject (although old buildings are my favourite). I sketch or paint most days. Even if it is only for 10 minutes.

So I'm not the fastest learner. It's been 17 years! And I'm still learning.

Some days it's a bit like the Chaffinch with just chips and chirps. But some days there's a musical flourish and it all comes together.

So whatever you're doing, if you really want it, just go all out. Put in the hours. Don't give up. It's often dedication that will win the day, not talent.

Some of my sketchbooks from the last few years.

You can listen to the Chaffinch here :-)

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