Skip to main content

On 10 things I wish I'd known when I was 20

  1. If you want to be an artist (a writer, say, or a painter), the first step is to write or paint as often as you can—no excuses.
  2. Before showing your work to a publisher or gallery owner, make sure that they publish or show your kind of work.
  3. Before showing your work to a publisher or gallery owner, make sure that the work is as good as it can be. In other words, revise, rework, refine.
  4. The old cliché is true: who you know is just as important as what you know. So get out and meet people.
  5. When you approach people sincerely to ask advice (as opposed to thrusting your manuscript/slides on them when you’ve never met them before), most people will be willing to talk  to you.
  6. Having well-made publicity materials—a postcard or a brochure with some images and information on it—makes you stand out from the pack.
  7. Being with people who are more talented than you is helpful, not hurtful. Before I went to art college, I tried to do all of the above things on my own, without help from anyone. When I went to art college, I recognized straight away that there were a couple of people who were far more talented than the rest of us. Instead of feeling bad about it, I tried to learn as much as I could from how they made their work, how they started their work, how they developed their work over the length of the course.
  8. Concentrate on one or two ideas in your work, and keep working at them for as long as you can. If you completely change your style every few months, or even every year, this is a sure sign that you’re not sticking at it for long enough.
  9. Don’t be realistic. People always say ‘be realistic: not everyone makes it big as an artist’. Perhaps that’s true, but I’ve found that it’s better to aim as high as you can in order to put yourself in the right frame of mind to achieve your ambitions.
  10. Always use a bigger brush than you think you need.

 Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader


Popular posts from this blog

How to etch a linoleum block

Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.

A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…

Brancusi in Plastic

Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times:

Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage. I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.

A List of Every Drink in Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises"

I first read Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises" when I was a teenager, and immediately fell in love with it. For the last couple of years, I have had the incredible privilege of teaching a class based around Hemingway in Paris -- while living and teaching in Paris itself, close to the Boulevard du Montparnasse, where most of the action of the novel's first half takes place.

Of the many things that one notices about the book, the colossal amount of drinking is something that stands out. These people didn't just drink like fish: they drank like whales, as if the ocean they swam in was alcohol and they had set themselves the task of drinking the seas of the world dry of it. During my read-through of the book before class started last year, I tried to underline every mention of drink in the book. And now, purely in the interests of science, I am listing the entire menu of booze mentioned directly by name. Some preliminary observations:
Most of this is…