January is over, but there are still eleven months left in the year. This report is all about getting the most out of that time. First, we will review 2021. Then, we will come up with a plan for the rest of 2022.
Keep in mind, this report is not specific to 2022. You’ll be able to return to it whenever you need to check if you're going in the right direction.
Did You Learn From the Right People?
Who you learn from and surround yourself with will determine how you develop as an artist, for better or worse. A good teacher will:
- Push you without overdoing it.
- Make you feel good about yourself and your work.
- Lead by example with their work and values.
- Not take themselves too seriously.
A bad teacher will sap the joy out of your art life. They won't push or encourage you. They'll bring you down and won't lead by example.
If you find a good teacher, hang onto them! They are invaluable.
We are lucky to live in a time when you can learn from some of the best artists and teachers in the world. No longer must you travel afar to a small atelier to learn from the best. We can do so now in the comforts of our own homes. But with this privilege comes a risk of learning from too many people or the wrong people.
Be careful and selective about who you listen to. Your attention and time are limited, so don’t waste them on people who do not push you in the right direction.
It’s also worth noting that you can and should learn from multiple people. You are not limited to one teacher. Instead, you can pick and choose multiple teachers based on their different strengths.
For me in 2021, some of the standout artists and teachers were:
- Steve Huston.
- Richard Schmid (Sadly, he passed away during the year. A great loss for the art world. But he will continue to educate aspiring artists for many, many years to come.)
- Jeff Watts for drawing.
- Slava Korolenkov (even though he speaks Russian).
Did You Spend Enough Time Doing What You Enjoy?
It’s important to spend enough time doing what you enjoy doing. This could be art-related or life in general.
There are two parts to this question. First, what do you enjoy? You might find this to be a surprisingly challenging question, but it's important that you have an answer. Knowing what you truly enjoy can be the strongest sense of direction you can have in life. I was lucky. I found art at an early age and it just struck a chord with me.
Second, are you spending enough time doing those things? Make sure you carve out enough time throughout the year for this. It is a priority.
I wrote more about this topic in a previous report: Childhood Paintings – The Start of a Lifelong Journey at the Easel. Here's an extract:
Children are great at doing this. Adults, not so much.
As a child, you don't have any sense of time, urgency, money, power, and fame. You simply do what you enjoy doing. And if you don't enjoy something, you'll surely find a way to wiggle your way out of it.
Part of growing up means losing this freedom to pursue enjoyment at all costs. We adults cannot wiggle our way out of life's daily chores. Not for long anyway. But, that doesn't mean we should lose this pursuit of enjoyment altogether, particularly in relation to art.
If you enjoy landscape painting, do more of it.
If you enjoy figure drawing, do more of it.
If you enjoy learning about color, do more of it.
Did You Paint Enough?
If one of your goals is to become a better and more technical painter, then you must spend a lot of time at the easel.
It’s simple really. If you want to be a great painter, you need to paint a lot. If you want to become a great drawer, you need to draw a lot. This goes for anything in life. The particulars don’t matter if you aren’t practicing enough.
I once read that Joaquín Sorolla would paint for eight hours a day, six days a week. Of course, this isn’t a benchmark and what worked for him might not work for you. But it just shows the immense effort required for mastery.
How many artworks did you create in 2021? This will give you a rough benchmark for future years.
Me? I created around thirty-five artworks during the year, not including a bunch of small studies. This is where good record keeping comes in handy. Below is a screenshot of my painting folder. From here, I can easily assess my productivity. Note how the folders start with the date (year, month, day). This way I can easily sort by date.
What Was Your Favorite Artwork?
Look back over what you created during 2021. Which is your favorite? Your answer might be a hint as to what you should do more of in 2022 and onwards.
This is my favorite from 2021, Tree Series, Overcast:
It's a large painting, at 48 by 36 inches, and is part of a tree series I have been working on. This tells me I should do more large-scale paintings and more series.
What Were Your Good and Bad Habits?
Habits are everything. Good habits can slowly but surely push you towards your goals. Bad habits are insidious and crippling.
Take a look back over 2021 and consider what your most impactful good and bad habits were.
Good habits might be:
- Cleaning up after each painting session;
- Drawing for 10 minutes each morning; and
- Sharpening your pencils at night.
Bad habits might be:
- A messy studio and dirty brushes (I'm certainly guilty of this);
- Procrastination; and
- Technical issues, like repetitive stroke patterns. I sometimes get into a habit of making three long strings than a short dab. Whilst this is not a huge issue, it can lead to some unnecessary repetition throughout the painting.
Going forward, you will want to push your good habits and, if worthwhile, eliminate your bad habits. Some bad habits are more damaging than others, so use your judgment. I am particularly bad at cleaning my studio and brushes, but I have found it to be too draining to eliminate these bad habits.
If you need help, James Clear has a good book: Atomic Habits.
What Books Did You Read?
A good book can shift your perspective and open up new worlds to explore. Technology has opened up many new avenues for learning, but nothing truly rivals a good book.
Reading is also a great way to take a step back from the fast-paced nature of life. Most people are drowning in information and they don't even know it. A good book takes time to digest and enjoy, unlike most of the flash-in-the-pan social media posts and videos.
One of my favorites from 2021 was Art & Fear. This was recommended by one of my readers. I'll publish my cliff notes shortly. Some other books I recommend are:
Give Yourself a Pat on the Back
Creating art is hard and often without any material rewards. The mere fact you are here reading this, trying to improve your work and better yourself, and create art for the world is worth a pat on the back.
The world always needs more artists.
Three Things to Do More of in 2022
Go over what you did from 2021. Now think of three things you want to do more of in 2022. Feel free to share you answer in the comments below. We can check back in a year to see how we all went.