How Great Painters Are Made

A Christmas Experiment: How Great Painters Are Made
~ by Eric Rhoads, PleinAir Magazine

This post is re-printed courtesy of the author. You can read How Great Painters Are Made – Original Post, here.

Silly ideas creep into my brain during perfectly serious moments of conducting business, and this was the perfect week for it.

I was bored with working because I wanted to be in the Christmas spirit, so I stopped doing what I should have been doing, put my stack of work aside, put my feet up on my desk, and started calling my friends, killing time and wishing them a Merry Christmas.

While talking to one friend, an odd question came out….

“If I could grant you one Christmas wish, and there were no limitations on what you could wish for, what would your wish be?”

Long pause.

I fully expected him to say he wanted a Tesla, or a Steinway, a trip around the world, or a new studio because, after all, there are no limitations.

His answer totally caught me off guard.

“I want to be a better painter,” he said. “If I could have anything in the world, I’d want to be the absolute best painter I can be.”

His answer was, well, very sincere, very heartfelt, and very much what I want, too.

More Calls and More Questions
Hmm. I wondered how my other artist friends would answer that question. So I started calling around, conducting a Christmas experiment.

A few wished for material objects or great wealth, but most of the artists gave essentially the same answer.

If they could be granted one wish, they would want to be a better painter, grow as a painter, or have the time and skill to do the ultimate painting, or be talented enough to be in major museums’ collections.

A Major Breakthrough
That night I couldn’t sleep. There were no sugar plum fairies dancing in my head, but the answers were haunting me. All the people I had spoken to were fairly accomplished painters, some were at the top of our game, yet they all wanted essentially the same thing.

Then it struck me.

There was a pattern. The best painters were the ones who wanted most to get better, while the less accomplished painters wished for material things.

Could it be that what made the best painters better was the desire to get better?
Curiosity got the best of me, so I called everyone back with a follow-up the next day. “What are you doing about it? Are you actually working at getting better? Do you have a plan of attack for improvement?”

Most said they make it a point once or twice a year to learn something they know a fellow painter does better than they do.

You May Find This a Surprise
The very best painters, even those who are household names, make a point of studying with other great painters at least once a year. They all told me they attend workshops or work out private study time.

What About You?
Are you obsessed with becoming a better painter, or is “good enough,” well, good enough?

I’m not making a judgement call.

For some, “good enough” satisfies their need to paint. For others, it’s about continuous growth and pushing their limits.

If I phoned you today and asked what your Christmas wish was, what would you say?

Just around the corner, we’ll all be making our New Year’s resolutions. What will yours be? Will it be about improving your painting?

I’m convinced that’s how great painters are made, and if I had one wish I could grant, it would be to make us all better painters.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Eric Rhoads

PS: If growth as a painter is high on your list, I’d like to invite you to attend our Plein Air Convention this coming April in Tucson. It’s like 50 workshops in five days. There is nothing like it. Over 56 nationally known painters doing demonstrations, teaching, and working with you in the field. Take a look at our faculty and lineup at Oh, and our 4-payment plan expires December 31, New Year’s Eve.

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