There is something extremely valuable to the artful life beyond costly training, expensive tools and materials, and precious energy. Oddly enough, this most essential tool-in-the-kit is absolutely free. Patience. Patience is the stuff from where great things spring.
Who doesn’t want a shortcut to greatness? Today I will create a beautiful seascape; an elegant souffle; a successful business! Well, I say to you, sorry, it ain’t gonna happen. This isn’t a curse, just a fact of life. You cannot expect to reap the most benefit from the least effort. So, along with work, diligence, and a heart for creative solutions, patience really is its own reward.
Whatever your field of interest, patient observation is your key to success. I’ve been asked by many a painter why a particular piece keeps missing its mark…and invariably I answer that they haven’t spent enough time observing their subject. Put down your camera, your notebook, your brushes and pencils, and simply observe the object of your affection at every available opportunity. Knowledge and understanding is what you seek. To have an intimate relationship with something – or someone – involves putting in the time. In this case ‘seeing’ is much the same as listening, it’s where all learning begins.
I’m quite fond of the Buddhist saying, meditate for 20 minutes every day, unless you don’t have the time, then meditate for an hour every day. In other words, if you think you don’t have the time to do the right thing, you’re thinking is all wrong. The question becomes, would you rather burn materials and arrive at nothing or use your beautiful brain and reach your desires at peak performance? Knowledge is truth, and John Keats knew his stuff when he taught us that truth is, indeed, beauty.
If you want to paint water, then watch it with your full attention every day before touching a brush. Watch it until you understand how, exactly, light and color interact with water. How are shadows formed? What lies beneath the surface of a creek that makes the water dance so, how do currents and climate force the seas into pounding surf or gentle waves that tenderly nibble your toes? Same with clouds. In order to paint my series of skyscapes I have given over thousands of hours unraveling those crystalline mysteries. Cloud-watching is now part of my daily routine – it’s automatic.
Like all things discussed in The Artful Life, this subject needn’t apply solely to the creation of visual fine art. It’s same with music (only you’re observing with your ears instead of your eyes)…why do these combinations of sounds create cacophony, and these create melody? Same with cooking – how and why do the ingredients go from slop to souffle? And it’s the same with decorating your home, planting your garden, managing your personal relations, running an office. How does it work? It is answered by how you can work with it.
I’m going to the beach today, with chair and book, but I’ll tell you true, I will be staring over the top of my pages studying the waves. What color will they be today? And why?