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Sometimes I'll throw a little useful info out here for you, other times it's just a bit of mumbo jumbo



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  • Artists of the New Century at the Bennington Center for the Arts
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Measure Once, or is it Twice…

August 27, 2015 by admin

I just came home from a two week painting trip to the Rockies with not a single sale, not a single award, and my van filled with wet paintings. Was it productive?

Does that sound bitter? Okay, let me try again.

Hi honey, I’m home. How was your trip? Well it was wonderful, I painted in some wonderful places with some outstanding artists, and have over 25 paintings of the journey, how was your time?

There are times that I lose sight of my goal, and what I love to do the best.

Why is that?

Here in America, (this I know from hands on experience) we are raised to be competitive, to be better than the others. With contests and grades, and gold stars passed out for excelling at any given activity. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but as that gawd awful saying I keep hearing now-a-days goes… “it is what it is!”

Is it like this in other countries? You tell me, I’ve done the islands, and while there all I cared about was swimming, eating, and hiking. But from what I see on the news, and read in the paper it’s not just us “Yanks” who are caught up in this.

Rick on the Los Pinos

Rick on the Los Pinos

When I sat down with Rick Howell what seems like many many years ago, though it wasn’t all that long, we set out short term and long term goals. Winning contests, and beating everyone else was not on either one of the lists.

My ultimate goal was to paint. Was it to travel the world and paint? No, just paint. Presently I travel so much because I feel it’s necessary at this moment in time to help my career as an artist, which will eventually allow me to “just paint”. And then this involves taking part in contests, and exhibits. Don’t get me wrong, I love a little competition, and I like coming out on top. It’s a great feeling to know that at least this juror really likes what you did, and of course doing this helps immensely in allowing one to maybe one day “just paint”.

But how does it fit in in your “grand scheme” of life? I know there will always be someone better, and I really don’t mind if everyone is better as long as I can continue to paint and to grow as an artist. It’s like trying to get to the front of the all the cars on the highway by speeding past everyone. There will always be cars in front of you. Learn to accept that. It’s a long road out there with no real end, just sit back and try to enjoy the ride.

Sometimes I lose sight as I travel the country taking part in exhibits and paint-outs, though I believe it is interesting to see how you “stack up” to the others. I almost said compare, but I think the best thing for you to compare to is your last painting. How does it rate when you put it next to that? Did you improve, if not why? What is it about this painting that makes it different, or the same? This is how one should measure themselves.

Becoming a Master Engraving Artist I studied under 30 different Master Engravers, each for a month. You listen, you watch, you study. Find what works best for you and then leave what does not.

This is the same approach I am taking to my painting. Learn from those whose art I love, but being careful about comparing my work to theirs. Sure I would love to be as good as Aspevig, or Sargent, but I still want to be me. So I paint some more and then do it again.Finding Nemo

What I use to measure success should not be the ribbons or checks I receive, but how far my work has improved in such a short period of time. Sometimes that’s hard to do, but try taking the best 4 or 5 paintings from each year and put them in a chronological order and then measure.

Which way are you going?

Are you liking the way your paintings are coming out, do they say what you want them to say? I know better than to line my best paintings up against some of my favorite artists work. For me it would only depress me and make me wonder what I am doing here.

So I don’t or try not to, and this way I am a much happier person.

I paint because the way it makes me feel when I do. I get lost in it at times and sometimes overcome with a great feeling of contentment. I study them because I want to improve upon myself and my work, and I challenge myself inwardly.

I do no 30 paintings in 30 days challenges, or 24 in 24 hours. I just paint when I can, and try to reach toward my goals that I have set before me. They are not ridiculous goals though when setting them out so long ago some did seem somewhat insurmountable. Yet I have achieved many, and am steadily progressing towards them all.

