......or how to be a success in one easy lesson
I grew up with this print on my mum's wall and always admired it. Over the years the print became more faded but this only added to its allure for me. When I first began to paint I looked at this print and wished I could paint like that. "One day," I used to say to myself, "I will be able to paint like this." It took me years to learn the various techniques necessary to finally be able to do it justice. At the time I had no idea who the original artist was but I knew he was a very traditional painter, probably Victorian but more important - I loved his work. In fact I have a great admiration for the Victorian and indeed Edwardian watercolour painters of old. I won't get on my soapbox (again!) but I think it is a great shame that their paintings are so casually dismissed nowadays as 'old fashioned' or 'chocolate box'. After about ten years absorbing, learning and practising, I finally felt able to have a go at the painting, and was very pleased with the result. It is not a direct copy of the original but closely based. My wife was able to find out that the artist was one Benjamin Williams Leader RA. He had been very famous in his day but has now fallen into disfavour. The original was a 6 foot x 4 ft oil painting and has a lot more detail and colour than mine. No matter - I had achieved my goal - I was a success. Although I love the painting and it has often been admired and commented on, it never sold. But that does not make it an unsuccessful painting...of course not. Each time I look at it, I feel good - surely that makes it successful in it's own right.
Now there are lots of amazing watercolour painters around (I'm glad to say) whose work I greatly admire - I certainly couldn't do what they do..... but then again..... could they do what I do?
So do not measure your 'success' in honours, awards or sales but what it means to you. And don't measure your paintings against anybody else's - yours are as unique as theirs. I always tell my students to set themselves a little goal for each painting. By doing this you set yourself something to aim for, and, when you achieve it - you guessed - you too are a success. But set realistic goals. Don't aim to paint like Vincent straight off - give yourself a couple of weeks at least! You know what I mean - goals have to be attainable. If you're 63 and got dodgy knees it's no good aiming to win an Olympic Gold Medal at the Marathon but you can achieve a steady walk for charity and end up feeling really good about yourself, and rightly so - you're a success. I've been mainly concerned about painters but setting achievable goals is a good thing in all aspects of life.
So....are you a successful painter? I suspect that most of you reading this would straightaway have answered "no", but I hope after this, you might have a fresh look at your paintings and realise that you too are a success!