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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.


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