How do you measure success?

break glass in case of emergency

break glass in case of emergency



10 Responses to “Measure Once, or is it Twice…”

  1. Peggy says:

    Excellent post Greg. I am saving this one as a gentle reminder. It is so easy in this visual field to get caught in the compare mode. I am guilty of it. When I hear you talk about your friend and mentor Rick, I wish I could have met him!
    Thanks (again).

  2. Judie Stang says:

    I, too, think painting is measured too often by ribbons and checks. It seems to me that maybe the same people winning all the time is more of a group mentality, or flavor of the day. Its so easy to go to the artist who has won all the time and be sure that you are part of the “club”. People seem to have to have the hottest thing to validate its worth. I see many fine pieces in exhibits and yet the same few artists always sell. Its like their afraid to go with a lessor known artist. These works are always good, but not the only good ones. Guess that will never change, so we either have to work to get into that “upper circle” or be content with our work on a more personal level.

  3. I walked away from My painting 3 months ago part of that was feeling I lacked measuring up, and just general frustration, from painting in my garage as a studio and , unsupportive spouse,the bad part dam it, it haunts and calls Me every day..some great pojnts R.G….

  4. Jantrager says:

    Thanks Greg for the great article on what is really a success out there in the golf course.. I mean the plein air thing. .I guess success is a very personal thing. I feel very successful with my painting, considering I am a weekend painter because of the other job I have to do at this time of my life. If I get to discouraged about what my paintings will bring to me, because I don’t win at an plein air event, or sell at my one and only show I do, or people just don’t take notice of my work, then I am in big trouble with my thinking. This painting passion keeps me going!! love it and look forward to painting full time someday. Happy painting My web-site is almost done….yay Cheers Jan Trager

  5. Kevin Beck says:

    I have been making my living from painting for almost 20 years. Does anyone who makes their living at this ever get to “just paint”? I participate in some juried events {a lot of them at the start of my professional painting life] but to this day I find the creation of art and the idea of art competition to be an oxymoron. I paint {primarily plein air} because I love being in nature, I love the process of drinking in a scene and the challenge of recording my reaction. I paint for me. Am I improving? I know that my work has changed over the years. I know that I am more satisfied and confident in my work then I was in the past (I also know that I have lost collectors as my style changed but I also gained collectors too). It is a journey, your journey, my journey. Are you relatively happy on the journey?

    • admin says:

      …relatively happy along this journey? I’m having the time of my life. It is this process I love, but it is a lot of hard work. I have goals and I’m on my way, there are those obtainable then others, who knows? Thanks for the response and taking the time to read Kevin. Much appreciated, now “paint on”

  6. Lynette Hayes says:

    Not sure you got my other message….but wanting you to know I sent this out to 5 other artist friends, and it really made them feel better about where they were out…and of course me also. thanks for writing this piece. You always are an inspiration.

    Lynette Hayes

  7. I enjoyed looking at your work and then saw the blog list. This post is an excellent one, and I have shared it to my Facebook page because I hear so many artists talk about some of the things you did. Success is getting to paint when and where I want to paint. The outcome is not nearly as important… most of the time if I let it, that will take care of itself! We must always remember there will be many “half-baked” paintings and then one or two “wow, I did that” paintings all along the journey. My favorite saying, and the title of two of my big solo shows, “It’s the Journey” (the rest of the quote and might be in reverse order, “not the destination”).

    • admin says:

      Thanks for taking the time Marsha, and “sharing”. I agree, and should keep in mind that it is the journey. I find this not only in art, but many aspects of life… one reason I drive from across the country to events. There is so much to be enjoyed, I don’t think it’s a “fly-over” type world, though so many are just fixated on the end result. Live and learn… I hope. Thanks again.

      • I was clearing up some gmail and saw your response. Sorry about that. But wanted to say, how much I enjoy when my husband and I drive across the country for the same reason… we see so much more. It is really a journey in that respect also. We drive every two years from Atlanta to Albuquerque NM and then make a two – three week drive around the southwest or midwest. We love it!

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