Little Art School Founder, Joanne Robinson, looks to Monet and Michelangelo for inspiration when a painting just isn’t coming together, and when it doesn’t work at all.
This week I have been battling with a painting. It just isn’t working. After almost 15 hours of going backwards and forwards I could feel the Artist’s Despair descending. Then I read a quote by Monet: “I am distressed, almost discouraged, and fatigued to the point of feeling slightly ill. What I am doing is no good. And in spite of your confidence I am very much afraid that my efforts will all lead to nothing”. We all know that Monet didn’t give up, and that his efforts very much came to something. As an artist though, we are sold a bit of a myth that our work should somehow be effortless, that if it doesn’t just come naturally that somehow we aren’t ‘real’ artists. There is a myth that artists are born being able to draw and paint, that art is somehow an inherited skill. The truth is that every artist struggles to learn their craft and that every artist copes with failure and doubt.
Every term at the Little Art School we look at the lives of great artists. From Da Vinci and Van Eyck in the Renaissance right through to Tamara de Lempicka and Laura Knight in the twentieth century. We explore their lives through the development of their art. What every single artist we have looked at has in common is that they all developed their skills over many years. Renaissance artists would spend years as apprentices in the studio of a Master. Through the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries artists would copy the work of the great artists, spending years in art galleries and at art school. Hundreds of classes, thousands of sketches. Great art did not appear by magic on the canvas; it was the result of many years of graft and diligence. What every artist we look at has in common is that they had tenacity; they never gave up and they never stopped learning. My favourite art quote of all time is Michelangelo at the age of 87; “I am still Learning”.
At the Little Art School we have smashed apart the myth that the ability to draw and paint is something that you are born with. ANYONE can learn to draw. ANYONE!!! Drawing and painting are taught skills; you learn the skills, practise, practise, practise and you get better. It really is that simple. The children in our classes understand this. They know that the more they sketch and doodle, the more they draw and paint, the better they become. It is truly wonderful to watch the children progress and to watch their self-confidence build as they see the fruits of their labours. Adult learners are a very different kettle of fish!
Over the last 8 years we have taught many adults in our studios how to draw and paint. 18 months ago we launched our structured, progressive art course for adults online and since then we have welcomed artists from across the UK and from around the world. The subject of making mistakes and fighting the discouragement when a drawing and painting goes wrong often comes up among our Online students, both in our friendly and supportive Facebook Group and in our monthly live Q&A Zoom calls. Monet’s quote that “…what I am doing is no good… I am very much afraid that my efforts will all lead to nothing” really strikes a chord. If even Monet could doubt his skill then it’s fine for all of us, as we learn and develop, to keep battling through doubt. The only way to develop as an artist is to accept that sometimes you will fail. Sometimes you will fail a lot and you will think that you are never going to be able to do it. But you persevere. Because it is only through persevering that you will develop skills and improve your painting and drawing. Monet was wrong, his despair passed, his efforts led to so much. Anyone who has stood in front of his Waterlilies and been transported to another world knows that.
And so I pick up my pencil and start again. When failure strikes there is only one thing to do, Monet shows us that; keep painting and accept the mistakes as part of the journey.